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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Six (Yes, SIX!) Computer Screens

A written obituary to genius Sir Terry Pratchett (RIP) shows him at his desk.  What stood out to me was that he worked with six (yes, SIX!) different computer screens, in two rows of three in front of him.

A while ago I invested in the biggest wide screen monitor my budget would allow, so I can have two pages of my current chapter open alongside the novel’s Excel ‘Mastersheet’.  But, I’m struggling to see the use I would get from six (yes, SIX!) screens – even if I could fit them on my desk (below).  I do appreciate that Sir Terry was professional and wrote books in series which gives more need for record keeping, but even so I’m struggling.


It did get me thinking, though, and into discussion with the household’s non-writers.  If I had the space, budget, and inclination for six (yes, SIX!) computer screens, what would I use them all for?  Here are my thoughts, and I’d be interested in suggestions from other writers.

  • The document I’m currently working on, straight ahead and in front of me, which probably goes without saying.  For me, that will be the current chapter of the novel I’m drafting;
  • My ‘Master Spreadsheet’.  I have an Excel file for each novel with a summary of each chapter and links to each key document such as my character list, and other documents I need for the story, for example who is wearing what in each chapter, or who has what in their pockets or rucksack etc;
  • Character sheet.  Depending on the complexity and number of characters this can be a Word document of a couple of pages in total briefly outlining each character, to a multi-page spreadsheet with thirty or forty lines of information on each character – looks, age, relationships, religion, phobias, background and the like.  Maybe I would make use of this on screen - at the moment they’re run off on hardcopy for ease of reference, but I keep changing or adding to them as I find out more about the characters;
  • Story summary.  I have a brief outline with a couple of paragraphs for each chapter, to remind me what needs to happen when and tends to be rewritten several times as I go along;
  • Internet.  Sometimes I need a bit of factual information – what flowers bloom in early spring in north Wales, for example – and Wikipedia and similar sites are my friend (and yes, I do know the pitfalls of such sites!);
  • I can’t think of what I’d use a sixth screen for!  (Maybe, if I was more inclined, social media, which writers seem to live by these days?)  But, Pratchett probably had a lot more information than me to keep track of.  And, of course, I can’t argue with a genius!

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