Technology

Be a Luddite, Not a Lunkhead

I recently read a letter to the editor in a writers magazine in which an aspiring writer of advanced years bemoaned those publishers who accept only electronic submissions (via email or website).

“Surely I am not the only soul who still works with a typewriter,” the correspondent wrote. “Possibly it’s because I’m eighty-eight, but don’t accuse me of being completely out of touch.”

Well, no. Not exactly. It has little to do with age. After all, I just finished reading William Zinsser’s lovely memoir, Writing Places, published in his eighties, in which he describes the limits of his technological advancement while still maintaining a prolific output in the age of computers, blogs, websites, and ebooks.

One can be a Luddite without being a lunkhead.

Luddite is a term borrowed from early 19th-century English workmen who destroyed laborsaving machinery as a protest. Today the word is used to describe someone who is generally opposed or resistant to new technologies.

Lunkheads, on the other hand, are people who (by my definition) expect the rest of the world—including agents, editors, and publishers—to accommodate their lack of technological adaptation.

Luddites can be published but lunkheads usually can’t.

James Michener typed his tomes with two fingers on a manual typewriter. He edited his drafts by literally cutting-and-pasting (with a sharp utility knife and Elmer’s glue) drafts together. But (after the advent of computers in publishing) all was eventually submitted to his publishers in electronic form. (By the way, I consider James A. Michener’s Writer’s Handbook a treasure, which very helpfully depicts his processes for writing and rewriting).

Robert Ludlum didn’t even type and claimed not to know how to even turn on a computer. He wrote his books in longhand on yellow legal pads. But he had his secretary convert his handwritten manuscripts to computer before submitting them to a publisher.

We can’t all afford to employ secretaries, of course. But we can employ good sense in writing for publication. So go ahead and be a Luddite, if you like. Write longhand. With a fountain pen, if you like. Or write on a 1922 Smith-Corona. Or an IBM Selectric. Or rock-and-chisel. Or bamboo pen and homemade rice paper. Suit yourself in the writing process. But when it comes to submitting your work for publication, Jack, join the 21st century and do so according to the agent, editor, or publisher’s specifications—even according to their preferences, if they state them. Otherwise, you’re just a lunkhead.

 

Leave a Comment

Do You Have a Backup Plan?

by Steve Laube

The question is not if your hard drive will fail, it is a question of when. At least twice a year I have a client who has lost their hard drive to equipment failure. There was a recent story of an editor at Wired magazine who got hacked via a security hole in his Amazon and Apple accounts. He not only lost data, he lost all the digital pictures of his baby girl. He wrote the article as a cautionary tale. As the editor admits, he knew better, but did not follow his own advice. So my question to you is, “Do you have a backup plan?”

Hit the Save Button Regularly

Many think that just hitting the “save” button is enough. Sorry. That only saves the file to your local computer. And if that computer fails, you are toast. While hitting the save button helps with immediate things it isn’t a long term solution. What if someone steals your laptop while you turned your back to refresh your drink at the coffee shop?

Save to an External or Portable Backup Device or E-mail Service

Keeping your files on an external drive or a USB thumb drive is okay. But what if you lose the thumb drive (they are so small!)? Or what if you forget to take the external drive with you…and your computer is stolen from your office, along with the external drive?

Read More

Making Comments As You Write

Today’s writers enjoy some advantages that weren’t available to scribes in the past. One of those is the ability in word-processing programs to track changes and add comments to a document. This is especially helpful during the editorial process. But some writers use that functionality as they write. So I …

Read More

You Need a Backup Strategy

Years ago, I was writing on deadline (when am I not?). My work-in-progress was about sixty percent complete when my computer screen went blank. At first, I blamed it on my son. Even when he was in grade school, he was better with computers than I was. He knew it. …

Read More

Learning to Use Track Changes

All of us have gaps in our knowledge. For example, there are a ton of words that I know how to spell and use accurately in writing (because I’ve read them often) but am unsure of the pronunciation. (I know, I know, I could look up the pronunciation, but how …

Read More

The Automatic Writer

My coffee maker is on a timer. My thermostat is programmed to different temperatures at night and by day. My computer screen even dims to a softer hue as the day progresses. I try to automate everything I can, believing that the fewer tasks I have to remember every day, …

Read More

Finding Time to Write

How do you find time to write? You don’t. Non-writers try to find time to write; writers make time to write. A couple lifetimes ago, after having been a pastor for seven years, I took a desk job—the first time in my adult life when my job wasn’t 24/7. But …

Read More

Getting Started in Social Media

Actually, the title was a bit of click-bait to entice aspiring authors and platform builders to open this post. Sorry. Getting started in social media is not a problem. It’s as simple as 1-2-3 and grade school children around the world do it every day. If you are having trouble …

Read More