pen and paper vs. computer


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pen and paper vs. computer

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Jun 10, 2008, 6:39 pm

I'm curious how you all do the bulk of your writing - the old-fashioned way or on the computer. Do you feel the medium impacts the character of your writing? I find it's so luxurious to write by hand, and I do feel more connected to what I've written. However, I have TERRIBLE handwriting, but I can type 80+ words a minute. Writing on the computer ends up being much more practical.

I always write in my journal by hand, but most of my "official" writing is done on the computer. This probably sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I am paralyzed by my indecision over whether to write something by hand or on the computer.

Am I a dinosaur? Does anyone write by hand anymore??

Jun 10, 2008, 7:40 pm

I have a pen and paper with me at all times for when inspiration takes me. I like a specific type of pen and color, plus I have to have a click with the paper. Currently working on two books, and there's one at each end of the pad, I don't know what I'm going to do when they meet in the middle.

Whatever I write in there, which tends to be flashes of great moments, I put into the computer and write them together, which is the real work. I find it soooo much more work to write the in-betweens of the inspirations. They always feel awkward and forced when I write them, but my editor says they read great and she doesn't feel the effort.

No, your not a dinosaur. AND I have to print out my drafts to edit them on the computer. Something about having the work in my hot little hands that makes it more real.

Edited: Jun 10, 2008, 9:11 pm

I do a little of both. I mainly write on paper but it's such a hassle to edit and the scratch out marks are not exactly attractive. I'll write my drafts on paper but I'll put the final product on my computer. It just makes things more convenient because I'd rather have 100 pages neatly saved on my hard drive instead of strewn around my bed room.

I will admit that I do feel slightly closer to the work that I hand write.

Jun 10, 2008, 9:41 pm

I carry the pad and pen with me everywhere. It became a fixture in my life when I went to a reading and it was very quiet. One of my friends pulled out a small pad and pen and asked a question and then passed it around. We all got into the discusiion and secretly passed the pad round and round.
No one spoke during the reading, but that particular reader could not be heard. Afterward I thanked my friend for helping us pass the time and said it was great she even had a pad and pen. She looked at me as if I grew a third eye! If I was going to write I had to be ready for inspiration at any moment. I needed to always carry a pad and pen. I do.

As for my writing, some author friends told me if I was going to start writing then skip the bad habits and do it all on computer. I do like writing dribs and drabs on paper because I doodle with them.

For work I am on computers, but small pieces and ideas flow out of paper too. I love the different feels of papers.

Jun 11, 2008, 8:20 am

I have a pad and pen for jotting down random thoughts that come to me, but when I'm writing prose I always do it on computer. I always write poetry by hand, though. I'm not sure why but I can't feel comfortable doing it any other way.

Jun 11, 2008, 8:39 am

I carry my diary around with me and will jot down ideas there - the real task is to make sure they are transferred to somewhere more permanent before I forget about them.

I almost never write fiction longhand, but I prefer to edit anything longer than an A4 page on a printout rather on the screen.

For poetry, I will write short poems on the computer, but prefer to draft long poems - longer, that is, than one screen's worth - by hand.

Jun 11, 2008, 8:55 am

As most of the others, I do my note keeping longhand, but any actual writing on the computer. I can type a lot faster than I can write.

I also have to do any editing on a hard copy first. I even have a hard time following longer stories on the computer which is why I don't do a lot of ebook reading.

Jun 11, 2008, 9:00 am

First draft by hand, usually, even if that's a 450 page novel. And then slowly, laboriously typing in the handwritten manuscript, working with about three fingers, even after 25 years still one of the worst typists in the history of literature...

Jun 11, 2008, 4:25 pm

#7 I could have written the exact posting you did.

If I could, I would write everything by hand, as I pretty much hate computers and anything with an "e" at the beginning of the title. Unfortunately for me, I have been forced to learn to type quite quickly so it make things more efficient, but I would LOVE to have everything done on paper first. I envy you Cliff, for your ability to write an entire novel on paper first time through.

Jun 11, 2008, 6:09 pm

I'm also a "longhand note writer" but "draft computer user." I never like reading my notes on a screen, and I like the physical feeling of writing down ideas. However, writing on the computer is faster (I'm fortunate to be an extremely fast typist), doesn't cramp up my hand, and gives me more freedom to make quick changes as I go along.

I've sometimes experimented with writing short shorts in longhand, although I usually mean these to be for nobody but myself. Sometimes I'll write in longhand a page or two of a chapter, then re-type it as a way to get my writing going one day—it's a nice catalyst technique that's worked for me a few times.

I do my first editing on a hard copy, because I have less tendency to skim over it and will notice errors quicker than reading it off a screen.

Jun 11, 2008, 9:20 pm

I switch back and forth. Sometimes if I get stuck I'll switch to longhand, and it usually gets the creative juices flowing. Also, if I'm at school or work I do everything in a notebook, because I have an evil laptop. Also, my work gets a first edit when I type it up every night, which is very good.

Like message #2, I have a thing about my paper. I *have* to use a 5x8 inch notebook. Preferably spiral. Right now I'm writing in a 8x8 in square journal I got for my birthday and its driving me crazy! with the 5x8 I know roughly how much I've written because I get about 100 words a page. I get 150 to a page in this notebook and the extra math hurts my head...

Jun 12, 2008, 12:19 am

Some of the best stuff is the spontaneous, grab-the-paper-from-my-pocket stuff. But that stuff would be what it is on the computer, too, and the uninspired stuff would be uninspired wherever I wrote it. The computer is my preferred medium, and just about everything goes through some editing on it, but there's nothing like those moments when I just have to write while climbing the stairs or eat lunch left-handed (as a righty) so I can write with my good hand.

