Elisabeth Hobbes talks to The Pink Heart Society about her favourite piece of technology, her Kindle-- and not just for reading!
My favourite writing aid is a piece of technology that polarises people even if they don’t write. I’ve read diatribes and tributes aplenty since it first sprang into existence from those who love the feel and smell of real paper and those who can’t resist the lure of their entire library in handy handbag size. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you: the humble Kindle.
Odd, I know because it’s a tool for reading rather than writing, so what makes it such a great tool?
I’m usually out and about at the weekend and teaching means I get long holidays so we’re often travelling as a family. I tend to do a lot of writing on the go so have got into the habit of carrying a notebook in case inspiration strikes, which is great for the first draft but not much use for editing. Due to the timing of my books I’ve mostly managed to coincide editing with being on holiday, which in my family always involves long drives across Europe.
When the deadline for The Blacksmith’s Wife coincided with my annual skiing trip involving a 14 hour drive to the Alps I hit on the idea of emailing my manuscript in Word document form direct to my Kindle and reading it like a book as I went. It meant I could read while my husband drove and I wouldn’t be trying to balance my laptop on my knee halfway down France.
As well as being a much more manageable way of transporting the document around it had the added bonus of turning the manuscript into a book which makes proofreading much easier. When I try to read the manuscript as a Word doc I often miss typos because I start to skim read and have to really force myself to concentrate. They’re much more obvious in book format (I bet we’ve all spotted mistakes in books and missed them in our own).
The book flows better as a story when I put myself into the position of a reader too. Reading through the ‘book’ I can tell which phrases work, which ones don’t, which chapters drag in length or end in the wrong place, which sections of dialogue have confusing lack of tags and how often my characters ‘turn’ until they’re revolving 180 degrees on the spot. If they pull me out of the story they’re guaranteed to do the same to a reader. I make a brief note to remind me what I need to fix and when I get home I can open up the notes, search in the original manuscript and work my way through efficiently.
When I first started using this method I had one of the first Kindle models without touchscreen – hey, I’m a technogeek, I’m always in there first - so it was a real labour of love to write any notes to remind me of what I needed to change. ‘Left, left, left, down, down, left, ‘c’…’ to type a single word left me with RSA of the thumb and the notes got shorter and shorter until they became meaningless. At one point I resorted to typing numerical placeholders and writing the corresponding notes longhand in my notebook. My husband bought me a Paperwhite for Christmas so now I can type directly onto the screen, which has made the job much quicker.
I can’t look at the internet so there’s no distraction and even though I have hundreds of books there too I find I’m much more disciplined than I first expected to be. Certainly more than when I’m writing anywhere with internet access and the temptation to nip online is too great.
The best thing is I can carry it in my bag so anytime I get a spare few minutes I can dip in and out. I can lounge by the pool and be in Norman Yorkshire or sit at the bottom of a black run and lose myself with a cocky knight in a Cheshire inn. Just like I hope my readers will when they get the finished book in their hands.
So next time I post a photo of me lounging on a Spanish beach with a cold Estrella at hand (six loooong weeks and counting from time of writing) rest assured I’m not being lazy, I’ll be hard at work sorting out the troublesome love life of my disguised Norman hero (and his heroine also travelling under a false identity) rather than reading.
A footnote. For all lofty intentions who am I trying to kid?
The one piece of equipment I really couldn’t get through the day without (and I suspect this goes for most writers too) is my kettle. In fact it must be at least 40 minutes since I last had a cup of tea. Better go rectify that immediately.
Elisabeth's latest release, The Saxon Outlaw's Revenge, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.