Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why I write my first drafts in longhand

I'm sure many of my writer friends find it strange, quaint, or just plain bizarre that I write all of the first drafts of my novels in long-hand. Yup. I admit it. I'm a dinosaur. But, like all the so-called rules of writing, how and when you write is completely individual. I mean, it's not like I'm writing with a sharpened quill or anything. I've just gotten into the habit of having a journal that fits into my purse with whatever pen I've stuck into its pages ready for me at all times. Unfortunately, I do not happen to currenly have a life that allows me to sit at a computer for great stretches of time. Heck, I don't even have great stretches of time. I have snatches of time. Like a half-hour subway ride to work and back. Do you know how many pages I can write - in long-hand - on that half-hour ride in? At least 2-3 if I'm in a good headspace. And then another couple on the way home. On average, that works out to almost five typewritten pages once I get it on to the computer. Five pages a day five days a week. It adds up.

Another reason I love long-hand is that I'm more forgiving of myself and my writing when the first draft is in long-hand. I can scratch out or scrawl something that I know I can fix later. I don't feel the need to self-edit like I do when I'm typing into the computer. That comes when I'm transcribing my first draft long-hand on to the computer. That's when I do some revision and cleaning up. Essentially that's my second draft. By the time I have the complete novel transcribed into the computer and I read through it again I'm basically ready to do a third revision.

The other reason I like long-hand is that I can pull that journal out anywhere. Waiting at the dentist office. Sitting in the car waiting for my daughter to get off work. At skating practice. At hockey practice. When I take the kids to any event that I'm not participating in (hello - rock climbing?? No thanks, Mom will sit and cheer you on and get a couple of pages written on her WIP too) And I love curling up on the couch and absorbing the world I'm creating. Not that I couldn't do it with a laptop. It's just that with a pen and my journal, it's more comfortable and it works for me. Writing at any place and at any time has enabled me to tune out the distractions of the world and tune into the words.

Little by little, scrawled word by scrawled word, I'm building my world. Ink to paper. Keyboard to screen. Whatever works. Whatever gets those words down. No matter how it's done, they all come from the same place. In writing it's not necessarily how you manage the journey it's the destination that's important. Ending up with the words all writers love to write or type ... The End.


  1. Wow. This is me bowing. That's amazing! And you're right - those pages add up quickly!

  2. I write all first and second drafts in long hand too. I like that I can look back and see where the writing is best without even re-reading, simply by looking at where it's messiest.

  3. I think long-hand gives a writer a little more time to think about what they're writing as well. You go girl! :0)


  4. Hi Martha! And please - no bowing. There are days when I get nothing more than a few crummy sentences and end up eating peanut m&m's and reading a tabloid on the subway instead. Not very satisfying but necessary.

    Hey, Jacqui! It's good to know I'm not the only one who appreciates the pen and paper. And you're right - sometimes when my writing becomes a true scrawl is when I know the words have been flowing so fast my hands can't keep up.

    Hi Christy! I think I'll always write this way - it just feels right to me and maybe you're right. I feel less pressured and maybe that makes the writing flow better.

    Thanks for all the encouragement everyone. I've written a lot of pages recently on the WIP but have no idea yet how many ms pages it works out to - I think I'm half-way through just by plot alone. I'm going to have to spend a couple of days transcribing soon! Will keep you updated.