was going to run some other observation today but I figured I’d hold it. After all, today is Thanksgiving. And while we have things to be thankful for (friends, family, blah blah) and I specifically do (namely that that damned kidney stone is out), there are things we writers should be thankful for.
I’m not going to be thankful for the self-publishing market. Like the internet overall, it’s changing things in ways we still cannot imagine and so into the chaos we fall, heedless. I’m as thankful for that as I would piloting a vessel in fog-bound seas. No thanks.
No, here’s what I think we can all be thankful for.
Word – Yes, outside of Excel, no other program has earned Microsoft a bid at the Nobel Peace Prize. I used to use WordPerfect back in the day but Word is a comfortable fit for me, doing mostly what I’d like it to do. Oh, I’ll ungraciously note that the chapter numbering is disturbed (and refuses to allow me to gently correct it to what I’d like my next number to be) but overall it’s a pretty sharp program. If you don’t think so, try to write a page of good prose on a notepad (a paper one). All those things we do, the shifting of sentences, the changing of phrases, the insertion and deletion of text, all of those were done by painful cribbing followed by laborious rewriting. I recently wrote about typewriters – refer back to that if you want to see what Word has given us.
SpellChecker – Yes, I know, it’s part of Word. But it’s such a day-to-day, word-to-word tool which formats automatically into my writing flow, it gets special mention. I shudder to think back to the days with paper dictionaries, with flipping page after page looking for how something was supposed to be spelled. And Goodness help you if you hadn’t a clue – you could have your nose in that book for fifteen or twenty minutes. Really, word is so slick that you can find yourself working with it, trying different spellings until you nail the correct one. Great program that sits over the writer’s shoulder and helps. Oh, and, BTW, “SpellChecker” (the first word of this section) is misspelled. Oh well.
Thesaurus– Thesauruses are great. They are the writer’s friend (they work so well, sometimes I think it’s borderline cheating). Often, in the middle of the night, at the end of the session, I’m hung on a word that’s not quite good enough. I’ll fuss and fume and rack my brain for a better one. Word’s thesaurus is pretty good; I use it as a casual backup. But for the grandiose nut-cracker words whose usage brings a smile to the reader’s lips, I’ll fall back to Thesaurus.com. This has wonderfully eclectic choices (no, I didn’t use it just now). In fact, sometimes you’ll find a word you hadn’t even considered. It can really make a dull sentence shine.
So yes, keep your turkey and football games and family-cracking political fights. Be thankful for whatever you please. But as a writer, I’m thankful for the tools listed above. Anything else is just a quill and parchment.