Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rebirth of Writing?

Before I learned to write I had to learn to speak.

And today I might repeat the process. Not because of any life-threatening medical condition, physical impairment or accident which has effected my brain (that I can think of) but due to “The Dragon”.

Its a device which reputedly speeds up the writing process fourfold or more, depending how well one gets along with it, by transferring what one says into digital words, on a screen,in a computer!

Its an alien procedure in the writing process, to my way of thinking, best left to medical mavens and legal eagles eager to get their billing out of the way before rushing off to tee-up.

The process, when it finally catches on in the professional world, will probably eliminate millions of secretaries from the payroll. Dictation, transcription, mailing and tea-making jobs could become tasks of the past. A boost to corporate earnings could equate to massive unemployment – again.

But, that's my normal doom-and-gloom outlook. The sunny side upbeat view is the seemingly impossible chore of reactivating one of my out-of-print books, looks viable.

This book-keeping-writing via computer malarkey for me harkens back to the late 1970's when Sanyo produced a spiffy word-processing CP/M machine, with green words magically appearing, at the stroke of a keyboard, behind a blinking cursor traveling across a blank television-like screen. My computer was prominently displayed on the check-out counter of my Old Book Shop, an incongruous sight in a sea of anachronistic objects.

I soon parlayed its prowess as a database filing system, capable of printing lists of used and collectible books, which could be turned into catalogers for clients, to “The Great American (second) Novel” - still unpublished along with the first.

It did draw the attention of visiting writers, agents, publishers, actors, headline makers and breakers in the business, political and diplomatic world – which initiated conversations that became interviews and eventually articles.(see “Writers Rap in a Bookshop” coming soon). And when the next generation was born – about every other day – was traded up and tweaked to the point I needed substitute post-kindergarten grandsons to install programs for me.

As a result, my book “Palm Beach Scandals – The First 100 Years” was published, featured on national television, became the belle of the fund-raising ball powder-room crowd (some of that powder was just for inhaling), lasted a couple of seasons then went out of print.

BUT with today's digital publishers and trade-paperback sized electronic reading devices, offering everything from the Classics to Tony Blair's blah-blah-blah, I see an opportunity to re-issue those breathless prose to a yearning public.

Problem is, the PW (Perfect Word) program of the word processor I used in the early 1990's to record that copy onto floppies – is gone. Dead. R.I.P

It didn't even rate a Wikipedia note.

My Computer Guys – a real name – came up with several suggestions; some of which I cannot repeat for fear of bruising the sensitivities of you, dear reader, and are actually physically impossible to implement.

My alternatives are to: Rewrite the whole book. Download onto Notebook and edit out all the gobbledygook computereese symbols. Disinter a hard copy of the book and scan it page by page to turn it into a readable file – plus extensive rewrite/editing.

OR – Dictate into “The Dragon”, trade name for a translation/transition system using microphone, headset and repeating “How now brown cow” until “The Dragon” gets the gist of what one's trying to say. (Cockneys, Georgdies and Scousers are going to give it conniptions).

So that's the plan du jour.

Back to Communications 101.

First we learn to speak. Then we – (re)write.

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