Evolution of a Muse

- by Charlotte Hubbard

When you started writing, what tools did you use?

 It occurred to me, as I was tapping out pages on my iPad this week, that my muse and my method have gone through several stages during my writing career—and maybe you’d like to chime in with yours! My mantra has always been “whatever works” and the way I write—not to mention the amount I produce—has changed a lot over the years.

Wayyyy back in 1983 when I sold my very first story to True Story magazine, I was drafting with a pen (had to be a Bic stick, the white opaque kind) and loose-leaf notebook paper. Then, when the story was complete, I sat down at my trusty Smith-Corona portable typewriter and cranked in two pieces of paper with carbon paper in between. (You can see me riding my dinosaur to the school where I was librarian at the time, not?) Went through quite a bit of correction tape and White-Out and typewriter ribbons, but produced my keeper copy and the copy I would submit. Stuck it in a manila envelope with a SASE enclosed and mailed it from the post office. I was still writing this way—longhand draft, typed final copy—when I sold my first book in 1990.

Then along came computers. My first one was an Apple II and my printer had a daisy wheel—because if you were going to seriously SELL your work, dot-matrix was not what you wanted! I was still drafting in longhand, however, because I felt I spilled out the story (or at least the day’s pages) best going directly from brain to hand, and then typing it into the computer and saving it on a 5.25” floppy disk. I thought I was getting really high-tech when I got the next computer, an Apple IIe, because it used the smaller hard-shell disks. I wrote at last six books that way—still mailed them in person, in manuscript boxes, after copying the manuscripts at Kinko’s.

Then along came the Internet. I got a Mac Performa (magic words on the box were Internet Ready) and thank God I found a Mac guy who got us properly hooked up to the Internet and would do tech service house calls, because at that time the world was tipped in favor of PCs rather than Macs. He set up my Eudora mail program and I learned to write emails on the computer—and it occurred to me that maybe I could join those rapid-fire writers who WROTE DRAFTS on their computer! By then it was the New Millennium and I was writing erotica as Melissa MacNeal, and wow, I was cranking out a couple of books a year.

Somewhere along in there I got an AlphaSmart. Because of the tiny 4-line screen I never worked a lot on it, but it was a way to write on the porch on nice days—then transfer the draft to the Mac via a cable—and it was a way to draft work when I traveled, because laptops seemed physically encumbering (they still do).

Then things really started rolling faster, because once technology took off we writers had to keep up with it. I was the first person I knew to get the new iMac with the hard drive shaped like a half-basketball and no tower, and while I had a plug-in disk drive, CDs were the coming thing. It was a big deal—and way more convenient—to send proposals to my agent via email by then, but the final manuscripts were still boxed up and sent by mail or FedEx.

I then moved up to a Mac G4—bigger screen, because all those years and all that writing makes a bigger screen a must-have! Then along came the iPad. I was the first one I knew to have one of those, as well, and already it’s been made obsolete by the iPad2 and various phones you can do documents and texting on. And about a year ago, I received my first electronic version of copy edits. And with this latest book I wrote for NAL, I didn’t send in hard copy at all. Pushed the Send button and stopped making that trip to FedEx for copies and to send out finished manuscripts. And meanwhile, I acquired a third writing name, Naomi King, for the Amish series I’m writing.

And this book I’m writing now? The Bic stick has been replaced by the iPad, because I find I do better drafting on it, away from the main computer, and then I email the day’s pages to do the edit work on the big Mac. I don’t know why that is. I don’t argue with it! I’m writing four books this year and I don’t have time to lose my muse or ponder the whys and wherefores about the method to my current madness. Ironic that Amish writer Naomi King is totally online and electronic, ain’t so? And she’s writing in a time when her e-books will probably sell more copies than her print books…and she’s looking at a future when a traditional publisher can be bypassed in favor of uploading books that will never see physical print.

And what will come next? I’m sure it’ll boggle all our minds, if we have any minds left after riding all these wild, fast learning curves! If this little trip down Memory Lane triggered any fond recollections for you, do tell!

One comments

  1. Hi Charlotte,
    I began writing on my college typewriter. I wore it out and also my husband’s. It was exactly like Stephen King’s MISERY. Keys keep failing and you can’t write love stories without the letter p. I loved my Apple IIe and used it from 1983 to 1997 when it was completely worn out. I bought a Mac G3 which was wonderful and used it until last fall when I bought a new Mac. I’m not tempted by new technology. I use a computer until it’s down to its last few gasps. Thank God, I’m not that far gone!