Saturday, 27 April 2013

Xploring the Internet

‘Techno peasants’.

Years ago, that was what a co-worker called herself and those of us who had not embraced the new technology. I like that phrase better than being called a ‘computer illiterate’, a term I read recently.

As computer skills were not one of my job requirements, I sat back and did the ‘old dog, new tricks’ thing and only bought a computer when my daughter entered college.

Moving onward, I did develop some minor skills, and I do mean minor. When I got more serious with my writing I learned how to set things up, you know; headers, paragraphs and page numbers. Like I said; minor skills.

I fumbled my way along, learning things by chance, or by trial and error. I communicated by E-mail, played games and did very vague searches on the internet. For the first few years my system was ‘hunt and peck’ as were my typing skills.

When I decided to try my hand at a novel I followed the ‘write what you know’ school of thought. My story was based in a small tourist town, and with a real place in mind, I did my research by visiting that place, taking photos for future reference.

By the second book I’d discovered how easy it was to do research on the internet. I got better at sorting through the listings to get the information I wanted as I needed to get my facts straight, especially for scientific, cultural or historical data.

It’s the little details that give writing a ring of authenticity. I wanted my stories to be accurate; and my made-up world believable. I quickly learned what sites were most reliable for information, but found other sites that gave me personal feelings, thoughts and opinions that helped shape my characters.

One such character is a World War II veteran. I’ve watched enough war movies, read enough books that I had a good idea of what I wanted his war experience to be. Research gave me the dates, the details, the data, but I learned more about my character through some of the more personal sites.

I read letters and first hand accounts, written by soldiers. And I read a list of requests by family members, looking for information about what their fathers went through in the war.

My NaNoWriMo novel was about a woman, recently widowed. I found articles written by psychologists, but it was the blogs that really let me know what these women were going through.

Writing may be a solitary activity, but, as I’ve recently discovered, if you want people to read what you’ve written, you can’t just click ‘save as’ and move on to the next story. Having a number of novels on the computer may not take up as much space as the paintings I have stored in the closet, but they are still there, occupying space in my mind.

I had to venture out of my comfort zone and that has shown my terrible lack of knowledge about computers and the world wide web. It didn’t help that I was using outdated equipment.

I’ve updated to a laptop and, with the help of my daughter, actually self published one of my books. I’ve been told there’s a formatting glitch on one page that I need to go back and fix, I just need to get my daughter back to make sure I don’t accidentally delete every third page or change the language or whatever. You get the idea.

I’m learning, or trying to learn, and this blog is part of my learning curve.

I’m a reasonably intelligent woman, but I do have a chronic illness that has left me with some cognitive difficulties. It hasn’t hampered my creativity, but has affected my short term memory and my ability to learn new tasks.

I keep copious notes when writing, so I don’t make stupid mistakes like changing a characters name or eye colour. Readers are quick to pick up on mistakes like that. I cut out photos from magazines to reference places in my story, and when in doubt as to some piece of information, I switch to the internet and verify my facts.

It’s so easy to get side tracked while doing research. I can happily browse for hours on end and it’s so nice to come upon some gem of a site that offers good reading, an interesting craft or recipe or needed how-to advice.

I had to get the book ‘Blogging for Dummies’ to really understand this whole blog thing, now I have to get a similar book for formatting and self publishing.

I’ll get there yet.


Anonymous said...

I love your energy and willingness to reach out for what you want and need as a writer. Whatever your difficulties in learning, those blocks are nothing compared to being closed to new experiences or disinterested in finding the tools to hone your writing and pursue your dreams. I can see you will get there, and likely already have. :) Very inspiring post!

Deborah Lean said...

Thank you for the kind words. I've had some short stories published, now my goal is to do something with the books.

It's a slow journey, and I need to be patient. I appreciate the encouragement.

Maggie Winter said...

I'm a newbie too, make google your best friend, found some great sites for newbies. I plan a pinterest of sites that help us late starters catch up, I try to remember to drop you the link when I get it fully up and running.Good luck with the writing, like your style.
maggie at expat brazil

Andrew Kalis said...
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