Technology is supposed to support our goals, and, when well-written, it does. So for instance, when I write, I use particular features to make my writing process better aligned with my thinking. I’m working on a book (as you’ve seen hints of and some resultant interim thoughts), and I’m finding that now that it’s time to deliver, I’ve got a conflict. Let me explain.
My writing is not just a process of sitting down and having the prose flow. At some point it is, but even with my first book that had gestated for years, I had a structure. Subsequent exercises in screed generation have really relied on my creating an overarching structure, that lets me tell a story that incorporates the things I need to cover. And I use outlines as my structuring tool.
Even this isn’t linear: structure and then write. As I write, I have ideas that I will either put later in the structure, or go back and add into the prose. One of the things that regularly happens is that, as I write, I find things flowing in a different way than I originally expected, and I rearrange the outline to achieve a structure that captures the new flow.
To do this, I use the outline feature hugely. I don’t just restructure, but move chunks to different places using these capabilities. While I have not been a fan of Microsoft in general, I learned Word to write my PhD thesis, and have used it consistently ever since. For instance, while I love Keynote, I haven’t been able to adopt Pages because it hasn’t had industrial-strength outlining. This also means I inherently use styles. I like styles. A lot. For instance, it makes me crazy when people format by hand on something that might need to be reformatted.
The reason I mention this is because I’m now faced with an externally-induced dilemma. Having a deadline, and finally having crafted my prose, I now look at their submission requirements. And they’re antiquated. Here’s the requirement from my publisher:
Our production process requires minimal file formatting; do not use formatting such as fields and links, styles, page headers or footers, boxed text, and so on.
No auto-indexing, no auto-table of contents, nothing. And yes, I faced this before, but it’s still hugely frustrating. The dilemma I’m in: I’ve had to use styes to write a well-structured book. Now I’m faced with the onerous task of removing all the file formatting created by the outline styles that I needed to use to give my best effort. And I have to do it by hand, as there’s no way to systematically go through and manually format all the headings.
This is nuts! I mean, it is almost 2014, and they still need me to use hand-formatting. Um, people, this is why we have technology: to support us in working smarter, not to go to a last-century (or worse) manual process. These instructions are essentially unchanged since 2005, when I wrote my first tome! (Ok, they no longer require a floppy disk version, and I talked them out of the 3 paper copies. Ahem.) I managed to create camera-ready material for my thesis (with library restrictions where they’ll take out the ruler to make sure the measurements meet the criteria) in Word back in 1989; I bet I could create camera-ready page-proofs to meet their requirements today. As you can infer, I’m frustrated (and dreading the chore). The irony of using last century production processes to tout moving L&D into the 21st Century is not lost on me.
Please, if your processes are still like this, let’s have a conversation. I will be having a fight with my publisher (which I will lose; they can’t change that fast), but I hope you can do better.