The keyboard and the pen – writing by hand

A while back, I wrote about why I write using a keyboard instead of a pen. Since I wrote that, things have changed. I still write a lot fingertip to keyboard – this blog post, for example – but I’ve started writing fiction by hand.

Why? I think it was because I needed to do something to change my habits of non-writing to try to get back to writing. Last year wasn’t very productive and I had a novel (Just the one? Why, now that you ask, no.) that I wanted to finish. To finish a novel one has to write it. It’s an absolute causal relationship.

Writing by hand is supposed to give you a better first draft. It’s something about the direct connection between brain and hand. Disclaimer: I’m not sure I believe in that without research to support it and I’m not going looking for the research. I am still hoping to get a slightly better draft by writing by hand for several reasons.

Cafés are convenient spaces when there are no libraries nearby.
Cafés are convenient spaces when there are no libraries nearby.

Firstly, I write slower by hand which means that I have more time to think. My hope is that slowing down allows me to construct better sentences and to figure out what comes next so that I can write for longer without having to stop. I can type fairly quickly and if I charge ahead on the keyboard, I sometimes type myself into a wall because I write down what’s in my head and don’t have time to think about the plot.

The second important reason I write by hand is that it stops me from eternal editing. There’s only so many changes you can do on a page of paper before the text becomes completely illegible. Which is why I write in ink*, not pencil.

The third reason for hand writing is that the transcription process allows me a first edit. It doesn’t count as a draft at all until al the text is on file, you see. Transcription is, basically, a soft re-write.

There’s a fourth reason for writing by hand that I’ve found after starting this process. Pen and paper is easier to carry around than a laptop. It’s faster to boot up. When I was working in an office, I went to a local café at lunchtime to write for half an hour. I might not have written much, but I wrote a little every day and something’s much better than nothing. The barrier to writing is lower when all you need is pen and paper.

Transcription. Now that’s dull.

When I’ve finished the first draft, I will let it rest for a month or so before doing a first read-through. That’s when I’ll find out whether writing slowly has made my first draft better than I believe it would have been otherwise.

Science doesn’t have a look-in. The important thing here is to continue writing. Anything that keeps me doing that is OK with me**.


* Recently, I’ve been writing with glitter gel pens. The first one was just a test, but I was charmed by the ridiculous sparkles, the cheerful colours and the smooth ink flow. Especially the smooth ink flow.

** Glitter gel pens.