Olivetti typewriterI started writing novels on an old Olivetti portable typewriter. I loved my Olivetti. At that time the IBM electric typewriters were the latest and most desired technology, but they were out of my price range. Also, they were heavy, whereas I could take my little portable with me wherever I went. It was my constant companion, even on holidays. It made me feel like a real writer. Today, using a PC, you only need to touch each key lightly, but my lovely old Olivetti was a different matter. You had to drive the keys down hard. At least I had to. For me typing was my physical exercise.

When it came to making changes to the text and I always had plenty of changes, if I thought of a better angle, I changed the story. I changed the dialogue if the character came up with a snappier line, and I changed the grammar and spelling when I realised I got it wrong – again. What I had to do every time was type out a replacement for the line or two or even the paragraph that I wanted to change, then cut the thin strips and retire for hours to a light table to paste it over the offending piece.

Well, stripping up changes was not that simple. On later examination I was often not happy with the change I made. So I would type out another new piece and paste that upon the piece I had already stripped up. Sometimes I was not happy with that either. I could end up with strips that were three or four or more pages deep, causing strange bumps in the manuscript. And when that happens twenty or thirty times in a two hundred page novel, the manuscript gets to look very strange indeed and impossible to fax, which was the way I sent it to my publisher.

I remember looking at a stripped up manuscript and wondering what I was going to do with it. An added problem was that, to give myself an extra copy I used carbon paper with everything I wrote, but I did not strip up the carbon copy.

Thank heavens for the personal computer. It is a wonderful device. But I dearly loved my old Olivetti. She had a special place in my heart. What happened to her after I received my first PC is a heart-rending story. I will tell you about the sad death of my Olivetti the first chance I get.

Manuscripts and Bumps on the Way