Petit Fours » A group blog of authors writing in different genres

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Gone with the Remington

by Linsey Lanier

The other week, hubby and I watched a biography on Georgia Public television of Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone Withthe Wind, as everyone knows).

Margaret Mitchell led an interesting life and was just as feisty as the famous heroine she created. After attending Smith College, instead of becoming a carefree Southern Belle, a lady of leisure, as everyone expected her to do, she went to work as a newspaper reporter for the Atlanta Journal (the paper which later merged with the Atlanta Constitution to become the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Her mother was a suffragette and she wrote about women’s issues of her day. Her articles raised some eyebrows. But what caught my attention was that she’d “never touched” a typewriter before she became a reporter. She couldn’t type a lick. She lied in the interview and said she was a “speed demon on a Remington” to get the job.

So how do you produce a slew of newspaper articles on a regular basis if you can’t type? Did she teach herself in her spare time? Or did she just get very good at the hunt-and-peck method?

Later, after Mitchell quit the newspaper job, she wrote her famous tome Gone With the Wind. The bio depicted her typing away, working on the manuscript. She wrote the first draft in three years, then spent the next several years editing and rewriting. Her husband, John Marsh, was her editor (how cool).

So now my question is – was Gone With the Wind written with the hunt-and-peck method of typing? The idea makes me cringe. The first edition was 1,037 pages and Mitchell must have done countless edits. It’s hard enough for me to imagine any writer banging away at one of those old typewriters without the benefit of today’s word processing programs. (Shudder!) But hunt-and-peck? Fiddle-de-dee!

If that’s the case, I’d say that’s why Margaret Mitchell never wrote another novel. What do you think?

Marilyn Baron - July 14, 2011 - 12:15 am

What an interesting post. I think we’re lucky to live in this age of computers. I don’t know how authors in the past managed to produce and edit their work. I never wanted to learn to type and my mother made me take a typing course. It was the best advice she ever gave me.

Sandra Elzie - July 14, 2011 - 6:23 am

Good morning Linsey,
I agree….VERY interesting. Hummm, Yes, I’d have to say that’s a definite possibility…that she never wrote another novel because of having to type it…but what a fantastic One Book Wonder!

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 8:05 am

Yes, we are lucky, Marilyn. I took a typing class in HS, did really poorly, took another one, still not so good. Then later, when computers came out, taught myself because I wanted to temp as a computer typist. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve used that skill in every job since. Not to mention a bunch of novels and revisions thereof!

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 8:07 am

Hi Sandy. I’ve never thought about Margaret Mitchell as a One Book Wonder, but I guess you’re right. Talk about staying power. I still get goosebumps thinking of some of those scenes.

Sia Huff - July 14, 2011 - 8:29 am

Yes, having to re-type a page to change a line or word — yuck. But authors of that time had a more time to rework and fine tune their words. With today’s publishing deadlines, we don’t have that luxury.

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 9:04 am

True, Sia. And the bio said Mitchell never wanted to publish her tome. A publisher was in town, seeking new writers and she refused to give it to him until a woman at a party made a snide remark about Mitchell’s not being clever enough to write a book. She got mad, gathered up all the pieces of the ms, which were in several envelopes, and gave it to the publisher, who was boarding a train back to NY. The next day, she sent him a telegram telling him to send it back, she’d changed her mind. But he’d already started reading it and loved it. Things are different in so many ways today…

Pam Asberry - July 14, 2011 - 9:31 am

I dunno… Charles Dickens didn’t have a typewriter, and HE sure wasn’t a “one book wonder.” I can’t even imagine it. On the other hand, if I ever managed to write a book like “Gone With the Wind,” I probably wouldn’t feel the NEED to write another one. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Pamela Mason - July 14, 2011 - 1:34 pm

Shorthand. My mother wrote pages and pages of foreign looking shorthand when she worked as a legal secretary. And then she transcribed it all with an IBM Selectric.
MM probably knew shorthand & didn’t admit to it.

Carol Burnside - July 14, 2011 - 2:44 pm

I don’t want to even think about having to do laborious edits on a typewriter. Augh! It definitely would take years to write a book.