Jun 12, 2008, 1:46 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jun 12, 2008, 12:36 pm

For work, everything is on a computer—notes, drafts, and final product. I find it is much easier to write and organize technical materials online, especially now that I’ve found OneNote. (I hate it that Microsoft makes such an inexpensive and useful product. How I wish someone else made it!)

I had never been able to finish a fiction work of more than about 10,000 words using a computer for all phases of writing. Then I read Stephen King’s On Writing, which may be the best book on writing I ever read. King noted that he wrote his first drafts longhand on yellow legal pads. I once read that Piers Anthony uses the same method.

Well, I strongly dislike yellow legal pads. So I bought a leather bound journal in a closeout sale and started writing. The process of writing longhand slows me down, and I seem to think things through better. It also gives me the opportunity to rethink some decisions when I transfer my draft to the computer (especially if I can’t decrypt my handwriting).

Within six months of using this technique, I had finished the first draft of my first novel (and had it captured on the computer). So I have become a reluctant believer in writing longhand.

Jun 14, 2008, 12:26 pm

I've bought legal pads by the caseload... they never work for me. I prefer composition notebooks 1-3 for each book/project that I am working on.

I love writing by hand. Almost all of my poetry is written longhand first.

I start narratives in a composition notebook, but I couldn't imagine finishing an entire novel longhand. Hats off to Cliffburns.

I'm currently working on two novel/screenplays ... for which the new site is a gift from God.

More often than I would care to admit, my computer is a distraction. Sites like, and, I was just introduced to, tear away from my constructive writing time. (i.e. right now) Yes, the internet is my largest distraction when I set aside time for writing. Even "research" becomes a distraction from actually writing... after awhile...

Jun 14, 2008, 10:39 pm


I agree with you. Especially the distractions of LT, redroom, goodreads. I do love the research though. I always feel there is one more book out there to add something.

Edited: Jun 14, 2008, 11:11 pm

But the research is background for the author, NOT the story. To enable the author to write with knowledge and confidence on a subject. Too much detail and description ("look at me! I've done my research!") added to a work is a distraction and a bore.

Jun 15, 2008, 2:24 pm

i have to write out by hand...i type as fast as i think and write out by hand much more slowly...i can think through things much better and there's some level of intangible contact that isn't present typing into a it's easier to write marginal notes on things that i'm not sure about (not that i do that often, but on occasion...) you can write a couple different word variations in one spot and they're right there to read over and figure out which works better before deciding...sometimes it helps to let it sit on a page before making a choice...or i'll cross something out, write a new word above it, and then when i reread it change my mind back to the first it's handy that it's still right there...although, i deliberate at great length before i write anything down in the first place (the majority of my "proofreading" occurs in my head BEFORE i write it down)...having it all in ink on paper is a good second stage for things i'm not sure about and what is for a good opportunity for a second stage of "proofreading" in the actual writing it out...and then when i type it up on the computer later, it's a perfect chance to closely reread it and make changes here and there for that final proofreading stage...

Jun 16, 2008, 7:07 pm

17: Too much detail and description ("look at me! I've done my research!") added to a work is a distraction and a bore.

You weren’t referring to Clancy there? Were you? Sometimes I get so wrapped in his details that I forget the story. One of the most interesting technical writers I’ve ever read.

I often fall into that trap, too. My stuff is much shorter in second draft as I get rid of the I’ve-done-my-research bloat.

Jun 17, 2008, 5:06 am

#19 - Actually, compared to some of the military fiction writers out there, Clancy is by no means the worst offender. Which is a depressing thought...

My main problem with Clancy is that once you get to a certain point, you just have to put your life on hold until you've finished the story. This is not always convenient when you have deadlines to meet!

Jun 17, 2008, 7:19 am

I hear you, Eruntane! I have two Clancy books that I never was able to finish because I had a life, i.e. kids, pets, job... you know, things like that that want your attention 25-hours of the day...

Jun 26, 2008, 7:06 pm

I usually brainstorm and do very rough early drafts the ol' fashioned way, and then move to the computer when full paragraphs and such start to appear. It's just quicker overall when I can click the button and use the thesaurus website, rather than pull my massive beast of a book from the shelf.

Also, I've been wanting to pick up a vintage typewriter and try my hand at it. I know technology has advanced, but I'm nostalgic after watching the movie Purple Violets.

Writing with pen and paper results in different work than hammering away on a keyboard. Ink makes you think a bit more about what you write, rather than typing 80 words a minute, sans-filter.

Jun 26, 2008, 7:17 pm

I prefer writing in longhand to start, because when I transfer it to the computer I edit it in my head and everything becomes more coherent. I can't stand writing prose on anything but standard-size, college-rule notebooks—preferably three subject—or on quadrille paper. It's also really hard for me to write something first-draft-like with a pen because all of the corrections and scribblings look so messy.

I haven't found that writing in longhand makes me think more about what I'm writing; I've found that that process comes along when I'm retyping that scene later. I tend to write in a haze, come out of it, and then do things to make the haze make sense.

I can't write for long periods of time on the computer because, as others have said, the internet is so distracting... I have to turn off the AirPort so that I forget about it if I'm going to try to write a lot.

Jun 26, 2008, 8:32 pm

Audacity (22), I am intimidated by typewriters, so applaud your ambition to use one. I think I was the only child—certainly the only male child—in my sixth grade class to ask for an electric typewriter for Christmas (before personal computers). To this day I “type” almost three times faster using a computer than I do using a typewriter. Typewriters are so…ummm…permanent. Even with correction tape and Liquid Paper, typos can mean retyping the whole page. Is it any wonder I had such trouble finishing projects in the early days?

