|Olivetti typewriter like mine. Fair use.|
On this morning’s Twitter, someone was wondering how “hellish” it must have been to have to use a typewriter.
I chuckled at this, and a few of us chatted about it. It seems like a good topic for a post.
I did post about my relationship with modern technology here.
But here is what I did before I got my first computer, on which I wrote my very first published book! (I should add that even then I couldn’t email my MS, it had to be printed out, and my entire communication with my editor was by snail mail and phone.)
I started writing as a child, in my sister’s old exercise books. As she had tiny handwriting, there was plenty of space, even on the pages which didn’t have space left at the bottom. Eventually I got a typewriter, an Olivetti Portable, which I still have, though I don’t use it any more. I might still be able to get typewriter ribbons online, perhaps, but it doesn’t work properly any more, even with a new ribbon it looks faded.
However, that was a wonderful piece of equipment. It’s lighter than a laptop; when I was overseas for a year, I took it with me. I learned to type speedily on it. Just for the record, I had to teach myself, because in those days you couldn’t take typing lessons at school unless you were planning to do that for a living. And that was all girls in those sexist days! My sister, who did do it for a living, told me she had never seen anything so fast done with two fingers. These days, of course, we both do it on computer or iPad.
I started university and my sister organised an office model for me, so I could type my Honours thesis, but in the end she typed most of that and I went on using my “laptop” typewriter.
Eventually, I won my first writing competition(the Mary Grant Bruce Award for Children’s Literature) and used the prize money to buy an electronic typewriter, which used a daisy wheel and thrilled me because it was able to type a whole line before printing out. And you could change fonts with chosen daisy wheels! I called it Merlin, because it was such a whiz.
I was on the road to my computer tech days.
But before that, I typed up my stories and even a novel using a typewriter. And three fanzines.
Let’s go through the process I used to write my stories in those days. First I would write it in longhand. It wasn’t a good idea to do it any other way, because you can’t correct mistakes with a typewriter except by using correction fluid. Which is a pain and shows up embarrassingly. You can fix typos but it’s not good for editing.
So, I always carried notebooks or exercise books with me, and on one occasion, when I was lying in bed with a temperature and flu, I wrote a whole novel in longhand. I never typed it up, by the way, let alone submitted it anywhere. It was too awful.
Second draft I typed up, with carbon paper between pages, to make three copies. I didn’t want to risk having only one copy (People did, by the way. There is a story about Aussie writer Tim Winton carrying his only copy of his manuscript of Cloudstreet at the airport in Paris and dropping it. Luckily for him someone saw and handed it back to him). There were photocopiers, but they weren’t everywhere and they were wet copiers; any copy you made faded with time.
I used the typing for my editing process. I had to hope that this would be enough, because if it wasn’t, you had to type it all again. All of it!
And that brings me to my fanzines. I edited four media fanzines before I got my first computer. They were lovely things, with beautiful art work by my fannish friends, but... when there were typos, I had the choice of Liquid Paper or retyping the whole damn page, something I will never have to do again, thankfully. If there were too many typos it had to be the entire page done again, or it would look dreadful.
When I finally got my first computer, a Mac Classic 2, I rejoiced at the prospect of being able to do my next fanzine much more easily, but I never did another zine, as I sold my first professional book instead.
When I was submitting stories, I finally had access to proper photo copiers, but not yet the Internet, so it was all snail mail and “don’t worry about returning the MS if you don’t want it, just reply with this postage paid envelope.”
Oh, yes, I kept a pile of those little international reply coupons you could buy in those days so they could reply without paying postage. I also found a philatelist shop where I could buy foreign stamps. And a packet of large envelopes to send my stories off.
How times have changed!
What do you say, gentle readers? Are any of you old enough to remember the humble typewriter?