Writers, Readers, and Blog addicts everywhere! It gives me great joy to present to you yet another magnificent WordPress Wednesday offering
Author Proofreader Jo E. Pinto who wrote The Bright Side of Darkness, which by the way I’ve just finished and added to my favorite reads of 2019 list has written a piece that’s fun, and entertaining in one great post.
As you read, I encourage you to give what she has to share some thought. If you do, it might just make the difference between a great book, and a bestseller.
Tools of the Trade
by J. E. Pinto
Although writing a book is anything but simple, the advent of computers with word processing programs and plenty of memory has made the actual task of producing a written manuscript much simpler than it used to be. I learned to type in the 1980’s on a decrepit IBM beast that had been put out to pasture when the administrative offices in my local school district were updated. I started taking typing lessons when I was nine years old, and because I had no way to correct errors without sight, I became very accurate as I composed my first drafts. I believe those early skills have helped me in my career as an author and a proofreader. My parents bought me a brand-new IBM Correcting Selectric Typewriter for Christmas the year I graduated from high school. The machine had a special “lift-off tape” that enabled me to erase errors from a typed page. I thought I had died and gone to writer heaven.
Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, invented the first practical typewriter in 1867. But as would happen a century later with home computers, business leaders and household consumers were slow to give up their ink pens. Christopher Sholes sold the right to market his typewriter to the Remington Arms Company, which in those days manufactured sewing machines as well as rifles. By the 1880’s, with the growth of industrialization in the United States, the typewriter had caught on.
Mark Twain claimed that his “typing machine was full of caprices, full of defects – devilish ones.” Legend has it he tried to give his typewriter away three times, but it “wouldn’t stay given away.” He is even said to have written a letter to Remington, ordering the company to cease using his name to endorse their product. But cumbersome fountain pens with their smudging ink kept bringing Twain back to the typewriter that “degraded his moral character.” In 1883, his novel “Life on the Mississippi” became the first typewritten manuscript ever to be submitted to a publisher.
One of the harsh realities of using a typewriter, as I discovered when I started taking lessons and turning in homework, was that making a single error on a page meant starting that page over. Nothing could be done about it.
Enter Bette Nesmith Graham, an executive secretary who worked for the Texas Bank and Trust in the mid-1950’s. While helping an artist decorate the banks windows for the holidays one year, Graham saw the artist fix a mistake by covering the spot with a dab of paint, waiting for the paint to dry, then picking up where he left off. The secretary wondered if she could correct typing mistakes the same way.
She poured some white paint into a small bottle, found a tiny brush to apply it with, and never again had to redo an entire page because she struck the wrong key near the end of a document. It wasn’t long before her co-workers asked her to fix up a few more of those handy little bottles.
Graham’s kitchen soon became a lab. Her garage became a bottling plant. A local chemistry teacher helped improve her formula, and Liquid Paper–generically known as correction fluid or “white-out”–burst upon the scene. The homegrown product eased the workloads of accountants, secretaries, and college students around the globe till computers rendered the typewriter obselete at the turn of the New Millennium.
Back at her secretarial job, Bette Nesmith Graham still made typographical errors. One day she absentmindedly typed “The Liquid Paper Company” instead of “Texas Bank and Trust” at the bottom of a letter. Angry, her boss let her go. But by that time in the mid-1970’s, the humble secretary had become an entrepreneur. Liquid Paper was selling 65,000 units a day. Gillette bought her company for forty-eight million dollars, plus a future royalty for every bottle sold.
Graham was also a single mom. Her teenage son Michael and his buddies had once helped her fill bottles in the garage. America came to know the young man as Michael Nesmith, one of the four members of The Monkees.
I pounded out one of my first serious short stories, “The Bright Side of Darkness,” for a high school English class on the decrepit old typewriter discarded by the local school district. Over the next twenty years, as that short story evolved into a novel, typewriters gave way to word processors and then to more powerful computers with Internet access and a variety of publishing options. These days, there are spell checkers, word counters, grammar tutors, format guides, and many other tools to help people make their projects perfect.
Yet as a professional proofreader, I still encounter manuscripts with many, if not more, errors than I did in the days of typewriters. If anything, I believe computers have caused some authors to spend less time focusing on aspects of their writing such as grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and sometimes more subtle elements of how words fit together and contribute to overall theme. In the pre-Word era, writers jotted down ideas by hand, pondered them, erased, drew arrows, maybe even penned a draft or two with notes in the margins, and finally type finished copies of their thoughts. On computers, they type their thoughts from the start. The early drafts look rather polished, and often the polished appearance gives writers the impression that their beginning ideas are more coherent than they really are.
So perhaps, at least in our minds, the key to writing has to do with going back to the days of Mark Twain and Bette Nesmith Graham. Next time you sit down to write, first give thanks for the modern computer that allows you to enter and manipulate text quickly and easily. Then slow down. Imagine you’re typing on Mark Twain’s 1870’s Sholes and Glidden, a machine he is said to have bought on sight for $125 after witnessing a Boston salesman type at the lightning speed of fifty-seven words a minute. At that pace, you’ll have plenty of time to consider your words carefully, and you just might become a household name like Mark Twain or a millionaire like Bette Nesmith Graham. Or at least you’ll produce clear, thoughtful manuscripts your readers will enjoy, which is what all authors strive for in the end and why typewriters, correction fluid, and word processors matter to begin with.
About J. E. Pinto
J. E. Pinto is a magnet for underdogs! Early in her married life, her home became a hangout for troubled neighborhood kids. This experience lit the flame
for her first novel, The Bright Side of Darkness.
Pinto’s Spanish-American roots grow deep in the Rocky Mountains, dating back six generations. J. E. Pinto lives with her family in Colorado where she works
as a writer and also proofreads textbooks and audio books. One of her favorite pastimes is taking a nature walk with her service dog.
The Bright Side of Darkness won a first place Indie Book Award for “First Novel over Eighty Thousand Words,” as well as First Place for “Inspirational
Fiction.” The novel also won several awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for “Inspirational Fiction,” Second Place
for “Audio Book,” and First Place for “Literary and Contemporary Fiction.”
What is a family? Rick Myers is a despondent seventeen-year-old who just lost his parents in a car wreck. His family is now the four teenage buddies he’s
grown up with in a run-down apartment building. Fast with their fists, flip with their mouths, and loyal to a fault, “the crew” is all he has.
At least he thinks so until he meets Daisy, an intelligent, independent, self-assured blind girl. Her guts in a world where she’s often painfully vulnerable
intrigue Rick, and her hopeful outlook inspires him to begin believing in himself.
But when the dark side of Daisy’s past catches up with her, tragedy scatters the crew and severely tests Rick’s resolve to build his promising future.
Fortunately, his life is changed by a couple with a pay-it-forward attitude, forged out of their personal struggle with grief and loss. Their support makes
all the difference to Rick and eventually to the ones he holds most dear as they face their own challenges.
“The Bright Side of Darkness” is a story of redemption and the ultimate victory that comes from the determination of the human spirit.
For more details and to buy the book please visit: http://www.amazon.com/author/jepinto