Jun 27, 2008, 12:58 am

All computer for me, primarily because my handwriting is indecipherable.

Having said that, I do have a notebook for random ideas that looks like something Rorsach has doodled in.

Jun 27, 2008, 9:15 am

Do the whole thing on paper, stop halfway, think it's trash, throw in it the drawer, agonize for a week, drink too much, pull it out, read it - think it's genius, type it on the computer. Start again.

That sums it up.

Jul 3, 2008, 8:08 pm

Wow, estellen. You got, uh, a pretty interesting schedule. I'd rather type it all on the computer. Well, not exactly. I'd rather write it on paper with a sharpened #2 pencil as a rough draft and then type it on the computer as a final copy.

Jul 7, 2008, 8:00 pm

My writing varies, depending on what I am writing and where I am writing.

When at work, I borrow the work computer to compose things as they come to me. It saves me some questions from co-workers. When I'm not near any computer, I carry a notebook, clipboard, and a selection of pens. I do like to write by hand, but sometimes have trouble reading my own writing.

Does the medium impact the characters? In a small way, yes. The scene coming into my head moves slower when I write by hand than when I am typing. Something about the speed of the muscle movements, I guess.

Though I like the thought of editing as I type in the handwritten words.

Jul 19, 2008, 9:11 pm

I don't usually carry a notebook with me, and I never jot down story ideas. (I already have more stories invading my brain than I have time/energy to write and no matter how I try to ignore the new ones, most of them don't go away.)

I have been known to write the first drafts of actual stories longhand, however. Not usually, but sometimes. Mostly because I have to be away from the computer for some reason. Also I like diagramming things, and sketching characters and ship designs and so forth, (and entire graphic novels, but that's a comparatively new diversion.)

But *mostly* I do everything on the computer.

Does the medium effect the stories? Not especially. Typing a longhand draft into the computer gets me a more polished piece than composing at the computer does, but that's because it's really a second draft by then. Doing a first pass edit on a digital first draft achieves the same thing.

Edited: Aug 13, 2008, 7:28 pm

I never write by hand. Sometimes I scribble down ideas or notes on paper, but anything substantial, I do on a computer. I type very fast and it's the only medium where my thoughts come out at the same speed as my fingers. When I write by hand, it's slow and agonizing and my mind is already on the next page while I physically complete one sentence.

Also? I have atrocious handwriting. I can barely read it when I'm done.

Aug 14, 2008, 3:01 am

well for me i like the traditional pen and paper but it never works out. i get to jumbled trying to write it all out. so i settle for brainstorming and writing a blurb about the story then typing it on the comp.

i have posted acouple stories on

Aug 14, 2008, 3:09 pm

I carry a notebook and pen in my purse for those flashes of brilliance and ideas throughout the day. I tend to write more quickly when using my laptop. If I write longhand I don't always find the time to go back and type it all in. :(

Aug 16, 2008, 9:54 am

I outline and make notes by hand, compose on the computer, and proofread hard copy.

Aug 20, 2008, 2:16 pm

#33 proofread hard copy

You know, this is interesting, because I didn't think about proofreading in my post earlier.

I can't seem to edit on the screen that well. The words blend into one brain melting pile for me. I have to print out the document in order to edit it.

Aug 21, 2008, 7:35 pm

I used to write everything longhand--thereby impressing an entire college career's worth of professors who thought I was diligently taking notes--but once I entered the work world and a keyboard grafted to my fingers, I lost the ability to longhand efficiently. I do miss the days when the very shape of the letters flowing from the pen added an element to the stories, but that's a luxury now. Lost ability and lurking arthritis that's just begging me to do more with curled up fingers make me a computer writer these days.

I generally have a Notepad window open in the background of my screen that I can tab to when an idea comes to me, then I can get back to work. I then save them to my flash drive to take home. When the universe deigns to unroll the Scroll of Cosmic Understanding and a story leaps into my mind as Athena from the forehead of Zeus', the keyboard is the only way I can get it all down before it dissipates.

I have a notebook, but I also have a Palm Tungsten PDA, and just the other night I grabbed it from the bedside table and jotted in the blockage breaking scene that had just popped into my head at 1 AM.

I think future generations of writers will feel less of a lack of longhand writing. Of course, they may also be unable to write longhand at all.

Aug 23, 2008, 11:35 am

I form all my letters upside-down and backwards, and as a result, it takes me about twice as long to write a page as it does anyone else. Also, it becomes painful after about forty minutes.

As a result, i tend to avoid longhand writing. The most anachronistic i get is when i use an old manual typewriter that i found.

As for whether or not the method of writing impacts the character of the writing, my opinion is that it does. Also, i believe that there is research and evidence to support the idea. This article talks about it, and the books it mentions sound pretty interesting, especially Proust and the Squid, which i'm gonna snap up when it hits paperback.

Aug 23, 2008, 8:29 pm


That article definitely caught my attention when it first hit the stands... And I must admit, my first impulse, then in the bookstore and now online, is to scan it.

I probably couldn't sit down and read War and Peace right now.

I must admit, I love the article. I absolutely agree with the article. We are how we read, especially writers.

I am a number one skimmer. I like to keep up with publishing... all of the books that are being published in all the major genres. I spend a decent amount of time in bookstores, just skimming, trying to keep up with what's in print.

Perhaps that's why... I've been trying to write a novel for 2-3 years. And instead of hammering out a draft over a 1-3 year period... I opted the first draft as a screenplay, which I am still revising, because the first draft only took 3 weeks.

Aug 23, 2008, 11:07 pm

great article. And I read it, not skimmed it!

