Since Shock and Awe is now available in many Barnes and Noble bookstores, some of the students in a novel-writing class at a local college (a class I once attended, I might add) organized a signing. It was great fun; the Q&A went on for a good hour, no doubt throwing the class quite off schedule.
At one point someone asked how fast I write, and I replied that my average was a page per minute. But, then, I added, my typing skills are limited to four digits (left index, right index, right middle, and the left thumb for the space bar).
The professor then surprised us by announcing that he was limited to two index fingers ("Like a chimp with a typewriter.") He has knocked out roughly forty books this way since the 1970s, and he claims he averages 65 word a minute--"Too fast to be able to afford to learn to do it right."
I was thinking about this because a while back Alis Hawkins had a post on her blog that mentioned:
I know that lots of longhand first drafters say that when they type up what they’ve written and see the words appearing as print onscreen, they immediately see what needs to be changed, rewritten etc. The change from scrawl to ‘clean text’ seems to be part of the editing process.
That, coupled with the fact that my handwriting looks ridiculous, is one of the reasons I compose onscreen--the need to transcribe it would be incredibly painful. Putting words down out of my head isn't so bad, but I find transcription, even of my own words, to be tedious and headache-inducing. (Apparently JRR Tolkein wrote all of his manuscripts in long-hand, and then, after massive rewrites and revisions, typed them up himself. He claims that the books were long in coming because he couldn't afford to pay for "typing by the ten-fingered.")
The how-do-you-compose is probably the question writers get asked most frequently. (In moveis, of course, they compose on actual typewriters, because the hammering is so much more cinematic.) But the question that is left often asked is, can you, in fact, really type? With all ten fingers? (I've met several now who can't.)
Well, can you?