Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dispatches from a Borderline Troglodyte (Or, How I Accidentally Discovered the Comment Feature on Word)

Let me start by saying I am not the most technologically inclined person in the world. Cue: guffaw of laughter from my computer programming son in the next room. He thinks I’m a dinosaur, still tapping out texts on an old cell phone (the kind not connected to the internet; the kind where you have to count numbers to make letters). Also, I use paper maps. In my defense, the lady on my GPS has led me wrong on more than one occasion. I’m driving along on a perfectly good highway and she’s saying stuff like: "Return to road immediately." Sometimes I sense there’s an undercurrent of exasperation in that polite robotic voice.

There was more than an undercurrent the other day when I spent an hour talking to an IT guy about glitches in my internet connection. Dealing with internet connections is always my husband’s responsibility (see: anything related to cars, things that have motors, things attached to wires or pipes, things that require a tool to fix, etc.) But sweet resourceful hubby was out of town on business and so it fell to me to figure out what was wrong. (Son’s knowledge about computers falls more in the theoretical/programming capacity. Also, he’s so evolved he doesn’t talk on the phone.)

I feel sorry for the IT guy who ended up with my service call. Sample of our conversation:
Me: This doesn’t work! I need it to work!
Guy: Ma’am, (in clipped polite accent) is the modem connected to your router?
Me: What’s a router? What’s a modem?
Guy: (After a fifteen minute explanation/description) Now, ma’am, find the wire that’s connected from the modem to the router and—
Me: What wire?! There are like five wires!
Guy: Ma’am…

I’ll spare you the rest of this, but I spent a good hour on the floor, tracing multiple dusty wires with my fingers while whining to this guy who kept his cool for the most part, although I sometimes wondered if he wished he could climb through the phone and smack me upside the head.

The real issue was the email I was trying to retrieve, the one from my editor, so I could see what she thought of the first set of revisions I did for her. Backstory for those just joining me on my long road to publication journey: after fifteen years and ten book manuscripts, I signed my first contract for a young adult novel. Now I’m knee deep in a second round of revisions with an editor. Side note about editor: I love her and am so thrilled to be working with her, but there is a tiny splinter of fear that she thinks I’m a flake.

Why? Because I came dangerously close to blowing off hours of work she did on my book.

What happened was several weeks ago, she sent me a file with her copy edits and notes on areas in my book that still needed “tweaking,” as she called it. Love that word, by the way. Much better than saying “complete overhaul.” I was very proud of myself when I downloaded the file and saw a bunch of little red copy edit marks. I may be a borderline Troglodyte, but I’m hip to the “Track Changes” feature on Word. But I didn’t see any notes. Instead I saw all these numbered yellow highlighted areas (105 to be exact).

Hmm. Well, those were obviously areas that needed work. I could do that. Bad timing though for getting started on it. My son was graduating from high school and we had a house full of guests plus a dog. I couldn’t study this file and instead had to be content with reading bits and pieces of the printed off manuscript whenever I had a stray moment. This was good, I told myself. I’d have time to digest, to ponder, to work out little plot holes. And I did figure out how I wanted to deal with most of these, except in a few nagging places. Why had the editor highlighted this particular sentence? What did she mean by highlighting that one? Maybe it was my job to divine her intentions?

But wait. What about the notes she promised me?

That was the question that woke me up in a cold sweat one night. Mind racing, I booted up my computer and pulled up the file. Surely, she’d given me more—dashes of notes in the margins? Something in color that hadn’t printed off because we don’t have a color printer?! I scrolled through the pages quickly, but there was nothing. Just all those yellow highlights....

It was sheerly by accident that my cursor hovered over one of these and a cute little bubble popped up.

A note.

Really, a whole paragraph written by this lovely, earnest editor. OMG. Every darn one of those highlighted areas had a comment attached (105, if you remember) of the editor’s suggestions, questions, things for me to consider, work on, etc. One hundred five comments that I had not read.


In case you're wondering, it all turned out to be okay. The majority of the things she’d pointed out were things I’d already figured out myself after multiple readings. And the few places where I’d struggled to understand what she wanted me to do—well, those bubbles popped up with nothing but little smiley faces.

Did I tell you how much I love this lady?


  1. I feel your pain, when it comes to anything mechanical or technical. At least I now know now what a modem and a router are, only because I've had to deal with my internet provider on several occasions ('cause my husband has no patience for technology). Glad you figured out what the highlighted areas mean. I use the highlighted "track changes" (under "tools") all the time when critiquing someone else's ms. Best of luck on your revisions. I'm sure you'll do great, Jody.

  2. Thanks, Stella. I'm loving the whole track changes/notes thing now. Very useful. That's something else I know about myself when it comes to technology--I'm slow to catch on, then I'm usually on board.