Aug 25, 2008, 1:07 pm

Fascinating article—makes me wish there were more to it because my curiosity isn't sated on the subject! I might have to pick that book up at some point.

Aug 25, 2008, 4:37 pm

Another point of view on this:

The argument, in a nutshell: word processors promote bad writing because they entrench what is already written, and the ease of cut and paste leads us to futz with what's already there instead of rethinking it.

I came to the same conclusion several years ago. Moving blocks of text around seems convenient, but it's poison. Since then the first draft of any serious writing is either longhand or on the typewriter. Typewriter is preferred, because the edited copy is more legible. Then, when I have a clean draft, it goes to the word processor.

The only problem with the typewriter is curbing my urge to hit ctrl-S after every page.....

Aug 25, 2008, 10:40 pm


I see what you mean about cut and paste, but give a good writer some credit. It is faster and the next generation will prove more advances. Many high school kis prefer reading books online. The new online is faster then tv.

I learned to write on my computer because I needed to keep it locked away from prying eyes. Without the computer I wouldn't be writing. Sorry for the sad story. :)

Aug 26, 2008, 4:48 pm

#41: I subscribe to the view that good writing comes from re-writing. It's not a fast process.

This goes along with the old idea that writing is a way of thinking (which is well supported by cognitive psychology). The problem with word processing is that we never re-write, and consequently, we never re-think -- at least, not on the level that we should. So weak ideas, structures, etc. remain entrenched along with passages of not-so-sparkling prose.

If you have to retype what you've written, word-by-word, you have to rethink it all, at the level of each sentence. You have to reexperience the flow. And no one is going to go to the trouble of retyping junk.

A lot depends what you're writing. I write magazine articles on the computer. But any "serious" writing, i.e. anything that needs to be more carefully thought out, I start elsewhere.

Aug 27, 2008, 12:02 pm

I started out writing with pen and paper, then moved up to typewriters, then computers, then bought an Alphasmart and really love the typewriterish/computer feel of it.
There is something romantic about using pen and paper, sitting at an old wooden table scratching out the letters one by one, or even using a typewriter if there is a proper mood for it, dingy hotel room/office, single light bulb hanging by a wire.
However, when it comes down to "i have a freaking story in my head and i need to get it out of there before i forget it" nothing beats the computer or some form of electronic word processor for being able to pound the keys as fast as you can to get the ideas into something other than the brain, especially if the particular brain in question is prone to forgetfulness. unfortunately there is also nothing scarier than having your story only inside some electronic brain. always have a paper copy, always have more than one electronic device that it's saved to.
in summary, paper and pen for ideas in the middle of the night or if i'm somewhere without a computer, alphasmart for rough draft writing, computer for subsequent re-writes.

Sep 9, 2008, 8:38 pm

I think using a pen and paper. I can sometimes create on the computer, but never consistently. I'm always amazed at what flows out my brain, down my arm and into the ink.

But I'd be so lost without the computer. It makes re-writes and edits so efficient.

Edited: Sep 11, 2008, 3:56 pm

My favorite thing to use for composition is an Olympia DeLuxe portable manual typewriter. It makes me want to write and I love the way the pages look when I'm done. From there I transfer the work to a computer, which ends up being the first revision. Then I print out the files and revise further as necessary. I looooove using a manual typewriter but it makes writing at work or at the library difficult. (If you ever use a manual at a coffee shop or some place similar, be prepared for people randomly coming up to you and remiscing about when they were a kid.:) When I'm on my lunch break at work or on the bus I use notebook paper and a pen, then follow the same process of revising while I transfer it to a computer.

I've written a few short stories and almost 200 pages of a first novel using both the typewriter and longhand. I can write well on a computer, too, I just like "doing it by hand" the first time around.

Oh, BTW, I just found and joinded this group. Hi!


Sep 21, 2008, 5:04 pm

Though the thread has been quiet, I'll add my two cents, I guess.

I prefer to write by hand. I always start out that way. The initial writing goes into the computer, edited as I type. After that, it's keyboard when I'm at the computer, and longhand when I'm not. I can compose on the keyboard once the story is locked down, but the initial inspiration, character sketches, name lists, and back story are always done by hand.


Sep 25, 2008, 3:00 pm

I actually bought an old typewriter to do my writting on, it makes me feel connected to my work, I can crank it out faster without hand cramps and I wont get distracted by messanger or librarything..

Sep 26, 2008, 9:08 am

I write poems longhand sometimes, but write fiction on my computer. I wrote my first novel, Tomato Girl on a desktop computer, but now work on a laptop. Even though my laptop is portable, I don't like to take it outside in the heat and humidity, so I've been thinking about buying a portable word processor like Alphasmart. Anyone here use one?

Sep 26, 2008, 1:00 pm

There's just something about a written page tht makes it more personal. It does affect what I write. When I write on my laptop, I edit constantly, because it's so easy to. Once I second-guess myself, the original thought is gone. I soon lose my mind's sight to what I was originally thinking, and my story (or whatever I'm trying to capture) takes a different turn, usually one without much soul. Before I know it, I'm typing statements rather than a story. When I scratch out and rewrite with pen and paper, I can always go back to the roots of my thought when my mind strays (as it does often).

I also think along nostalgic lines of 'the lost writings of....whoever.....' being discovered a hundred years after they've died. What a treasure! Stuff like this can't be retrieved from a hundred year old laptop. Leave something behind for your grandchildren to wrap themselves up in.

Sep 27, 2008, 6:43 pm

Over the years I have gradually moved toward more and more use of the computer for my writing, in part because of several years of commuting by train, laptop securely ensconced on my lap. It was easier for me to type rather than try to keep my already sprawling handwriting legible with all the bumps and turns of the rough tracks. The more I have keyed, the faster I have been able to get thoughts down before I forget them, a problem I have always had and one that is becoming more pronounced with age.

