I honestly don’t know how people wrote novels before having access to the miracles of technology we now have at our fingertips. I cranked out about 3,000 words over the past two days (hopefully a few of the words are decent) and conducted research along the way. If not for modern technology, this little section of a manuscript would have taken me days, if not weeks, to construct in any intelligible way. Allow me to explain while paying tribute to a few wonderful tools of technology.
Spelling and Grammar Checks: Oh, how I love thee. Not only do you catch the fact I never type “definitely” right, but you signal me with a little green line if you think I may have meant “lying” and not “laying”. Sure, you frustrate me when I get on a roll, fail to look at the screen when I type, and then I raise my eyes to see you have underlined most of an entire paragraph in blood. But, I forgive you. And you truly humble me when I put forth my very best effort to spell a difficult word and you give me the Microsoft version of the middle finger by telling me “No suggestions found“. That’s right, MS Word. You have a gazillion words saved to memory and you’re telling me I’m not close to ANY of them. Awesome.
But, if not for you many a proofreader would have seen my many spelling and grammatical flaws. I still love thee.
This Internet Thing: Occasionally, I’m writing a section of a novel and come to the realization I need to research something. Edgar Allen Poe would have had to have gone to a library and spent hours finding the chapters in the right texts. Mark Twain would have had to interview countless people, take copious notes, and then try to make sense of them later. Now while I do both of these things, sometimes I just need to nail down a few facts to make sure I’m not making a colossal blunder. Thank you, Internet.
The Internet – Circa. 1974 Tin cans on a string.
Where else can you get two-minute YouTube videos of someone pushing buttons on a stereo system (yes, this was part of my research this week). And while the Internet can be a huge distraction, it is incredibly convenient when a writer needs basic facts or a visual or audio aid. However, it’s just as well this technology wasn’t around in the nineteenth century. Can you imagine seeing Poe’s browser history????? Quoth the Raven… Dude, you’re now on a watch list.
The third one is…
Sorry, I checked Twitter and got sidetracked. Damn Internet.
Movies and Television: You might be thinking, Movies and television? Are you insane? My answers to those three questions are, Yes, you read that right and Possibly. While these mediums have been around for quite some time, shows and films have never been – for better or worse – more detailed and descriptive. While some may argue this leaves little to the imagination, I believe the vivid images people see may in some ways help readers envision what a novelist is attempting to describe. That being said, novelists have to be cautious as to not get lazy and paint a superficial picture and expect the latest big prime time drama to fill in the unpainted sections.
I’ve had many people tell me that my novels read like movies. They mean it as a compliment, so I’m assuming they aren’t referencing the second Star Wars trilogy. What I think the readers are saying is that they had no trouble seeing the action play out and the story was paced appropriately. Or they consider my characters’ dialogue to be similar to that of Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. In which case, I need to dig up my old Rocky IV soundtrack, crank up some Survivor, and work on my dialogue writing skills.
What are some technological advances that have made your work easier? It doesn’t have to be writing. Anything at all! Comment below.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology