5.06.2007

"Must be typewritten"

Dear Miss Snark:

My day job is transcription. When we are busy (which it has been ever since I was hired) I spend 10 to 12 hours on the computer every day, only taking time to cook dinner and kiss my spouse-creature hello when he gets home from work.

As you well know, every agent out there requires everything to be typed up in a specific way and frankly, I don't really do any writing on my computer any more. With all the computer work I do during the day, I simply cannot bring myself to write my novels on the computer. I write long hand with a special fountain pen that provides extremely fluid, stress free writing to my work-weary fingers and wrists. I figure this is better than never writing at all.

Have you any advice for someone like me who would love to become a published author but hand writes all her work? Are those days of sending in handwritten manuscripts gone with the wind? Is there any way to explain my predicament to an agent without sounding like I'm whining and begging for sympathy? Am I a hopeless nitwit in want of a clue gun smack upside the head?

I look forward to your answer. The pain will take my mind off the soreness of my digits. Must go sink them in ice now. Or maybe I should go soak my head.



The only people who get a pass on "must be typewritten" are the boys down at the city jail. Some of them even send in typed stuff via wives/girlfriends/clever poodles...the usual roster of amanuenses (and before you wave your Latin dic at me, that's the PLURAL form of amanuensis)

There are people who will type up your words for you. They are called typists. They'll charge you for it. Others are called sweethearts. They won't charge you for it, but you're better off paying for it up front rather than hashing it out in divorce court after you're rich and famous.

This is pretty much a non-negotiable condition these days. Someone has to type this up and I can tell you it's not going to be me. You can talk to Killer Yapp about it but he's in the amenuensis union and I think his rates include cigars, walkies, and no mention of squirrels in the book.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Voice recognition software has come a long way; this writer could also read the work aloud into the computer...

...although the process of typing a handwritten draft in oneself is a GREAT opportunity for the first revision, one I wouldn't miss.

never ceases to be amazed said...

This person types for pay ... and needs to be told that there are people out there who type for pay? Oy.

Elektra said...

*gives a sheepish look in the direction of her Latin dictionaries*

Anonymous said...

Writer's Digest (in spite of all my issues about their full-page ads for the pay-to-publish industry) has lists of ads in the back for people who type manuscripts. The rates vary, but will usually run a couple of bucks per page.

Libs said...

Some scanning programs are able to recognize handwritten words and transcribe them into typed Word documents. Do your research, you might be able to find one of these beauties. You could write to your heart's content and have your spouse-creature feed the pages whilst you cook. Best wishes!

Bernita said...

Would KY object if there are squirrel ghosts ?

Kit Whitfield said...

If you can't type your book without injuring yourself, then you'll have to manage your schedule or find some other means ... but unfortunately, your health is not something that the agents will be prepared to break that important a rule for. Unfamiliar handwriting is just not that easy to read - especially for a whole book's worth of material: eighty thousand words or more in handwriting is enough to give anyone a headache, even if the handwriting is perfectly nice.

I fear it's a contest between your sore hands and the agent's sore eyes, and agents being only human, it's their own pain that will carry the day.

Let's hope you sell the book for millions and can quit the transcription job, but in the meantime, don't give yourself such bad RSI that you can't even hold a pen, and good luck in finding a solution.

Elektra said...

Just out of idle curiosity, do you really think that writing a dozen or so fulls by hand is easier than typing it all up once?

Beth said...

Elektra, I was wondering that, too!

Anonymous said...

If you've worked your way up to ice at night, that pain in your hands is not just typist's cramp; it's repetitive strain injury, of which carpal tunnel is the best known but surprisingly the least-common form for writers. You need a diagnosis and treatment before you end up with the inability to work full time. The Irving J. Selikoff Clinic at Mt. Sinai in New York is particularly good. Any physical therapist or chiropractor trained in Active Release Technique can also probably do a world of good (you can find one by going to the Active Release Technique website). You might drop in on an RSI (repetitive stress syndrome) support group; these are people who tend to do to a lot of research about their condition. Sorry to be alarmist, but ice is not a treatment, and nerve damage doesn't go away if you keep hitting your fingertips against a keyboard without changing anything else. The good news is you often CAN reverse it.