Contrary to Robbieg_422's experience, I find myself less likely to do major editing on the keyboard because I know how easy it will be to change things later. However, as with so many earlier posters, I almost always print out what I have written when it is in reasonably "good" draft form, and these copies are ALWAYS changed and edited almost as soon as I have them in my hands.

Having "lost" some earlier writing done on Professional Write on an old 286 with a floppy drive--how DOES one find ways to retrieve these old files in obsolete programs on no longer functioning computers?--I also print out "final"--or even "interim final"--copies of my writing, maybe if for no other reason than for my "grandchildren to wrap themselves up in."

Oh, and like others here, I try ALWAYS to carry something to write with, because it always seems when there is little nearby for this purpose, then there is of course going to be something that just needs to be written down!

Sep 27, 2008, 7:38 pm

i love my computer but sometimes i am in the middle of a meeting or group study and i have to write on a paper, because by the time i take my laptop out and turn it on, my inspiration has gone, or dimmed. But if i do write on paper on a later time i type it in my computer and save it, and i also save it on a flash-drive, you could never be too cautions. :

Sep 27, 2008, 10:49 pm

hsl2000, I neglected to say in my post above that many things I write 'end up' being typed up on the computer--that's just how our world works--but I keep the original pen and paper copy as a result of my romantic nature, I suppose. Also, if I'm taking notes on something that I'm reading, I'll often type them on the laptop and print them out, mostly for the illusion of order.

Sep 28, 2008, 7:17 am

I only write on paper when there isn't a computer available to me, and I'm thinking of buying one of those obscenely small web browser laptops so that I never need be without a computer. I'm a ridiculously fast writter, bread into me by too many nano's, and I find that my handwriting simply can't keep up with the pace of my thoughts. I end up skipping phrases and segments because I've mentally already moved on to the next part, which isn't a problem I have with typing.

I'm also terrible at typing up. I have short storied kicking around the place that I wrote years ago that only need some typing up and editing but I just never get around to it. The computer's also a lot more convenient for editing, so my manuscript ends up looking nice and not unreadable, and it's easier to make big expensions or deletions or substitutions in your editing when you use a computer. I always get frustrated doing any kind of heavy editing on paper because I can't just move things around and insert new paragraphs and lines easily.

Oct 10, 2008, 10:28 am

I write everything on the computer -- like others, I type SO much faster than I could ever possibly write by hand. And my own "style" is fairly stream-of-consciousness, so I love being able to just type type type and get all of the thoughts out quickly. Writing by hand is too cumbersome for me, though I certainly admire those that choose that method!

Oct 12, 2008, 12:54 am

I usually prefer writing by hand. I get stuck and feel uninspired when I'm on the computer. There's something about writing with my own hands that gets the words flowing for me.

But editing and making minor changes I do on the computer. Also, second drafts and stuff end up on the computer.

First draft and the bulk of what I'm doing starts out by hand though.

I seem to take longer to arrive at my destination when I use the computer. It also feels like I ramble more if I'm typing.

Oct 14, 2008, 11:44 am

I wonder if anyone else has this problem: I write much more quickly on my laptop, so I am able to get those fleeting thoughts down much more readily than on my handy old spiral notebooks. HOWEVER...I don't have the same level of efficiency on my desktop. Why? Two reasons. First, I love to slouch/recline/whatever while I write, something much more easily done with the laptop. The primary problem with my desktop is that it is my link to the internet and e-mail. My laptop has been difficult to integrate into these web technologies, and I am finding it is really a good thing. I can take advantage of my greater speed on the computer without those temptations to procrastinate--aka "research".

So, while I have to do a little bit of extra work to transfer my laptop work (through use of a thumb drive to move completed files), I have not tried to "fix" the glitch with the laptop since it is providing what is for me a mandatory enforced discipline.

Oct 14, 2008, 6:27 pm

Paper. Writing on a computer is boring. Edit some, until unreadable, then onto the computer, fresh copy printed, edited some more. Repeat until done.

Oct 16, 2008, 12:07 am

Isn't writing it on paper/typing it on a keyboard, and than typing out to to a computer twice the work? Twice the time, too, if you aren't a fast typist

Oct 16, 2008, 11:31 am

Some people who type it by typewriter have a small cheat to save them time. They can scan it with text recognition software and it dumps it with half the entry time.

Oct 16, 2008, 3:21 pm

I write both ways, by hand and on computer. When I type in something hand written I tend to be editing. I use many windows to cut and paste and see how things look/sound together. I also print out to edit.

Oct 17, 2008, 4:30 pm

#58: for me it's not twice the work.
usually when I go to type it I'm at an editing stage so I edit it as I type it. once it's in though I mainly stay on the computer.

Oct 17, 2008, 6:51 pm

My notes are by hand along with some of my poetry, short stories, monologues and lyrics.

Other than that, if the computer is near by, I'm typing!

Novel always on the computer but then again, I've never finished a novel before sooo.....

Oct 18, 2008, 4:11 pm


gilory - yeah, didn't think about the ocr software. that would work.

yareader2 , hannahk26, when i tranfer something from paper to computer, i have a little internal editor voice in my head, but i prefer to edit after i finish a scene or chapter or whatever when it is fully on the computer and i can cut and paste to my heart's content.

Oct 18, 2008, 6:35 pm

Hi #63

When I transfer from paper to computer, it is usually from many papers. I write on all kinds of scraps and then edit them together too.

Oct 19, 2008, 10:31 pm

I write in journals by hand, which means that I am writing lots of background, thoughts and notes in there.

