Even if I’m never hugely successful as a writer, I can still be proud of accomplishing something difficult: completing three novels (so far). But, sometimes I wonder how far I would have gotten if I’d had to do it the old-fashioned way, like Jane Austen. Take away my laptop, the internet, and spell-check and where would I be?
To have any idea, I have to think back … WAY back … to hand-written reports and theme papers I did for school. The first draft was no more than a collection of scribbled notes loosely grouped into paragraphs. The second, I wrote out using every other line on my college-ruled notebook paper. Then I would cross out sections, draw arrows to rearrange elements, and use the blank space between lines to add new material. At this point, it looked like a convoluted treasure map that no one but me could possibly follow. After rewriting the piece a couple more times, it was finally ready to go to my live-in proof reader and spelling checker: my mom. Then I would carefully write it out one more time – in ink and in my best penmanship – hoping not to make any mistakes since there wasn’t any way to correct them neatly. A slow and cumbersome process.
It gives me a whole new respect for Jane Austen and her contemporaries, who wrote entire novels that way – no wordprocessing computers, not even a typewriter or a ball-point pen.
Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady, either on his handwriting, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each. (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 10)