Becoming a Better Writer: Writing by Hand

For me, it’s too easy to get distracted and bogged down to be able to pull together the attention span necessary to finish an entire novel. Especially when I’m tip-tapping away at my computer. Why add another paragraph when I can update all my websites, check my Facebook, play my Sims, chat online, or make new graphics for my short stories for the umpteenth time? By the time I even get to thinking about the title, I’m whisked away by another article suggested by LinkedIn about how to ‘get a truckload of reviews on Amazon’ or ‘better reach out to your audience’ or ‘avoid those tropes you just put into your story less than five seconds ago’. 

Just a handful of my current notebooks

Just a handful of my current notebooks

I also am useless at newer technology. My phone is a calls-and-text-only flip phone, and I have the same iPod touch that was brand spanking new back when I was still in high school. Since I tend to use a method that involves typing up my chapters and uploading them to be beta read one at a time, I don’t have any files that I could just put up in that Cloud thing that I still don’t understand, it’d be a bit of a reach to be able to get writing done when I’m not in my house, glued to my monster of a laptop.

So my solution to all this and more? I hand-write the first drafts of all my manuscripts, from short stories to the small novels all the way to the honking 100k plus projects that tend to take up more than four individual notebooks. (Thank goodness the Dollar Store sells these things, or I might be a bit in the hole with my material costs). I take my notebooks with me everywhere- when I’m out visiting my mum, when I go over to Monkey’s for the weekend, when I’m tanning out on my back porch, when I’m with the girls I nanny. The girls want to take a nap? Out comes the pen. Monkey needs to finish a project at work? Lucky me, so do I. Mum goes to get groceries? That’s enough time for a page, right? Note that I say ‘notebooks’ as well- I have the one notebook that has the current manuscript-in-progress, as well as the smaller planning journal that contains character notes, look sheets, world-mythology and family trees, and three or four loose leaf pages of broad outlines that keep me on track with the goal of each chapter, as well as serving as my bookmark for where I currently am in the project. 

This first handwritten manuscript is full of strike-throughs, name-changes, notations to add details or new plot twists in the next version, small sketches and random people’s phone numbers/addresses. It’s messy to the point that sometimes I can’t read my own handwriting and I’ll soon have to pay for my fast-dying pens in blood in order to keep up with myself. With the amount of writing I do a day, it’s much more likely that I’ll develop some kind of carpal tunnel and if I lose my online files I will undoubtedly have to type up all of these chapters all over again (typing a chapter can take anywhere from 30min to a full hour depending on the length and how distracted I get). 

For all that, I’ve found that writing my manuscripts by hand has done worlds for knocking out my occasional periods of writer’s block. It also gives me something tangible to hold on to while I’m writing, which can be better for my thought process when I’m looking to go back and edit a certain section or change something entirely. It gives me an extra edit- when I type these chapters up, I’m technically already moved on to a second draft. Typing something up from hand-written ensures that I read through the chapters themselves as a cohesive unit, which allows me to better focus on continuity and errors such as too many questions or the same word used too many times. That way, by the time I’m getting to the edits stage I’m capable of moving on to the bigger thematic edits- does this story element work, would that character really do that, what details need to be added, which ones needs to be tightened, etc.- so that by the time that I have a third draft I’m capable of moving straight into the nit-picky details and polishing the entire thing. I prefer only having to do two drafts through the typed method- in that way, I only have to print once or twice, rather than three or four times. Considering my manuscripts are pretty hefty, and I am no longer of capable of sacrificing my university printer bucks to print them out, economizing the process is pretty important. 

So, readers: what do you prefer? Do you hand-write, then type? Do you type on a typical word processor like Microsoft Word? Do you use a specialized program like Scrivener? An online-posting community like Webook or Wattpad? (I myself use Webook for beta reads). How many drafts do you kick out? 

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One thought on “Becoming a Better Writer: Writing by Hand

  1. Pingback: Herding Muses: On My Crazy Outlining Method (with examples) | Rose B Fischer

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