When I get ready to work on a project, I have to do it on the computer; call it a sign of my generation, I did all my collegiate assignments on the computer and I am fairly comfortable dragging it about to coffee shops for 'color' and 'concentration' distractions while I write!

Oct 20, 2008, 7:46 am


I don't like being around people when I write. I guess I don't like the colorful distractions. I like to be all alone, just me and the hum of my laptop fan.

Oct 20, 2008, 1:25 pm

Is it ADHD or shortattentionspangeneration that allows me to write with distractions?

Where'd I put the keys?

Although, editing with distractions is a recipe for -- oh there they are!

Oct 21, 2008, 5:04 pm

yareader2 - eck. that would drive me to distraction.

mamakats - and what is your generation, if i might ask? and do you mean not everyone does their college assigmeants on the computer? *goggles in shock* okay not that shocked, but everyone went to school in the usa - that includes hs and sometimes below, not just college - did their papers on the computer. which is just plain odd, if you ask me. although no one did.

Feb 15, 2009, 6:12 pm

National Public Radio featured a piece today on the lost art of penmanship:

If You Can Read This, It's Probably Not Handwritten
Listen Now 6 min 16 sec add to playlist

Weekend Edition Sunday, February 15, 2009 · A sloppy signature and unreadable handwriting rankles author Kitty Burns Florey. She says good handwriting is on the decline — and she knows where to point the finger.

Host Liane Hansen speaks with Florey about her book, Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, and the state of penmanship in the digital age.

Related NPR Stories
Penmanship in the Digital

Feb 20, 2009, 3:20 pm

I write a draft in long-hand and then put the final copy on the computer. I then edit easily via computer and send the article on to the interviewee for approval. By having the copy in Word I am able to pull it up as needed.

I have used this system for such a long time that, after I compose a draft in my head, I immediately reach for the paper and take it through the steps above.

The head draft seems to be the hardest, or most difficult, anyway. :)

Barbara in Bakersfield

Mar 14, 2009, 1:15 pm

I carry a notebook with me at all times. That way, I have the opportunity to write down anything whenever I need to. When the notebook is filled, I transcribe it to the computer and then file the notebook away.

That said, I will occasionally write a shorter piece on the computer (or my typewriter), but those are few and far between. And novels are mostly written longhand.

I actually have a side question, which might have to be posted as a different thread...

For those of you who write longhand, what do your drafts look like? Do you keep strict margins? Double space? Do you edit as you go? Or is each piece different?

I find that I scratch things out as I write because I can't resist editing and rewording as I go. Unless I'm moving at a furious pace...then I'll go back and edit later.

Mar 14, 2009, 11:31 pm

#1 --

I began with writing by hand -- and it took longer than most to finally have a typewriter. Even then, however, I wrote the first drafts by hand: when I arrived at "final," or near-final, draft, I'd type it up. Then I'd go over that rewriting . . .

There is a distancing -- as if one is seeing it in print -- to the typing. There are times that I've had to back off, return to writing by hand, in order to reestablish the intimacy, and free myself from the "permanence" of the typed.

I've not written by hand in ages, but have thought of going back to it -- to restore not only the intimacy and sense of freedom, but perhaps the feeling of what it was like before I had a typewriter; more, how it was to write all preliminary drafts by hand, and only thereafter type them up.

Mar 14, 2009, 11:37 pm

#5 --

"I have a pad and pen for jotting down random thoughts that come to me, but when I'm writing prose I always do it on computer. I always write poetry by hand, though. I'm not sure why but I can't feel comfortable doing it any other way."

Writing a poem by hand can often be the only way to get the line-lengths correct. There's something in the swing of the hand, I think (though I'm left-handed).

I have done that successfully on computer, but that was during a period I was writing so much I lost 13 pounds in one month; and the writing was more a lyrical prose, but in which line/sentence length mattered centrally for the emotion, the sound, the music. And the mixings of the meanings of those.

For decades I carried notebook and pen/s, but I haven't been able for years because the shoulder bag I used -- which was perfect -- seems no longer to be made. And I've found no substitute that "works".

Edited: Mar 15, 2009, 12:14 am

#27 --

Wow, estellen. You got, uh, a pretty interesting schedule. I'd rather type it all on the computer. Well, not exactly. I'd rather write it on paper with a sharpened #2 pencil as a rough draft and then type it on the computer as a final copy.

I'm a lefty -- I HATE pencil! AAAARRRRGGGGHHH! You had to RUIN this thread by bringing THOSE up! :|

Mar 14, 2009, 11:59 pm

#42 --

You pretty much said it all for me.

Yes: writing is thinking on paper; rewriting is critically evaluating one's thinking and correcting errors in it.

Same goes for typing handwritten stuff into the computer: it's an opportunity to rethink, and thus to rewrite.

But it is difficult -- noting the entrenchment -- to rewrite on computer. It's too enamoring of the status quo. I can do it, but don't feel quite satisfied with it, even when the result is an improvement.

Mar 30, 2009, 1:43 am

"I sit, the eye of the storm, and as the winds move around me and words and ideas flow from mind to hand to pen to page, and I wonder just how and where to give those characters depth and breathe, and voice and word."

I have to feel the paper slide under skin or I don't feel as though the words are truly mine. Just Sanskrit on the screen.

Mar 30, 2009, 11:58 am

#76 --

". . . and I wonder . . . ."

