Tag Archives: Writing and Editing

Say Hello to My Little Friend: the Wonders of the AlphaSmart 3000

There isn’t any special equipment required to be a writer. There’s no super secret pencil and paper combination that makes the best stories, no ultra exclusive word processor of the gods that you must use in order to craft a gripping tale.

But let’s be real here, you’re not going to be chiseling your work into stone tablets anytime soon, and neither am I. Few of us write our stories with pen and paper anymore, and the image of the writer hunched over his typewriter, keys clacking is largely an anachronism. We use computers for the most part, because they’re both versatile and powerful.

I’ve been writing on my laptop from the very beginning, mostly because it was portable and it served my needs well enough. But over the last couple of months I’ve had my eye on something a little different.

See, I like to take my laptop to work with me, so that I can write on my lunch breaks, but it can be a pain to lug it in from my car and then back out again when I’m done always slightly terrified that someone might crowbar open my trunk and steal it. I swear to you, every time I get home and open the trunk (that’s a boot for those of you who don’t live in Awesomeville aka America) there’s a tiny moment of terror when I’m sure it will have been stolen. Also, the battery life on that thing sucks. I get MAYBE half an hour out of it before it beeps at me once and promptly shuts off without giving me so much as the chance to save my work.

So yeah. Not the most ideal piece of equipment in the world. Well today I’m here to announce that my troubles are over, and to introduce you to my little friend:

Okay, okay, stop laughing. Yes, I know it’s like a ten-year-old piece of technology. My wife  told me she used to use one when she was in grade-school.

But you know what? This baby is AWESOME. Shall we go down the list?

How about a 72 hour battery life? Check.

Ultimate portability? Yeppers.

And the best part? The twenty-five dollar price tag.

I’m telling you guys, this is my new writing machine right here. I’ve been wanting one of these babies for years. Ever since I saw an article in Popular Science about how they were being used in the jungles of Africa by scientists who were away from civilization and without power for long periods of time.

But the best part about the AlphaSmart 3000 is this: it has no wordcount feature.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. “Albert, wordcount is essential. Wordcount is god. How will we ever be able to chart our progress without the manifold blessings of wordcount?”

Well believe me when I say that at first I saw it as a drawback too. And then I started writing on the thing.

And I’m here to tell you that knowing exactly how many words you have written isn’t nearly as important as you think it is. Because once you know, then you start to set goals, and once you start to set goals, you start to feel obligated to complete those goals, and once that happens there’s a hint of drudgery starts to sneak into your writing. Or at least that’s how it was for me.

But with the AlphaSmart 3000 I don’t have to worry about all that stuff. All I have to focus on is telling the story, and so far my daily wordcount hasn’t suffered at all. If anything it’s actually gone up a little.

Bottom line, if you write on the go, I’d highly recommend this little machine to you. If you do your shopping you can find a decent price for one on ebay, and it offers a convenient and distraction free writing experience.

Overall a super piece of equipment.

What To Do When You Hate Your Writing

Writing can be a wonderful thing. There are times when the words will flow like magic, and make you feel almost as if you’re flying, completely giddy with the rush of composition.

But writing can be a terrible thing too. Because sometimes when the rush is gone, and you look at those words that carried you so high, you start to see cracks in the foundation, flaws in the structure. You get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. You ask yourself in a trembling voice, “Did I write those words?”

Because now you can see those words aren’t the heady and glorious constructions you thought that were. In fact, the longer you look at them the more they start to look like utter garbage. What went wrong?

Well, maybe nothing. Lots of writers go through this. Its natural enough at some point to look at your work and think, “I kinda hate this. This basically sucks.” But does it really? Well, maybe yes, and maybe no.

It’s perfectly normal for a writer to hate a book as they’re in the process of writing. Why? Writing can be hard, and unforgiving work. Can can loom over you like a massive mountain you never think you’ll be able to climb. And so after weeks and months of throwing your heart and soul into this work you’ll start to resent it, to look at all the work you’ve done and wonder whether it was worth it.

If that’s the spot you’re in, then the best thing you can do is just keep pressing through. Maybe you need to take a few days break to relieve yourself of the stress you’ve built up in your mind, but now is not the time to turn back. Keep at it, and finish. Odds are good you’ll look back at the things you hated and wondered how you could ever have been so blind.

But what about when you’ve finished your book and let it set for a month or two? What happens then, when you start to get that squirmy uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach? It’s time to face that fact that your manuscript may have some flaws.

Why? Well that cooling off time between writing and editing is designed to give you emotional distance. When you were in the throes of composition you were too close to the work to be able to make a good judgement as to what was good and what wasn’t. But now, after letting it sit in a drawer for several weeks, you’ve had time to move on, to forget, to spend some time thinking about other things.

When you go back after that cooling off time and you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach it may very well mean the something is really wrong.

Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. I doesn’t mean you should trash your manuscript in a fit of despair. What you need to do, is fix it.

This is what rough drafts are for. They give us the opportunity to go back and look at our mistakes a missteps. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that no writer yet has produced a perfect first draft, and you’re not going to be the first.

So get in there and make some changes. Delete that sentence that doesn’t quite sound right and write it again. Plug up that plot hole over in chapter five. Tighten up that ending for maximum effectiveness. And for the love of Bob, get rid of that bizarre dream sequence with the god-tree in the forest. Actually that last one is probably just me.

Point is, don’t turn your back on your book because you’ve started to see the flaws. But don’t ignore the flaws either. Swallow your pride, admit you’re not perfect, and then go make it better. When you’ve finally got it right, you’ll know. Because you’ll read through that book you spent so many painful hours making right, and you’ll think “This book is pretty darn good.” And that moment will make all your hours of work and frustration seem completely worthwhile.