Where I Wrote My First Novel

Last month, some of our AQP authors shared the view from their offices.  This month, we get the scoop on where your favorite AQP author wrote her/his first novel.   Carolyn Banks got all the wrinkles out on her first manuscript:

I wrote my first novel on an ironing board set up in the living room, on a manual typewriter. I would always laugh when wannabe writers would say they’d do it when they had a place where they could have an office. I had a Kaypro, which looked like a portable sewing machine. Isn’t it amazing how far technology has come?

 Flowing from Debra Kemp’s fountain pen was her first novel:

Firebrand’s first draft started with a clipboard, several packs of college-ruled loose-leaf paper and a fountain pen (blue ink only, please).  We were stationed in Michigan (K I Sawyer Air Force Base) and my husband was on a temporary assignment in California at the time.  I sat on our couch after the kids left for school and let Lin and Dafydd talk.  I wrote like that for several months and finally we decided I needed a word processor.  I found a used desk at a thrift shop and set up in the basement alongside my ceramic crafts!  About a year after that we had orders to move again—I was at chapter 20 of Firebrand by then.  A very emotional chapter and I was actually glad for the break.  But I kept my notebooks, the clipboard and manuscript with me in our car as we drove from Michigan’s UP to Rapid City, SD and edited what I already had and kept notes of any new ideas for when we finally settled into a house.  At Ellsworth AFB, we were blessed with a four bedroom house!  So I finally had a spare room for my own office.  And that’s where I finally finished Firebrand–3 years after I began with that clipboard and loose-leaf paper. I still have the clipboard.  But I’ve found several new fountain pens since then! I had a brother word processor that I so totally loved!  I got it in 1992 and it took forever for me to give it up and switch to a PC!  And you’re so right about having to be a more careful writer with a manual.  And never did learn to type.

 Kathryn Sullivan pounded the keys:

I started writing my first novel on a manual typewriter at my parents’ summer cottage and then moved to a newer manual typewriter when we got home.  Ideas and scenes were written in my school notebooks while I was at class and then in the evenings I would set up the typewriter on the dining room table and write (once I finished my homework).  My younger sister complained I was making too much noise typing, so my parents finally set up a desk for me in the basement and the typewriter was moved there.  I still have fond memories of that desk.  Lots of stories written there until I finally went off to college.

 Chris Grover’s carbon dating:

Years ago, my husband worked for a company that had him keep an office in our house, and when he resigned the position, they told him to keep the manual typewriter. So, when I became afflicted with the writing bug that’s what I used, a manual typewriter with carbon paper so I could keep a copy of my work. Working on a manual type writer does, I think, make you a lot more careful. There’s no cut and paste and cleaning up typos is such a pain, the moment word processors became available (the last step before computers), I was practically the first in line to buy one.

 Cindy Proctor-King has electricity:Technically, my “first novel” was a handwritten tale inspired by The Aristocats and 1001 Dalmations. I wrote it in my bedroom, and I have memories of sitting on the floor while either reading or writing it. This was the summer after grade six, so I would have been 12. I remember it was about 72 pages long, but I didn’t finish it. I lost my copy of it, too, which is too bad. Or maybe I threw it out. I remember one summer night getting teased by my friends because I had a dream of becoming a writer. Looking back, I know they didn’t mean anything by it, but it greatly affected me at the time.I wrote my first romance novel on the electric typewriter I bought with money from my first job after university, and I thought it was a God-send after using a manual for years. My new electric had a built-in correction ribbon—imagine that! I was married, and my husband and I were living in a tiny logging town where I was having difficulty getting a job. The wife of a friend of his had a box of old Harlequin romances, and I’d “heard” romance novels were “easy” to write (was I in for a surprise), so I read the box of outdated books and began to write a very hackneyed idea. Because I didn’t have computers throughout high school or university, I’d become accustomed to typing drafts on my old manual typewriter. Now I had the electric, but the habit of revising and editing by hand was ingrained. I wrote that first romance novel in the living room of our rental house, making good use of the correction ribbon, and then I’d revise and edit the pages with pen and White-Out. I’d do three or four drafts of every chapter, painstakingly typing the corrected pages all over again on my typewriter for every draft. I began my second novel that way, too. To this day, even though I now draft on computer, I still revise and edit all my novels by hand. 