The first "and," after "storm," or that before the second "I," is unnecessary. And the second "I" can be considered so, unless you were to make two sentences of it; then both the first "and," and that before the second "I," would be unnecessary. :)

Mar 30, 2009, 2:31 pm

JNagarya (#72), and others: It's interesting why writing by hand seems more intimate and free, as you put it. I agree, and even after years of using a typewriter and then a word processor/computer, I start with pen and paper ... then wait a day or so for my sensibility to shift, and go to the "distancing" of typewriting. From then on, I rework (rewrite and edit)
on the typewriter/computer, but as someone else noted, carry a small notebook to write down snippets that might work in the piece I still have in mind, as well as suggestions on rewriting.

Apr 1, 2009, 5:12 pm

#78 --

The first problem I have with word processing, and one I've seen no way to overcome, is the size of the screen: I'm used to 81/2 x 11", both in handwriting, and typing. Not being able to reproduce that is an impediment that distracts.

But the short bottom line is always the same: writing is rewriting. It is in the doing of that one comes to love writing more than everything else; when at times it is a greater pleasure (and release) than sex.

Writing is serious business if one wants to do it well. No short cuts.

Apr 4, 2009, 11:57 am

If the tablet PC had a paper simulation feel to the screen (and could read my chicken scratch better than it currently does), that might be the best of both worlds. Write it out long hand, capture immediately for editing, and translated to typeface by the computer.

I could probably work with that.

Apr 4, 2009, 2:11 pm

Computer. No question. I'm a "sculptor writer", always chipping away, revising, editing, improving : I couldn't do this with paper and pen.

Apr 4, 2009, 4:13 pm

#81 --

There is much to be said for cut-and-paste for at very least bringing like ideas together to eliminate unnecessary repetitions.

And I agree on the sense of "sculpting": a good piece of writing -- once it finds itself -- is a depth perception, three-dimensional.

Apr 6, 2009, 11:29 pm

Ideas go on my Olympus voice recorder.

Outlines and notes go in my Moleskine notebook.

Drafts get typed on the computer.

Notes get written on printed copies.

Revised drafts get typed and submitted on the computer.

Apr 30, 2009, 5:13 pm

For me, it's pencil and paper-it's easier for me to edit if I use pencil. I hate having to type anything up, so only final drafts get typed.

May 6, 2009, 9:28 pm

I find that writing on the computer is much easier. I cannot write well. I have to print everything. Needless to say, reading it afterwards, even printed, can be an effort. Whereas, if I write on a computer, I can write it faster, edit it easier, and have never had a problem being able to read it afterwards. It also means I can keep track of everything without multiple file cabinets. Good luck with your writing.

Jun 23, 2009, 11:48 pm

I find myself completely more connected to any piece I write when I write by hand. It normally comes out sloppy and legible only to me but I'm the only one who needs to see it before I transfer it to the computer.

Writing by hand just flows easier and there are no distractions the old-fashioned way (spellcheck, underlining, to name a few).

Dec 10, 2009, 6:25 pm

I disliked typing so much that I fled to Japan in 1978 and wrote my first 7 books in Japanese because publishers were happy with hand-written=manuscripts there! There was pleasure in a smooth pen and a pencil that smelled nice while sharpening it with a knife and in neatly filling in the boxes on Japanese paper. But, when computers came to be practical in the early-mid 1990’s, I switched to them. Not only do they make it easy to do major editing, but they allow us to design our own work. If you are unsure of what I mean by “design,” check out my 100% readable work at Google Books (i.e., see what an author-publisher = robin d gill / paraverse press = can get away with).

Except for a two year period when I kept a notepads for my one-string music experiment, I wrote in the book I was reading. I always had one with me. As a result, my haiku are scattered throughout my library and, as much of my library is itself not with me . . .

During my notepad time I did learn something about pads, or about me: the worse the paper the better the pictures I drew in them and the better the notes, as well! All my best work – sketches of cats as well as stringed instruments – is on newsprint!

Feb 3, 2010, 9:51 pm

I always carry a pen and notebook with me at all times. But then whatever I have in the notebook eventually makes it onto my computer.

Feb 4, 2010, 12:17 am

For the 20 years or so that I have been seriously doing recreational writing - never a thought towards publication - I've done it all on a computer. My penmanship is so bad that it is practically unreadable. Part of this is genetic; part is because of an accident I had when I was a knee-high.

Back in July, I joined a local writing group, and found that about half of the regular participants 0 about a dozen - used pen and notebook. I was intrigued, and back in early November, I bought one of those little (fits in my shirt pocket) Moleskine notebooks, and treated myself to a brand new fountain pen - total investment, less than $35. My penmanship was best when I used a fountain pen in my younger days, so I thought I'd give it another try. The pen I selected is beveled in the gripping area, so I have better control of it. It took about 2 weeks before I got the nerve up to make my first mark in it.

I've written in it almost every day. I write on the right-hand page from the front, and maintain an index of items I've written about on the right-hand page beginning from the back. When text and index meet, I'll flip the book over and begin anew. So far, I've written 65 pages of text, 4 pages of index, and have used 3 ink cartridges.

My handwriting has improved only slightly. I blame it on having to deal with the smallness of the area I have to write on, the edge of the book being a strong factor in the process. In fact, my penmanship is only marginally better when I write on a standard-size sheet of lined paper. But I persist.

The problem with writing a story in a journal is that eventually, I have to transfer it to the computer. I have to find some way of holding the book open, near enough that I can see what I've written, and type at the same time. I've tried it once - 5 pages in 2 hours. And I seem to have gotten lost in the story I was writing - retelling things I already mentioned some 30 pages earlier. I suspect I ought to get it all into the computer before continuing.

My wife went out and bought me another Moleskine journal - flexible, but much larger. I suppose she's tired of hearing me bemoan the trials of the little one.

