Since cavedwellers daubed finger paints on the walls right up to today’s speech-to-text software, humans have always searched for the best way to write down their stories.
Yes, there are many oral traditions of stories handed down verbally through the generations, but humanity has reluctantly been aware that memory is not always the most reliable method of storage.
As someone who has written in the 20th and 21st centuries (ye gods that makes me sound old!) I have tried and discarded many tools. Here are my favourite two:
1. Pen and paper.
Seriously. Through dozens of computer crashes and backup failures over the years, only paper has proved its worth.
I laughed when I discovered a dusty pile of floppy discs that hold the fading digital memories of manuscripts past one day. Ever tried opening an out of date word processing file on a floppy disc? No, I couldn’t be bothered either. But I have a filing cabinet full of cuttings, notes on scraps of paper and printouts of draft manuscripts. A treasure trove that I pillage regularly.
2. A Portable Netbook.
Yes, one of those miniature laptops with limited memory, no disc drive and totally useless for gaming.
Way back in the 1990s, I had a top of the range Gateway 2000 (remember them – cowhide logo?), that cost me two grand. It was the size of a small side table and rumbled like an eighteen-wheel truck and took hours to connect to dial-up internet.
However, it crashed more often than a teenage DUI, and the backup was an unreliable tape in Taumat format.
Nowadays, I have a tiny little Compaq Mini 110 WiFi netbook. The Cloud takes care of all my backup needs (to be extra-sure, e-mail yourself the latest draft on Gmail). It cost me than 10% of my old Gateway, and it fits comfortably on my lap, whether I’m in bed, on the sofa or in the garden.
So next time you’re thinking of upgrading your computer, think twice about getting the biggest, flashiest model out there and consider a humble, portable netbook. Oh, and a notebook and pen!
PS Yes, I’m sure that writing blog posts about writing tools is an acceptable form of procrastination for NaNoWriMo!