Interesting article by Matthew Kirschenbaum and presented on Slate regarding what was the first ever book written on a word processor:
Timing is a funny thing. Ever since I was very young I’ve wanted to write but as I grew older and began doing just that, as much as I loved to sit behind the typewriter and work on my stories I quickly found this to be a very frustrating thing to do. I would write something as small as a sentence and then realize it should come later or earlier or wasn’t written quite right…and I would be tempted to rip the paper out of the machine and start over again. The fact is I’m not one of those people who can write something and be “happy” with it in its first draft form, as opposed to…
In his book on writing, author Stephen King notes that he writes a book, lets it sit and “cool down” for a while before going back to it for a rewrite. After the rewrite, the book is ready to go. Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator and author of Perry Mason, was known to knock out a book sometimes in as little time as a day, often dictating his book onto old recording instruments and having his secretary subsequently type it up.
To me writing a first draft of a book involves considerable concentration and thought. From a plot standpoint, my stories involve many moving parts, all of which must ultimately fit together for the whole to “work”. Thus I’m usually writing passages then having to go back and add things to the passages or put in more material before or after said passage. I might even jump back a chapter or two and add a whole new section. By the time I have that first draft, I’m keenly aware that this is only the first step in what will ultimately be a very long process.
As I mentioned before, I’m usually not approaching satisfaction with my work until at least getting to a fifth draft. Most of the major plot issues are resolved in the first full rewrite and my focus gradually shifts from plot issues in subsequent drafts to grammatical issues. Regardless, this part of the process can take the better part of a year before being fully done. if I were limited to using a typewriter, I’m certain the process would take two or three times as long…and I can’t help but wonder if I would have the patience to make a single book, much less the eight I currently have available via Amazon.
In fact, in the first few years of writing I was using typewriters and was skirting very close to realizing the process of making a book might be simply too difficult for my style of writing. As it turned out, I was lucky. In approximately 1983, I purchased an Atari 800, my first personal computer. Compared to what’s available today, the device was from the stone age. But it had a printer (a very slow one, granted) and, more importantly, a word processing program.
I was smitten with the word processor and realized immediately this was the device I needed if I was to ever get a chance to write the works I wanted to. I gave up on typewriters and, in the intervening years and through the various computers, laptops, and tablets I’ve owned have made sure to always have a good word processor available.
Yet I wonder…Had I been born even five years earlier than I was, what would have happened to my younger self if I had been using typewriters exclusively to try to write my novels? Would I have persevered and nonetheless written my novels or would the frustration of the re-write proven too much?