Writing process

Writing in a note book vs writing direct to the screen

I have been extremely busy at work lately, so much so that when I get home I just flop. I turn on my computer to read my emails, but that’s about it. I defintely don’t have time to open the word processor and start typing the next segment of my novel.

But that doesn’t mean I have stopped writing. I have a note book and I’m writing on the tram and bus on the way to and from work. I’m writing in coffee shops at lunchtime. I pull it out any time I have a spare few minutes. At the hairdresser, waiting for friends. Anywhere I have enough light and somewhere to rest the note book.

I have filled about ten notebooks already. Last Saturday I sat down and typed up the contents of the first one. 7,000 words. A week’s worth of borrowed writing time and I still managed 7,000 words. I was pretty happy.

It has changed how I write, however.

I usually type directly onto a computer when I can. It was hard to do at first, but I am pleased I stuck to it and forced myself to do it. In fact, two technical skills I would urge every writer to learn is touch typing, and writing directly onto a computer without writing it by hand first. If you can do this it eventually frees you up to write faster, and you have less retyping to do. (I should add a third skill once that’s done. Backing up your work on a regular basis.)

Going back to writing in a note book has made things harder.

  • I can’t write as fast, so I have this horrible habit of leaving bits out as I write. I think, “I’ll put that in when I type it up,” but of course, it never happens. I have no idea what I was thinking of by then
  • I don’t work on the prose as much. On the PC I would work on a sentence over and over to get the meaning I wanted. On paper, once I’ve made a few crossouts and put other words in, I can’t even read what I meant. Sometimes I rewrite the whole section, but by this time I’m rushing ahead and I think to myself, “I’ll fix that when I type it up”. If I need to make major changes I just rewrite the whole thing, and don’t even refer back to the original. I end with two similar sections. I then type up both versions, which makes an absolute mess
  • Until I started writing on paper I didn’t realise how much I moved around in the manuscript. Writing by hand is sequential and so that’s how I type it up. My story timeline is an absolute mess, so bad that I need to write out a sequence just to get my own head around it.
  • I don’t edit. When I am working on the PC, the first thing I do is re-read what I wrote the day before and fix any major problems. In fact, there have been days where I just polish the previous day’s work and don’t type up anything new

There are lots of things I plan to fix when I type it up, but come type-up time I don’t do any of that. I type straight from the notes without changing anything.

As a result, the work I produce from my handwritten notes is a lot rougher, more of an outline, with lots of things that need to be filled in. If I wrote like this all the time the story would need an extra draft to get it to its usual second-draft state.

I can’t wait till I get back to the keyboard.

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