Friday, January 25, 2008


I haven’t been able to settle myself and write – even critique others’ writing, since I finished the edit changes of my new novel and sent the file off to my editor on Monday. Not having heard back from either editor or publisher that they received everything A-okay, as we used to say, is also putting me on edge. This blog entry is a tentative move toward clearing out the cobwebs of ensnarements past and setting out on new paths.

Perhaps the editing wouldn’t have been as traumatic if I’d not had to fight with software for a week. My editor uses Track Changer in Microsoft Word. Being a purist with a strong distaste for corporate sharp practices, I use Word Perfect. I also run a much older version of Windows than is currently producing obscene profits for Bill Gates. In order to be able to handle files sent to me by people who are slaves to the system and use late versions of Word, I also have the free download of Sun Microsystem’s Open Office software.

I started by running the Track Changed doc file in Open Office – until it balked at my choosing to reject some of the insertions my editor had added. (The novel has elements of engineering and military description that she was obviously not familiar with, but her initial queries and tactful questions eventually gave way to outright directives about matters she did not understand.) I could easily have smoothed over the human misdirection but after a short fight, the software decided to no longer give me the opportunity to either accept or reject the changes.

I had been keeping up a copy of the file in Word Perfect, so when I asked her for a new working file in rtf I only lost a day transferring the changes. I used a new copy of the doc file that I took from the original e-mailed edits as my guide. Two days later my rtf copy in Word Perfect went crazy. Two lines of text per page and large chunks of text – whole pages – missed out. Reluctantly I switched to Open Office with the file to continue working. That lasted until next day, when Open Office couldn’t handle the file either – the same two lines of text per page, but these appeared sideways, in landscape mode.

Deciding what to do, and contemplating having to start all over again with a new file. I noticed that the original file had magnified to over 2 Meg in size and wondered if that might be a symptom of the problem. I decided to switch to Wordpad – remembering the way I use Notepad to strip all the formatting residue from files I want to send in clean text. Opening the file in Wordpad – fingers crossed because I didn’t know if it would refuse to open something so large – I found all the pages filled with text, and no blocks of text missing. I saved the file and opened it again in Word Perfect. Perfect was the word – no problems at all now. The file that had collected so much irrelevant formatting and correction trash because of the buried Track Changer commands had shrunk back to a clean 740 kb. Only another one day wasted – but I didn’t have to start all over again – I was almost on the last lap. I’d promised the completed edits for Sunday, but deciding to be safe, I elected to read the whole novel from beginning to end to do final edits and ensure no software bombs were hidden in the pages. I managed to send it off Monday evening.

Why do I feel as if I’ve just given birth?

1 comment:

M. D. Benoit said...

In this day and age, you can't afford to have older generations of OS or s/w. Regardless of the "corporate" practises, whether from MS or Mac, time is too precious to fritter away on technical incompatibilities.

Ah, if we only could go back to pen and paper... not.