You’ve gotta “hand” it to Jane Toombs:

Though I’d written stories before (that never sold), I began my first book, a gothic, in San Diego, on a manual typewriter because at the time that’s all there was except for handwriting. Since I was raising five kids at the time, and working as a nurse mornings in my pediatrician husband’s office, I wrote in bits and pieces of time. It wasn’t until my third book that I got an IBM Selectric typewriter that I could correct things on. And not until my tenth that I bought my first computer and was confronted by the dread DOS.  Love today’s computers!  By the way, that first book, Tule Witch, sold.

 Gwynn Morgan has kept pace with technology: My first book-length work, which is still unpublished, was a YA “girl and horse” story done before I went to college. It was all in longhand in a steno notebook and a friend typed it for me. Typing was one of my worst courses in high school and I’ve often said if computers had not come along, I would still not be published!  

My first published novels were done mostly on computers at work since I had not yet gotten one of my own although I was looking. I’d learned about IMB Selectrics and that was cool, but not good enough! I wrote during lunch and breaks, and when work was slow—you can look busy and no one will bother you <g>. They both were converted from one program to another several times, starting with PC Write, a shareware program that I had on my first computer or a multi-user Xenix system’s proprietary word processor program in the office. Then they were converted to Multimate Advantage, Corel Word Perfect and ultimately Word. Now I’m doing some editing and formatting for one of my publishers I realize what a nightmare it must have been to clean the files up for publication!! They were both initially written by hand and then transcribed by typing into a computer, and  I did my first draft editing at the same time. Now I compose strictly on screen. My typing is still crappy, but I fix as I go quite a bit! My handwriting is horrible now; I can hardly read it myself and all I write is lists and in my journal.

 Kelli Wilkins “found” her voice: I wrote my first novel (if you could call it that) on a Smith Corona electric word processor. It weighed about 20 pounds and had a small 3×5 screen that allowed you to see what you typed and make changes/edit before you printed it out. (Very high tech.) It was also what my boyfriend (now husband) and I used to write term papers in college.  

I also had a Brother word processor that only allowed you to view/correct one line of type before it printed it out. There was no spell check or ‘going back’ to fix anything before it printed to the page. And as for that first novel? At the time, I think it was trying to be a romance, but it was just a “story” that I needed to get out of my head. I have one hard copy stored away in a file drawer. Maybe one day make it into something. (It can be the “lost” novel….)

 Lyn Morgan’s greener pasture led to her first book:I was working as a church secretary when I started my first book.  I was using one of those IBM selectric typewriters. I finished it at home on a Brother word processor after I lost my job.  No, I wasn’t fired for writing romantic suspense while on the job.  Instead the new pastor wanted a younger secretary so I was put out to pasture. That left me free to write at home.  These days I write on a nice easy computer.BTW my first book was Magnolia House and AQP published it! Carolina Valdez “cut-and-pasted” her way to top of her game: I started my first novel writing with a pencil on a legal pad, while seated at the bedside of a sleeping patient. I sometimes worked as a private duty R.N., and to stay awake and alert, I wrote.  When I researched costumes for this historical, I laid onionskin paper over the library’s reference books and traced them with a pencil. Later, I wrote at home on a Royal manual typewriter, which had been my parents’ high school graduation gift to me. I could move the typewriter any place in the house to work. You made carbon copies in those years, and if you forgot to protect the copy from the carbon when you erased the top page, you had a blurred mess. If you made a mistake when typing a clean manuscript to send to a publisher, you had to type the whole page over again. Sometimes I thought I’d never finish. White paper strips were developed to type over mistakes. Next came Ezerase paper, which was beautiful and professional, but too expensive for copies. Liquid Paper was an improvement over paper strips. When my Royal died, I treated myself to a Corona electric with an erase key. However, I had to backspace to type in the correct letter. With each of these advances, I was still stuck with worrying about that carbon copy.   As I began to sell more stories and articles, I purchased the end rolls of newsprint from the local newspaper. None of that yanking a page out and putting a new one in—I could have a strip as long as I wanted for developing my piece. I guess I predate the computer cut and paste concept: To move things around, I’d cut and tape. It would be spread out all over the floor, and one of the kids would walk on it or the cat would plop down right in the middle of the process.  The computer age has been marvelous! No cut and tape, no problem rearranging, adding or deleting passages. No worries about carbon copies. Without one, I’d never have finished and sold the novel I began so long ago at that patient’s bedside. I have a desktop and a notebook now. I can move the notebook near the kitchen when I’m on deadline and still have to cook dinner. Or I can move it to the enclosed patio when the weather’s glorious. We lug it and a printer with us on vacation. Progress is great.  

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