Yesterday I printed out the latest draft of my novel. After so many long months of work it feels anti-climatic. It’s the day after, and I’m just sitting here. Where is the swelling music, where is the great victory? It seems rather quiet.

Actually, quietness is about right. I am exhausted, and a bit of rest is needed. I’ve spent hours and hours staring at the monitor, typing, endless words pattering by. Taking a few days to simply put the story out of my mind and occupy myself with something else is a refreshing interlude. This is very much not the end, but only an interlude. What I printed out was a draft, not the final copy. So the wiser part of me will try to rest and recuperate, fortifying myself for the battle ahead. One thing is sure, it won’t be easy.

It isn’t quite correct to say printing out my novel draft was entirely anti-climatic. It was frustrating, and that counts for something.

Currently, my novel is one prologue, forty-seven chapters, and one epilogue long. Double-spaced, this comes out to 1,183 pages long. All previous drafts of this novel were printed out by someone other than myself, but now we have a fancy-dancy networked printer in the house. One thousand one hundred and eighty-three pages comes out to over 17 megabytes of disk space, in Microsoft Word format. (I write using OpenOffice, but save my file in the Word format for cross-computer usability.) Perhaps showing my naivete once again, I thought printing this file would be an easy affair. After all, I reasoned, it is straight text. There is nothing fancy about it. You tell the printer to print, and it prints. When it runs out of paper you load some more in. Repeat this until job is done.

Events did not turn out as I imagined.

My first problem was double-spacing the document. A document for editing is double-spaced, but I write in single space because double-spaced text visually looks wrong to me. Switching the line spacing of my document ended up being easy . . . but doing it was not how I thought it ought to be done, so I ended up banging my head against the computer until I finally surrendered to how it wanted to reformat the document.

Back in the good old days of WordPerfect 5.1 the entire document could be double-spaced from a single global setting. This, apparently, isn’t allowed in either OpenOffice or MS Word. In these word processing programs the line spacing is set by the paragraph. This means that I must select every paragraph that I want to change from single space format so that I can change each of their paragraph format settings. At first thought this might seem like an appalling amount of work, but actually is easy because there is a “Select All” feature under the “Edit” command which allows the entire document to be selected with one click. If I was a docile little fellow I would have left the matter at that. But it struck me as so backwards that you had to select and entire document to change the formatting–no matter how easy–that I had to hunt around searching for some feature that would allow me to change the formatting on the entire document without selecting all the text. I had no success and so was reduced to accepting the world as it is today.

However, in one last ironic twist, I think I managed to garble the whole process up in OpenOffice by changing the line spacing in the default style. This did double space the document, but it also mucked up my chapter headings (not to mention taking a long time to implement the formatting change in all 1,183 pages). At this point my temper was running short. I decided that if I was going to wrestle with formatting issues that took so much time, I would do it on a computer that was faster. So I burned my novel onto a CD and brought it downstairs to Teman’s much faster computer.

Since I had given up trying to make MS Word function as I thought it ought to, formatting the document to double-spaced text was easy. But I promptly found myself facing a new problem. The printer wouldn’t print out my story. This didn’t become immediately evident because first all 17+ megabytes of document were spooled, slowly, out to the printer. Only when it reached the last kilobyte of document did it hang, wait a long time, then say it was having difficulty and would try again. The spooling started over from the beginning and I had to wait again. Two failures later, I decided something was wrong. Thus ensued much fiddling with settings and more waiting as I watched the document spool out, and then fail to print.

Full blown exasperation settled in. I mean, come on, what kind of pathetic world do we live in? What kind of worthless no good pieces of junk are our computers? (No, don’t answer that question.) I’m trying to use a word processing program to print a document out on a business class printer, and the equipment is effectively thumbing its nose at me! Outrage of all outrages.

I take the CD over to the computer which has extra printer software installed on the hopes that somehow (magically) it will help solve the problem. Ha ha. Sarcastic laughter. That computer wouldn’t even recognize my CD. It said my CD was an audio CD. Very funny. It is beginning to feel like some grand farce in which I’ll never get my document printed. Fuming, I go back to Teman’s computer to try something else.

I’ve already determined that I can print one measly page of my novel, so it is clear that the printer doesn’t simply find my writing so revolting that it refuses to print. Logically then, I must figure out exactly how many pages of my novel the printer is willing to print at a time. It won’t print 1,183 pages? Fine, how about 600? I wait for 600 pages to spool out and discover that 600 pages won’t print either. All right. How about 300? I watch as 300 pages spools out to the printer, and no, that doesn’t work either. Great. Then what about 200 pages? Waiting, then finally, yes, 200 pages will print. This is hysterical. I’m reduced to printing out 200 pages at a time. Why? Why me?

Actually, once I figured out how much I could print, the probable reason why became clear. Three hundred pages of an MS Word document took slightly over 4 megabytes of memory. Two hundred pages took slightly over 3 megabytes of memory. Ah, I think, who wants to bet the printer only has 4 megabytes of memory? That would explain the problem.

Explain yes, but I still don’t think it is justified. The designers should have been smart enough to make the printer print as it was accepting the feed from the spool. Assuming that I am right about the cause of the problem, file size should not be the limit of what goes to the printer. A person should not be limited to printing out a document no longer than two hundred pages. The world is much larger than that.

Ranting aside, I did manage to print out my novel draft, once I understood what rules I was operating under. I printed in two-hundred-page segments. This didn’t mean the printing itself took any longer, but it did mean I had to do more babying of the process. And all the time I had spent getting everything to work made the project take the entire afternoon.

So, printing out the novel wasn’t entirely anti-climatic.