Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Cursive Classic

One curious thing about this machine is how big the gaps are on the single space selection. I've tried forcing the lines together, but they get jumbled up and become illegible. I guess this is a unique setting.

Replacing the platen on these machines is a sinch!

This is the original platen that came with it. For a long time I had no idea what it could possibly have been used for. I theorized that it was for school children learning to type and the metal bar served as a way to limit their output while doing lessons.

But nope! Greeting cards! Just slide the edge under the metal and then roll it through the feeder. Neat! Christmas will be easy this year.

Power to the pen!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thomas Wolfe Understands

I think I found a kindred spirit.

From "The Fiction Writer's Handbook":

"I think I am starving for publication. I love to get published; it maddens me not to get published. I feel at times like getting every publisher in the world by the scruff of his neck, forcing his jaws open, and cramming the mss. down his throat––'G**-d*** you, here it is! I will and must be published!'"

- Letter written to Sherwood Anderson

Monday, April 11, 2016

Speed vs Quality: The Eternal Writing Debate

Feeling much better, but I'm glad I don't have to go into work today. My SM3 has been giving me more trouble. After installing a brand new ribbon on its metal spools, I noticed that the impressions were rather faint. I fixed it only after slamming each key down like I was trying to wring out a wet towel. This is completely opposite my usual typing experience on the SM3, and reminded me more of the SM7. I finished copying a story and my hands were tired. Do I just have a bad example of an otherwise great design? I can't seem to figure it out.

Meanwhile, I've decided to break out "The Chief," with the Hermes 3000 serving as backup.

All of this got me thinking: does volume really count? Does it matter how much I can type quickly, or is rapid typing more a product of the office world and not the creative mind? Compared to a word processor, I'm already going slow, but there are times when my hands are desperately trying to keep up with the brain and I'd like it if my machine could do so.

But then, the other side of me says, "Quality is all you should be worried about! Don't get into the fast lane. This is an art!"

I've decided to lay out some notable examples of each, and I'll be anxious to see what you guys think.

We'll begin with some speed typers who abilities are just...scary.

Exhibit A: John D. MacDonald 

The Selectric, the speed typer's ultimate weapon. John MacDonald was a Florida crime writer, best known for creating Travis McGee. While serving in the Navy during WWII, he wrote a short story and sent it to his wife, who sold it to Story magazine for $25.

Here's the scary bit.

"After his discharge, MacDonald spent four months writing short stories, generating some 800,000 words and losing 20 pounds (9.1 kg) while typing 14 hours a day, seven days a week. He received hundreds of rejection slips, but finally a $40 sale to the pulp magazine Dime Detective set his career in motion. He would eventually sell nearly 500 short stories to the detective, mystery, adventure, sports, Western, and science fiction magazines. Several times, MacDonald's stories were the only ones in an issue of a magazine, but this was hidden by using pseudonyms." –– Wikipedia

Granted, he was doing this full-time, but sheesh. Fourteen hours a day? I don't have enough ideas in my head to fill that kind of time! I'm assuming this early work was done on a manual machine, since electric typewriters were still on the fringe and very expensive. 

I can't comprehend how a mind like that works. Did he just type without thinking about spelling or word usage and edit it later? Were these stories the result of idea that gathered during his time at sea and just came gushing out? 

It's important to keep in mind that this section of the biography is labeled "pulp career." Pulp fiction was printed on the cheapest paper available at the time, and the stories were often cheap quality too. In this case, MacDonald's output is impressive, but one has to wonder if any of his early stories would hold up today.

Exhibit B: John Creasy 

A British mystery writer. Over five hundred novels. Over twenty pseudonyms. According to one story, he could finish some novels in a single day.

But if it hadn't been for Stephen King's mention of him in On Writing, I may never have heard of him.

Exhibit C: Jack Kerouac 

Here's a better-known example. Kerouac's claim to fame is still his Beat Generation magnum opus On the Road. We all known it was written in three weeks (which is astounding in and of itself), but it's even more amazing once you consider the length of the novel. According to the website I found, On the Road clocks in at 116,000 words. One of my manuscripts is about 98,000 (first draft) and it took me fifty days to finish, and that was when I sat down to write at least 1000 words every day without fail (except sick days or Sunday). There's an urban legend that Kerouac was high on amphetamines and the drugs gave him the super-human endurance to keep going. Then again, one of his friends said in a documentary that he was an excellent typist. Either way, it's amazing.

Now let's look at the other side of the coin...slow and steady.

Exhibit A: George RR Martin

Yes, the above really did happen. During the 2014 Emmy awards, Weird Al Yankovitch parodied Martin's work with a musical performance. Afterwards, one of the actors gave him a manual typewriter and urged "write them faster!"

Martin is best known for A Song of Ice and Fire. The series began in 1996, but didn't received wide-spread attention until the third or fourth volume became a best-seller. With the monumental success that's come with it, Martin's writing techniques and habits have become the topic of scrutiny. 

