Tag Archives: Longhand

Old School Writing Tools

This article suggests that writing in longhand or by typewriter is a more stimulating method of creating a story than skating the surface of a soft-touch computer keyboard.

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That there may be ‘hidden efficiency’ in pen, pencil and typewriter ribbon is intriguing. I agree that I remember information better if I’ve written it down, which is partly why I jot ideas onto scraps of card that are dotted around my laptop’s cooling cradle. I’ve got hundreds of documents stored in scores of folders on my desktop, which I’m sometimes glad to find while looking for something else, for I’d forgotten that I’d already done that bit of research!

I’ve written a few poems in longhand, but never anything in prose. I love relying on my laptop, which I also use to aid my concentration by playing music as I write. I even defy the common advice of not having an internet connection while I write, for sometimes it’s best for me to get a fact right at that moment, rather than doing it later when editing, as it will affect what I write next. I’m very focused, checking just that one fact and not wandering off to surf the web.

What about you?

Do you do everything on a computer?

Or by longhand or typewriter, afterwards producing a computer file?

Tackling Editing

In an interview that originally appeared in the Guardian, George Saunders, author of Lincoln In The Bardo explains how he edits his writing.

With the experimental form of Lincoln In The Bardo I imagine that he did hundreds of rewrites of its 340 pages; to give you some idea of the complexity of the narrative, the audiobook version uses 166 readers—including Hollywood stars Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Lena Dunham and Don Cheadle.

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I like what Saunders says about respecting the reader. Saunders uses a computer to write his manuscripts, which must have made things easier with his successful novel:

“I write in Word. I loved WordPerfect, but then the Word juggernaut rolled right over the poor little guy. This computer is given to me by my university and the default word-processing program is Word – so there you go. The only thing I ever write longhand anymore are notebook entries. And even then I usually end up typing them into a file. I have really horrible handwriting. I print out every day so there’s no danger of losing anything. And lots of times, in retrospect, it might have been better if I had lost something.”

These days, with the ease of altering a manuscript that a computer gives us, I sometimes wonder about what the definition of a new draft really is….

In the old laborious days of writing everything in longhand, and even in the less flexible method of using a typewriter, different drafts were readily distinguishable by their altered layout. On my laptop, I can change the order events happen in a chapter with three section breaks in seconds—does that make it a new draft? Or, does a draft only exist when someone else, someone important like a literary agent or an editor, claps their eyes on it? Up until then, your story is a tree falling in the forest that no one hears.

With my last novel, I’ve tried a different way of editing, by staying in one or two chapters for several days. This has permitted me to finesse the descriptions while worrying that such tinkering around may be gilding the lily. I like this way of working, in that it’s encouraged me to consider the frame of mind of my characters at that particular moment, which might make their future behaviour more believable.

How do you edit….is it a daily chore, or weekly?

Do you do regular trawls through all you’ve written so far, perhaps using the Word Search function to find repeated words?

Are you content to leave the editing until you’ve completed the writing? I did that with my first novel, which admittedly was way too long at 179,000 words, and spent five months chipping barnacles off the hull of the monstrous leviathan I’d created. This woeful experience motivated me into doing regular editing of the WIP.

Are you fortunate enough to have a trusted reader, who offers helpful suggestions?

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