Anonymous said...

Suck it up and/or bite the bullet, dear writer.

No one gets out of this one.

Try hammering your million words of drek and first three novels out on a K-Mart portable with white out and carbons the way I did. You'll regard the click of a keyboard as music for the rest of your life.

Anonymous said...

This is the silliest question, I've read to date. I can't believe this wasn't a nitwit alert here. Come on! You type other people's work for a living and think it is ok to find someone out there who is going to take your handwritten manscript to print? WTF?!

Anonymous said...

As the poster of this question, I have a few details that I left out that may answer some comments.

I'm poor. I can't afford to pay anybody else for anything. I can't afford any extra software. All my money goes to basic daily survival.

Beacause of how many hours a day I spend typing, writing by hand is actually a relief, especially with this fantastic fountain pen I received as a gift. Also, I can't spend more than half an hour writing a day anyway.

I do the best I can with the situation at hand (pun intended). I was mourning the by-gone days of when all manuscripts were handwritten and wanted to see if there was any other choice besides getting a new job.

Sigh. It's hard being a nitwit...

Anonymous said...

Then again, there's that hand written submission by Frank McCourt that ended up in the hands of the legendary Molly Friedrich.

I wouldn't risk it. The odds are stacked against you.

Anonymous said...

I was going to suggest taking a vacation to type up your ms, but since you can barely pay the bills working full-blast, that option's probably out.

Any kind-hearted friends/family members who'd be willing to help you out?

Any chance of getting a new job with better pay and less typing?

Kit Whitfield said...

Have you tried give-away organisations like Freecycle? If you keep your eyes on them, you might be able to get hold of a free scanner or some software, which might save your poor suffering hands. Or possibly some hand braces, which will support your hands while you type, and reduce the damage.

Do read up about RSI and do the exercises; I know more than one person who's got it, and one of them literally became unable to hold a book open. Full-blown RSI is awful. You need to take care of yourself.

Beg or borrow, sweet-talk friends into typing for you, copy-type with two fingers, but don't risk disabling yourself. You want to be able to keep writing for a very long time.

On the plus side, many people believe that there are artistic advantages to writing out a first draft longhand, so maybe some good will come of this early disadvantage.

Kit Whitfield said...

Oh, and I don't know if it works this way in the States, but in the UK you can often get cheaper treatment for things like RSI if you go to an osteopath's or physiotherapist's training college and let the students work on you under supervision. Hopefully things won't get that bad, but just in case they do, it's a way to save money...

Anonymous said...

OP, get out of the victim mode and into solutions. You're working doing transcriptions all day but you call yourself poor. Go ask for a raise or get a better job. Are you missing the irony that you type for a living but say you can't afford to pay someone to type your manuscript? What about a trade?

If you are in pain, the best thing that could happen to you is you realize this may not be the best job for you. Your health is everything.

Anonymous said...

a lot of RSI experts don't like to see wrist braces worn while typing; it's just propping up weak muscles instead of strengthening them. for the same reason they often don't like wrist rests: ideally one should be strong enough to hold up one's own arms and keep the wrists in neutral position. better to get into the gym and strengthen the arm and back muscles, plus abs, for posture. try wearing wrist braces while you sleep -- often that helps a great deal. there's a lot of difference of opinion in this field, obviously. feel better! Oh--if you have trouble holding books or turning pages (yeah, it can get that bad), any doctor or physical therapist can certify you to get free books on tape from the Braille Library. Amazing.

wonderer said...

For people who have wrist pain while typing, I always recommend two things that have helped me a lot.

(1) Buy a split (ergonomic) keyboard. They're not that expensive, and they'll put your hands into a much more comfortable position.

(2) Learn Dvorak, an alternate typing method. You can set your existing QWERTY keyboard for Dvorak input and switch back and forth at will. Sure, it takes work to learn a new layout, but not all that much work. It took me 15 minutes a day for a month or two, while typing QWERTY most of the rest of the time; you can do it in weeks if you switch cold turkey.

I used to get sore wrists all the time, even with the split keyboard. Not anymore!