It only took two years for Book 2 and Book 3 to be published, but then there was a five year gap for Book 4 and a six year gap for Book 5. Book 6 has been delayed and some fans are dreading the possibility of HBO's TV adaptation of outrunning the books and spoiling the whole thing. 

Be that as it may, Martin is considered one of the premier writers in the industry. A self-described "gardner," his method doesn't involve a lot of detailed planning or outlines. 

Exhibit B: Harper Lee

(Photo credit: Oz Typewriter)
This lovely lady had just one story to tell (one novel, that is), and she told it well. Mockingbird is a rare example of a book that most readers feel is "perfect" the way it is. At 100,000 words, it took Lee two years to finish it, and that was after her editor secured enough funding to let her quit her day job.

It was only one story, but it lives on like no other.

One story...

Don't tell me otherwise!


I work a full-time job. Sometimes it exhausts me. Sometimes I get sick. There are days when I get little writing done. I'm usually in bed by 9-930 each night, so that gives me just about five hours. Managing five hours between reading, writing, paying bills, and making sure my lovely wife gets the attention she absolutely deserves (because no work is worth the price of human decency), can be difficult. 

There are times when I think, "If only I could write faster, then I could edit sooner, pitch quicker, sell more." 

But, more and more, I'm starting to wonder if I'm missing the point. Sure, if a writer wants to succeed financially, he has to produce. But I sold Nimrod Lexicon after agonizing over it for a month. I had another story short-listed in a competition, and that one took me just three days. I've spent over two years getting Lightwitch ready. Will it be good enough with the time I've invested? We'll see.

Does speed matter? Should I care when I'm not working under anyone's deadlines but my own? Perhaps it's a symptom of our modern culture, where everything is sent at 186,000 mps over the airwaves. Maybe the speed typers above astounded their peers because it wasn't the norm, and there wasn't the same expectation. 

The las two days weren't great for my work. My head cold made me lose focus. I was so upset because I didn't get clear enough impressions on the page, or I misspelled a word, that I forgot to care about what those words represented. I wrote a 3700 word short on my Hermes Baby and my outlook changed. It took several hours, but I spent time pondering the words and what I was writing about. 

This is why the key to writing is to write, because it's the only way to learn.

So, what do you guys think?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rock a Bye Baby

Just because I'm in bed with bad seasonal allergies doesn't mean I can't type a story!

The little Baby isn't a bad typer, once you realize it'll be slow going. Still, better than not writing.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Anniversary Holiday

Our first anniversary was just what the doctor ordered: FUN

My darling wife and I spent three days in St. Charles taking in the sights and came back with stories a plenty.

The two pictures above are actually canvases for painters. I wonder what book the text was taken from? Anyone know?

On the first day, we dropped off some typewriters for Vern to fix and then explored Maplewood.

This is the first true diner I've been in. Only twelve feet of store front!
And they still had room for a bookshelf! You just take what you want and bring it back whenever.

I love independent book stores, and this one is amazing! 

First two purchases of the trip!

With our appetites for words wet, we went to Adrenaline Zone for some games and laser tag.

I didn't know this game existed!

Clever girl....lots of clever girls all over the place.

Oh well, we got enough tickets for these.

Late in the afternoon, we checked into our B&B (The Frenchtown Inn), and dressed up for a fancy meal.

All dressed up for our big dinner out.

I'd never been to a Brazilian grill before. Boy, was I impressed!  

Tucanos was a very unique dining experience. Pricy, but well worth it. You have a wooden stake on your table with green and red tips. Leave the red tip up, the waiters stay back. Flip it to green, and you're met with guy after guy offering your slices of different meats. And it never stops. Never. There's also a salad bar (with sushi, pasta, know, salad).

The manager told me the idea hasn't quite caught on in the US, but it is gaining traction. I hope to see more places like it!

The next day was spent all over St. Charles. Boy, was there a lot to take in!

Underwood at the book store. $75.
A beautiful Smith Corona...not for sale.

Great BBQ!                            

One of the funnest things we did was Painting with a Twist. One of the wineries in nearby St. Peters offers classes. With the fee, you get all of the supplies you need, plus an instructor to walk you through the various steps of copying a particular piece. It doesn't matter if you paint all the time or haven't painted since you were five years old (like me). I felt out of place sitting at a canvas instead of a typewriter, but by the end of the night, I was enjoying myself thoroughly. Well worth the time!

Oh yeah, and I guess I should mention going to Comic Con the following Friday and meeting William Shatner...


When John Steinbeck married his third wife, Elaine, he wrote, "I finally have someone who is rooting for me."

Courtney and I learned a lot in just one year of marriage. It's been more fun than we ever thought, but also more difficult in ways we didn't expect. I've come to see her as my very best friend. She encourages my work. She keeps me going when the work is tough. She helps me stay afloat on days when it seems like nothing else could go wrong. She makes me laugh when I need it. And it'll be all I can do to repay half of that.

Happy First, Mrs. Harbin.