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August 23rd, 2006, 09:17 AM
Hi Everyone,

Out of curiosity, what do you write with or on? Are you a desktop kind of writer with your own little nook in the house? Do you have the portablitity of a laptop that can leap to coffee shop in a single bound? Or are you a die hard pen and paper first drafter?

The reason I'm asking is that I'm looking for something that's a little more portable than my current 6 y/o laptop. I want something I can take hiking in the mountains or on a vacation to New Zealand that my wife and I are planning in a few months. And I don't want to break the bank.


I first looked into an Alpha Smart Dana (http://www.alphasmart.com/products/dana-w.html) which retails for about $400 USD. This looks like it's roughly equivalent to a small laptop. With the WiFi, you also have the ability to surf the web, check email, and otherwise distract yourself from getting that next chapter banged out. The problem is that it looks failr large. I would end up basically lugging a keyboard around with me. Why not just go for a low-end laptop? For just a little more money, you can get a full sized screen, and more memory, and maybe even the ability to watch a DVD on the plane for those times when inspirition is burried in the sand.

Then I began to consider a handheld or PDA. Currently the front runner is the Palm TX (http://www.palm.com/ca/products/handhelds/tx/). I can pick this puppy up at my local Staples/Business Depot for about $400 CND - including a foldable keyboard. Now, I tried out the keyboard in the store the other day - it seemed cramped, but I figured I could get used to it. And what's more important, it's more portable. Another major concern is screen size. I'm not looking for something to replace my major writing station, so I don't think I'll go blind trying to read from it. But I'm curious if anyone else has gone this route, and if you have, how do you find it?

August 23rd, 2006, 12:12 PM
I write on my PC when at home and pen and paper when away from home. The reason is the battery never dies and since it's to go back and edit something (scribbling if using pen or erasing if pencil) I just dont bother and keep forging ahead, sometimes adding a note here and there in the margin, too. Also, you dont have to worry about saving if you get interrupted. Funny thing is, once I type the handwritten stuff in, I find I have written more the 'old-fashioned' way than I do when I type .. and I usually spend LESS time writing with pen and paper!

Writing outside is also very motivating. The pen and paper method adds to it as you can almost feel like a character writing in a journal. Maybe a scout perched high viewing the land, waiting for the enemy and writing his report. Or, if your camped for the night, sitting by the fire and writing with the last bit of light can also give the imersion affect.

As for the perfect high tech route, sorry I can't help you there.

August 23rd, 2006, 03:04 PM
I mostly write on my notebook. But when I'm away from it I also revert to pen and paper. I tend to do more of a "very detailed outline", though, when writing with pen and paper. I'll short hand some things, write out an idea for something that should happen, make generalizations, etc. Then I'll fill in detail work when I sit down to type it in. I cover a lot of ground quickly that way and advance my story.


August 23rd, 2006, 09:05 PM
I've got a usb drive with AbiWord (http://portableapps.com/apps/office/abiword_portable) on it that I can use anywhere I can find a pc plus I carry my Hipster (www.hipsterpda.com) - a stack of index cards held together with a binder clip (or punch a hole in the corner and put them on a binder ring). I like writing on the index cards, they're a little firmer. I like it because nobody's going to steal a pile of index cards, you don't have to worry about finding batteries or losing those overpriced plastic styluses.

September 7th, 2006, 09:41 AM
I work as a telemarketer, from 1.30 to 8.30 weeknights and 12-6 on Saturday(Please no telemarketer hate). So the only time I get to write is now, between about 12 to 3. In that time I can usually sit down and churn out at least 3,000 words if I put my mind to it. During the day at work I sit and do things that will get me pumped into writing when I get home again, this is usually writing questions regarding progress on paper and then answering them. This helps me work through the numerous plot holes that often need revising and cleaning up.
So plot on paper, and I work on a simple compac presario that may as well be a desktop because it stays in my house mostly. When im on holiday it comes in handy though.

