Paper and pencil

I got a comment in my last post about whether I’d started writing the next go-around, and I have. So, the following is the prologue of the umpteenth rewrite of the Novel from Hell, also known in my dreams as America’s Next Great Novel (heh). My (metaphorical) hat goes off to anyone who decides to put themselves through the torture necessary to read my abysmal handwriting, but I thought I’d share it anyway.  And yes. I know that the second sentence is missing a verb. I couldn’t be bothered to add the word and rescan the page. Yes, that’s awfully lazy of me.

I think the difference between typing and writing by hand, as the commenter (Joe Union) mentioned. I will be honest: even not during November, when I type anything, I am obsessed by wordcount.  I have a perverse need to make all my chapters/sections/what have you the same length, and find it incredibly difficult to break myself out of that rut. In some facets of writing, this can actually be helpful. In others, it unnecessarily constrains and makes my life harder, and the quality of the writing probably suffers. On the other hand, I am very good at producing decent text very fast and when you just want to get the story out, that can be a better method for me. There are other cons, too; I’m about as bad a procrastinator as they come and I’m more than capable of playing three straight hours of sudoku or freecell or hearts instead of writing (and I played at least two straight hours on at least one occasion in November).

Writing by hand takes me back to my roots. I can still remember telling my mother, years ago when she did her weekly grocery shopping, to make sure to grab a pack of notebooks for me. I always wrote in pencil; I take notes in pen but write fiction in pencil (and it’s not for ease of erasing; I scribble out pen and pencil both). I had elaborate schedules and outlines stapled or taped to the inside covers of the notebooks. They’re all still sitting in the basement; some of them are falling apart, they were used so much. It’s a much slower and more deliberative process for me, not least because it’s easy to move text around on a computer but much harder on paper (and I’ve never been particularly fond of elaborate arrow-moving-around schemes). It’s harder for me to find somewhere comfortable to write; I type at my desk but I can’t handwrite there comfortably for some reason, so I usually end up sitting in bed doing it.  BUT, notebooks can *only* get destroyed/ruined/lost/stolen, they can’t get virused! (*grin*).

And finally (and not unimportantly) my typing while intoxicated is actually decent (just slower), whereas my handwriting while intoxicated is frequently illegible.

I’ve actually got, other than the NfH, another example which I can compare my handwritten and typed versions. The first book I wrote last November, the beginning of a fantasy series, I decided to rewrite by hand and I think the end result was interesting. In the typed version, I had ten viewpoint characters, each of whom got two thousand words (I think). Unfortunately, interesting things weren’t always happening to everyone at the same time, so there would be a couple of interesting sections and a couple where someone was just rambling on. I can attribute that both to the boringness of their plotlines and the speed of NaNo, I suppose. The handwritten version is  not without its flaws – I have come to notice that I write much more realistic dialogue when I type, but not when I handwrite, for some reason – and it does its own meandering. On the other hand, it was aided by the fact that I already knew exactly what was going to happen by the end of the first book on the rewrite; I had no such concrete ideas during the first, typed version.

I don’t know which is better. I suspect that neither of them is actually better, and I suspect that the pros and cons are different for everyone. There are probably people who swear by handwriting and people who swear by typing. I don’t think I’m either of those. True, since I was about 14 or 15, I switched almost exclusively to typing, and I’m only making tentative efforts back into handwriting, and I suspect that if I ever end up doing this fulltime (hahahaha), that it’ll be a weird amalgamation of both. But only time will tell that. One thing I do know, though, is that this first draft of the NfH is going to be handwritten.

Thanks, Joe, for making me think about this.



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4 responses to “Paper and pencil

  1. I’ve been writing by hand a lot lately, too. I feel so much more connected to my writing when I do.

    The prologue was actually really, really good. Their characters are already emerging. Nice work.

  2. Cally

    I’m going to handwrite my WriYe next year. I waste so much time on the computer it’s unreal.

    Your handwriting is way better than mine. I tell people it’s because I’m left handed but that’s just an excuse.

  3. I believe it was Stephen King who said he preferred to write by hand rather than typing because when writing by hand, you have to think extra special about that word you’re going to write down. Unlike the computer, in which you can just hit backspace and it’s gone right away. You see what I mean?
    I, myself, prefer typing because I am quite impatient and I type faster than I write, though occasionally, I will write in my notebook.

  4. Joe Union

    Thanks for your interesting comments. I guess handwriting fascinates me because I have never tried it, novel-wise. I think that I am going to give it a try and see how it goes for me. Thanks.

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