Future Academics Will Find Lots Less Paper

Good morning. This might be called PART II to yesterdays’s post:

Screen capture of title of yesterday's post.
Screen capture of title of yesterday’s post.

That retired English literature professor’s disdain for “social media” embraced by “young people” led me to thinking. How much has changed in novel writing over the last few generations. One aspect of such change has zero to do with annoying kids insisting on using Twitter on holiday when, AS WE ALL KNOW, they should be sitting on Bournemouth Beach immersed in The Great Gatsby.

“The Great Gatsby” first edition cover, 1925. From Wikipedia.

I don’t write my novels longhand. True, there is nothing new in someone doing that of course. We know typing has been around for over a century.

But a typewriter is just another form of physical writing. What’s changed in the last two generations is increasingly everything is on computers. And those computers are becoming ever more sophisticated.

As you may know, I’ve been proofing the Distances manuscript using a Word file emailed to my Kindle. (The last part of that sentence would’ve totally baffled F. Scott Fitzgerald.) I’m not inking out lines and words and scribbling in planned changes above them or in the margins and handing those changes to my devoted secretary…. who is invariably a lovely, ever-helpful woman who works for close to nothing because I can barely pay her, and she can type, because, being a man, as you know I’m a pathetic typist….

Here’s a sample of some planned revisions and how I noted them while proofreading:

Screen capture of
Screen capture of “Distances” on iPad Kindle. [Copyright © R. J. Nello, 2015.]
It’s all electronic. The “highlighted” words are those I think I might want to replace. The “note” markers dotting the page each contain text in dialogue boxes that will replace text at or about where it is “noted.” Since that screen capture on Thursday, I’ve made those changes and many others like them.

Okay, and where’s the record of them all if I delete that Kindle file? While in Word there are “hidden” copies of changes, they are “hidden” unless one has the original Word file, and you don’t have to save the changes as you write. So, while, yes, they may be buried in Word somewhere, that assumes the files also survive post-publication.

Something like this might (one can always hope) be considered important in the future. In early 2013, as I planned Passports, “James” – the main man character – had a different name. So did “Béatrice” – one of the main women. In fact, as I recall now, “Béatrice” had TWO earlier names. I know what they all were in my head, but I have no pieces of paper anywhere with those earlier names on them.

We’re sure we’re overrun with “records” nowadays. To an extent we’re right. Yet slowly vanishing are handwritten drafts and/or revisions, and other physical artifacts of how novels were composed.

I know I’m unlikely ever to be someone’s doctoral dissertation subject, but I’m also sure I’m not alone in not maintaining much of a paper trail as I go. Inevitably Twitter will someday be replaced by something else. However, come “2150” academics may find it quite a challenge to try to piece together how “The Great Novel of 2020” had come into existence in its final form.

Hope you have a good Saturday! 🙂