I probably have my priorities screwed up in this month of no shaving and writing novels and thanking veterans and giving thanks…
Because here I am again…two weeks into NaNoWriMo, completely behind the word count goals, and pining for the freedom to spend all day writing. But, given the chance, I am still not going to steal away and write to hit a word count mark. I end up singing the blues for the “woe is me” situation of my writing practice, because…
I write on paper. Preferably with pencils, but also with pens when there is no sharpener readily handy. I write fiction this way, because I write crap when I don’t. There is something too easy about typing directly onto a screen. Stream of consciousness exercises are better with a keyboard, true, just for speed, but I have a direction and characters and a world I am crafting, and to do that I, personally, need to get my hands into it. I feel a stronger connection with my story when I am scratching it out by hand than when I am typing. I must have some better hand/mind connection when I write this way, because I feel like what gets crafted directly into a computer is kind of…soulless*. And forcing the soul in there after the fact is ever so much difficult for me. Surely a creator must start with a soul, right?
*Disclaimer: I am not saying that all people who write on computers are writing soulless stories…this only applies to me, as far as I know. Maybe you can relate, though. Maybe?
My first draft of anything is almost always on paper first. Transcribing my handwriting into the computer is the second draft. And I am usually happy to share this version with my writing friends, because it has the soul of the first draft and the roundness of the second draft. It’s my method and it works for me. It does not work so well for NaNoWriMo, though. Instead of trying to long-hand write 1,667 words a day, this year, I am trying to transcribe 1,667 words a day–not really true to the spirit of the challenge, but hey, it works for me. I’ve done a pretty sizable chunk of writing over the summer–everyone in my “Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write” group sort of rolls their eyes at me and my wonky composition notebooks and collection of pencils (I need about 3 sharpened pencils to get through an hour of writing). So what if I’m retro? Does it make me a hipster to write this way? I don’t really care what other people think of my process. I have lived long enough trying to do this magical alchemy called to writing to know what method works best for me.
First, pull out some paper and your favorite writing utensil and do some of your work on paper for at least 15 minutes. Try a stream of consciousness exercise and see where it takes you. If you are NaNoWriMo-ing, work on your next scene. For those of you who have terrible penmanship, maybe use this time to block out the next chapter. Consider the actions your character could take and draw a map. The point is to just get your hands into “crafting” a piece of work rather than just keyboarding.
Second, find your favorite computer, open a freshly blank file, and try a 15 minute stream of consciousness exercise again. You may want to pick up where you left off on the last exercise, or start anew. If you really like what you just wrote, and want to use it, spend about 10 minutes transcribing it. Spend the next 5 minutes adding more details.
When you are done, consider the two works you produced. Which method *felt* better? Which method produced better writing? Did you like meshing the two methods into a unified piece of work? Or did you just find paper to be a nuisance? Did the computer “disrupt” your paper-method thinking? Did you think about anything in a different way when you were “disconnected” from an electronic device. Did your writing seem richer in one method or the other?
I know some (most?) of you will eschew the low-techness of longhand writing, but it’s a very green method that requires no electricity, it’s cheap, portable, and incorruptible by viruses or power outages. On the other hand, you do have to use trees to get paper and pencils, you’ll need to find a computer someday, anyway, to produce the document for professional submissions, and you must be able to read what you wrote. Try to stay green by using recycled products, or writing on any “left over” paper you can find. I have a purse full of scribbled-on bill envelopes.
Use this exercise to jump start you on a writing day, or save it for later when you aren’t trying to hit a word count. Hopefully it helps you figure out your best creativity style and aids you in your next story.