I confess. I’m a bit of a Luddite. Why should I let a computer do what I’m capable of doing on my own. If I didn’t have to rely on a spell-checker so often, I might even go to my Underwood Portable typewriter.
I’m back on the subject of writing a novel by hand; simply using pen and paper.
In a recent post, I mentioned some well-known writers who supposedly write by hand. Today, I can add bell hooks to the list. It seems that there are many not-so-well-known writers who have forsaken hi-tech for lo-tech (note: unless you’re using a charcoal-burnt stick to write, you’re using some sort of technology).
For most of my life, I have enjoyed the stroke of a pen, primarily as an artist; and more particularly as a sketch artist. I like the variable line width that can be achieved by applying more or less pressure to the pen. When it comes to writing, I like using a pen for a slightly different reason. The pen I most enjoy writing with is a medium point fountain pen. I like the ease with which a fountain pen glides across a page. Once a thought comes and pen is put to paper, it can seem somewhat like sketching. In sketching, one stroke will not reveal a picture, but a combination of hatching and cross hatching with areas of light and dark will often produce a striking image.
When writing by hand, I hatch, scratch, cross hatch, line out, insert, and when I run out of room to add new ideas between lines, I do some marginalia. The page might seem messy to some, but for me it’s a work of art that you’ll not see in text editing software. It also leaves a breadcrumb trail of how I arrived at a certain thought. I’ve had times when I’ve looked back and saw where I started in the right direction but veered off later. When I went back to that fork in the road, I was able to then travel on the right path. Unless you do a good job of versioning on a computer, you might never recall that stroke of genius you had 500 words ago.
Another advantage of writing by hand is that it’s a grab-n-go art form. If you’re going to coffee shop to write and you plan to use your computer, don’t forget to take your power cable. Of course, you’ll need to put it in your nice computer bag. It might me a nice, sunny day; perfect for novel-writing. That’s ok if you don’t mind holding your nose four inches from the screen while squinting, trying to see if you merely deleted a word or your entire novel. Meanwhile, the writer at the next table has her notebook on her lap while scribbling page after page and sipping her latte. If you’re writing the lo-tech way, you can even show up at the coffee shop empty-handed and probably find a student who will give you a sheet of paper and a barista who will gladly hand over their pencil when they see you drop that tip in their jar
Here’s a really big advantage; you’ll have to write the story again if you plan to publish it. You’re more likely to find rocks to take out and gems to put in when you have to do the whole thing over again. Just be careful not to destroy a perfect prose by adding unnecessary fluff. I did that with a poem I once wrote. A friend who had read the first version railed on me for destroying a perfectly good work. Of course I disagreed and kept my fluffy version. The poem is ‘The Booklands’, which I put in my book, Living Loom. I still like it even though I need a dictionary to understand it.
These are some of the advantages of writing by hand. Ah, but not all is bliss. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss some of the disadvantages.
Note: The image attached to this post show the opening lines of She Can See. When the final version come out, you’ll be able to see how much it’s changed.
What are your thoughts? Do you like writing by hand or do you prefer computers?