September 7th, 2006, 06:10 PM
I've just bought an AlphaSmart Neo (cheaper but newer than the Dana) because my husband kept using our laptop and I wanted a low-cost alternative :)

I love it because it's instant on/off, light (less than a kilo), has no distractions (no Wireless on this beauty), a long battery life (700 hours, compared to about 25 on the Dana) and is pretty damn durable.

My back hurts if I spend too long at the PC after a day at work. So I move to the sofa (or wherever) with the AlphaSmart from time to time. I used to find the laptop a bit awkward to sit with if I wasn't at a desk, but I just perch the Alpha on my knees. I don't have get the opportunity to use IMDB or Gmail or SFFWorld or whatever else, so I just write (even if I'm watching the tele at the same time). When I'm done I go back to my PC, plug the USB cord in and press the send button on the Alphasmart, which sends all the text into Word (I believe it's done differently on a Dana). Easy.

If you're interested, I'd suggest buying a cheaper model from eBay first (I bought an AlphaSmart 3000 for half the price of a Neo, but loved it so much I upgraded to the Neo within a week) to test it out - you can always resell it.

I'd also suggest visiting http://www.flickr.com/groups/alphasmart/discuss/

September 7th, 2006, 11:26 PM
Well, I ended up purchasing the Palm One TX with optional keyboard. Over the long weekend, I took it out on a 3 day kayaking/camping adventure. My wife and I are fond of the outdoors, but as you can imagine this leads to a little bit of conflict with my writing life. I needed something I could bring with me for those relaxing evenings in the tent when inspiration hits.

The Palm TX is small enough. When you're kayaking just about everything gets wet. The TX fit easily on the bottom of a dry bag along with our books and a few other items. For extra security against the water, I sealed it inside its own zip-lock bag.

Although they claim the keyboard is "standard size" it takes a little getting used to. For one thing there's a hinge in the middle of the space bar - right where my thumb goes. Once I got into my groove though, I was chugging along at pretty close to my standard pace.

It only has about 100 Mb of free memory on its own. This can fill up fast if you plan on putting anything more that text documents on it. Fortunately I purchased a 1 Gb flash drive (for another $60.00).

Battery life is short. I figure about 5 hours of writing on a full charge. I don't know why they make the keyboard and PDA WiFi only. A simple cord could increase your user time substantially. I think also it has more efficient settings. Anyway, for a weekend out, this proved to be plenty of life. After all, writing is only a secondary thing on such trips.

The screen is small, but not so small that I can't read it. The resolution is descent, which means you can keep the text small enough to see a signifcant portion of your page. It's not however, a full screen size.

Software is okay for writing, but NOT the same as MS Office, as the adds claim. To get spell-check, for example, you have to purchase the "premium" package. There's no equation editor either (maybe not important for fiction, but I know a few world builders would need this). Setup wasn't easy, either. The instructions are supposed to be simple, but there's no easy way to go back during the installation process to make corrections.

Overall, the TX is a good tool to supplement your writing hobby. But I wouldn't chose it as a primary vehicle for building fiction.

September 8th, 2006, 06:07 AM
Sounds cool. I actually love PDAs as well :D - I'm pretty much a geek for anything tech that you can write on

In fact, my AlphaSmart Neo (I know I sound like I'm advertising, but I've just got it so I'm still in the honeymoon period) has infrared, so I back it up onto a Windows PDA I have. The PDA has shorter battery life, but the internet and so on. So I write on one for long periods, and can do other stuff when it's needed.

Of course that's all moot when I'm at home and using the PC anyway :)

September 8th, 2006, 08:52 AM
mmmm a palm pilot, bought one years ago when I was about 14, thought it would make a neat toy-disappointment and neglect lead to selling it.
But Now Iím thinking of the palm Zire, I remember the handinessí of having that mobile M/Word at your fingertips. That would be great during the day at work. Especially when editing rolls around.
It's like writing without the messy handwriting, nice neat type, and entirely mobile. Unfortunately my budget is too tight for luxuries at the moment.