Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Old school’s good enough for the Game of Thrones guy


The Game of Thrones guy uses a word processor from the ‘80s. I can dig it.

Distractions. They’re anathema to a fiction writer, because — well many reasons, but primarily they take you out of the “fictive dream,” as John Gardner used to call it. And when a fiction writer can’t inhabit the fictive dream, the old phrase “garbage in, garbage out” comes into play.

Modern word processing software thinks it’s helping you when it alerts you to misspelled words or grammar problems. It’s not. That’s why the first thing I do when I upgrade is disable these features.  A program doesn’t understand that I’m using certain word combinations and incomplete sentences so my dialogue will sound natural, or I want to make some kind of rhetorical pernt by spelling a word like a guy from Brooklyn might say it.

These days, too, especially for self-publishers, all the hidden coding MS Word sticks into a document makes formatting for ebooks a bitch. You have to strip it all out so that you get something akin to what The Game of Thrones guy gets on his old DOS machine.

I also read recently that Jane Smiley wrote The Greenlanders on an early portable PC, and the word processing program she used didn’t have pagination. The result? That book has no chapters — it’s a flowing narrative with only natural, pacing-dictated breaks. (Not having read it, I wonder if anyone can report on what it’s like to make your way through a book built that way…)

Ultimately, of course, whatever floats your boat. I’m sure some writers are very comfortable with all the bells/whistles in Word. On my Mac, I use Nisus Writer Express, which can be configured to be quite simple and nonintrusive, and that’s how I like it.

But talk about simple. Back in “the day,” to open your Word Perfect you’d go to a C:\> prompt and type WP to fire her up. Then that blazing blue screen popped up and you were off to the pre-WYSIWYG races.

Tell you what I didn’t like about those ‘80s machines, though. My oeuvre took up dozens of floppy disks, and they weren’t cheap!

7 comments on “Old school’s good enough for the Game of Thrones guy

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    May 15, 2014

    I take off the grammar check, but I’ll admit that I rely a bit on the spellchecker. I added my own words to it, so it doesn’t bug me as much.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 15, 2014

      I’ll turn the spellchecker on and off for editing, but there’s always the danger it’ll cause me to miss errors like there/their/they’re. Tricky bidness!

      • Charles Yallowitz
        May 15, 2014

        Dependence does become a problem. I did ‘from’ and ‘form’ a lot for some reason, which never gets picked up.

      • Kevin Brennan
        May 15, 2014

        I do from/form a lot too. Lately I’ve been messing up my -ions as -inos, but the checker is too sharp for those…

      • Charles Yallowitz
        May 15, 2014

        I type fast, so I miss letters too. Her becomes he a few times.

  2. John W. Howell
    May 15, 2014

    I loved those old floppies. Looked like stacks of poker chips. No way to read them now. (Thank heavens)

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 15, 2014

      And future archeologists will probably think they were nothing but decorative tiles…

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This entry was posted on May 15, 2014 by in Writing and tagged , .
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