Christine - July 14, 2011 - 4:29 pm

I remember typing a lot when I was younger–had to take the course in HS. I was an office assistant so I keyboarded a lot. I am a super fast typist in the QWERTY kind of way.

Writing long hand? That would be dangerous as I can’t even read my own writing!

Very cool info about M Mitchell! I need to watch the bio.


Shanon Grey - July 14, 2011 - 5:27 pm

Loved the blog. It took me back.I remember days of electric typewriters and triple carbons,yuck. My first novel was written on a Selectric. Any change and the whole thing–awful memories. Computer programs make me smile. I still want a REALLY good editing program; however, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
I did find an antique book-binding machine the other day and, if I’d had money, I’d have bought it–just to showcase it in my office.

Susan - July 14, 2011 - 7:11 pm

I have always had a love/hate relationshop with typing. I would’ve failed the 3th quarter of it in high school if I hadn’t defied my father and not taken it. I could do all the set up and the general typing but not the speed portion. I’m glad to have a computer now-especially the spell check and correction feature. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do revisions the old way.

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 7:47 pm

Pam, I’m a huge Charles Dickens fan. You’re right. He was very prolific, and he didn’t even have a typewriter! How did he do it?

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 7:52 pm

Hi Pamela, thanks for commenting. You know, I think I remember reading Charles Dickens used shorthand. He was a court reporter. Make that political journalist (just looked it up on wikipedia). I loved “David Copperfield,” and it’s HUGE. But even if you write in shorthand, you STILL have to type it all. Aaaahhh!

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 7:53 pm

Hi Carol. Yep, I think it would take me years to write a short story!

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 7:54 pm

Hi Christine. I envy you your speed. I’ve gotten pretty fast, but the more I write, the worse my spelling gets, it seems. Sigh. The MM bio is so cool. I really loved it. Hope you get a chance to see it.

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 7:57 pm

Hi Shanon. Thanks for stopping by. Triple carbons! I think I’m going to have typing nightmares tonight, LOL. That book-binding machine sounds really interesting.

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 7:59 pm

I’m with you, Susan. I remember struggling just to make 35 words per minute, and I had sooo many mistakes. It took hours and hours of determined practice to get better. Kind of like learning to write a novel…

Tamara LeBlanc - July 14, 2011 - 8:36 pm

When I was younger I watched a made for Tv movie about Margaret Mitchell. Shanon Doerty played Margaret. It was actually really good and I learned alot about her from it.
I’ve never read Gone With the Wind…and don’t sneer, but I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety. But I think maybe I’ll give a try.
Thanks for the info!
Have a great evening:)

Tami Brothers - July 14, 2011 - 9:34 pm

Hey Linsey!

I totally remember typing classes. Remember those full pages of instructions that if you followed them to the letter, you would create a picture with the letters it had you type.

Hit space bar 8 times, | once, Return.

Space bar 6 times, / two times, space nar, two times, return.

This went on and on until you had a picture of santa clause or an old man’s face. It was a hoot unless you got 3/4 the way through and messed up. Sucked…grin…

I so can’t imagine trying to type a whole manuscript on one. Heck, I don’t even like to hand write one for more than a few pages. I can totally see why she only wrote one book…grin…

Thanks for an informative post.


Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 11:31 pm

Waving to Tamara. Thanks for commenting! All right, I won’t sneer, but you’ve REALLY got to see the movie. It’s truly inspiring for any romance writer.

Linsey Lanier - July 14, 2011 - 11:33 pm

Tami, oh yes. I remember those exercises. Never got one of them right, LOL. But they were fun to look at when the “good” typists in the room finished. Wonder whatever happened to those ladies?

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2011 - 7:27 am

This is a day late Linsey. I stayed on the computer – how did I manage to NOT visit PFHT??

Anyway, I have a Royal typewriter and typed my first book on it. Yes, you spend a lot of time drawing a line through a paragraph and inserting a page behind it with p. X, para X.

Taught typing too. Still have students tell me it was the greatest course because they still use it.

Maxine – an ole typing teacher.

Linsey Lanier - July 15, 2011 - 12:01 pm

Thanks so much for commenting, Maxine! I didn’t know you were a typing teacher. You have my undying admiration for that feat.

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