So, I think I need to take a different approach. I'll use the computer to do the work of writing and editing, and always keep the notebook so I can jot down ideas and descriptions of people, behavior and things that catch my attention. Using the journal for fleshing out a story doesn't seem to be an ideal way to write, for me.

Feb 4, 2010, 4:20 am

There is no way I could ever write as fast as I can type, and I agree with Tid, about the sculpting aspects that a computer allows for. Plus, editing then becomes a breeze...well, if editing is ever easier.

Feb 5, 2010, 5:09 pm

". . . . I write on the right-hand page from the front, and maintain an index of items I've written about on the right-hand page beginning from the back. When text and index meet, I'll flip the book over and begin anew. . . ."

In putting all my Notebooks on computer I encounted the result of not having dated the writings for some four years. Then finally doing that sporadically. Then encountered a major problem:

Back then when I wrote something (usually short things -- song lyrics; verse) I'd imediately rewrite it into ledgible at the back of the spiralbound Notebook, then tear out and discard the first "burst" draft. Fragments were always on bits of paper at the front -- I might get an idea which would continue one of those. And when sufficient of those accumulated I'd write them on a single page and discard them.

A "neat" idea in its way: by the time I arrived at the first piece in the Notebook, it would be in writing order, though not necessarily dated.

I now regret not dating things as written.

But worse: I recall I got a five-section spiralbound -- each section for a specific form of writing. I followed the usual procedure -- but now encounter five sections of things which aren't dated, but which aren't, either, in order written, except within one or two of the sections.

Worst of all: in at least one instance I filled a Notebook -- right-side pages only -- then, lacking the funds, began using the blank pages. Then that got combined in some way I don't recall with two other Notebooks*. I finally figured out some of that -- at least that it was originally three, not one, Notebooks.

*Forensic evidences: different papers, line-color, width of spaces between lines, ink color and or pen-tip diameter, and additional finer differences.

In short, I contend in those early Notebooks with discouraging uncertainty: nothing, or only some things, dated; and the combining of those sveral Notebooks so it has been near-impossible to distinguish between them.

The solution, of course, would be to have started out as a professional at the beginning so I'd have known to prevent all those problems in advance.

Feb 12, 2010, 8:22 pm

Once I went to a reading given by the Irish Poet Derek Mahon, and when someone asked him how he wrote, he talked about how important writing by hand is and compared it to the tactile connection of a painter's brush to canvas. I envy those of you who can work on your laptops! It seems so much more efficient, but I'm stuck in the old ways: pen and paper, like brush and canvas.

Feb 12, 2010, 10:05 pm

Hate to be curmudgeonly, but scanning through almost 2 years of posts here convinces me that no writer can tell another writer how s/he OUGHT to handle the mechanicals. We each do what works for us. I frankly get irked by the dreamers who insist on physical contact with nice pens and creamy paper: As with the books that others write, I'm more concerned with the content than the romance of the medium.

Me, I'm a much better writer since I got to go back as my mind saw its thought recorded by my fingers, thought better of something, and could fix it, cleanly, before it went any farther. (A good half-dozen backspace-and-corrects just so far in this post.) I bought my first computer (Apple IIe) with the proceeds from a totally pedestrian trade-mag article ("Computerizing the Trucking Industry," 1981; yeah), which I'd written and retyped several times, in whole and in part, on a Smith-Corona electric portable (which did have backspace-erase, but that goes only so far). At the end, and on deadline (to mail the typescript), I found myself actually cutting sentences and paragraphs apart and rearranging them all over the floor of my office. After taping these slivers back together and sitting down to write the final draft, and reaching page 6 of maybe 10, I found myself staring at a sentence that should have been back on about page 2. But it just was not worth staying up a couple more hours for that small increment of quality and pride. I've resented that story for almost 30 years, though it gave a serious jump to my nonfiction career and of course nobody ever said they noticed the awful failure in it.

In one of my first assignments on the IIe, after recording notes there, duplicating the file, and stringing them together several different ways and times, trying things out, I put a clean typescript in the mail (from my daisy-wheel printer; remember them?) with terrific confidence that it was the best work this writer could produce.

Yeah, I still carry paper and pen/cil, but between the notes and voice memo apps on my iPhone, I use the papers mostly to bookmark and the pens to annotate, and even those hardcopy books I wish were where I could just file away my notes where my little search engine can find them when I need them.

Use the tools that work for you, but please don't imply that I could be a better writer if I just had nicer pens.

Feb 17, 2010, 5:45 pm

I sometimes wonder if the adage "write the first draft without corrections" has some tie to how difficult it used to be to *make* corrections as you write. If I put a word down now that I immediately say "no, no, that won't work", I can fix it and continue with my thought.

Feb 17, 2010, 10:48 pm

I'm that way, too.

Feb 17, 2010, 11:40 pm

94 - For some of us it is kind of useful as a "keep your mind on the job" thing. I have a big problem with perfectionism and an anxiety disorder about it to boot, so if I can convince myself that "don't edit" is a hard and fast RULE that I MUST not break or ELSE, it becomes a little easier to push through the difficult bits, where otherwise I'd be revising and re-revising for ages and never getting to the rest of the story.

But that's neither here nor there.

Feb 18, 2010, 3:44 pm

Knowingly leaving errors behind is the fastest way for me to feel like my work is junk. It's a pebble in my shoe that's going to cripple me if I don't stop and pull the damned thing out.

Feb 18, 2010, 8:56 pm

I can't imagine going back to working on paper. It's the flexibility of working on a computer that makes it unbeatable for me. There are times when that old adage (#94) applies even when using a computer, such as when I can't operate the keyboard fast enough to keep up with the flow in my head. Other times, when the flow is less torrent-like, or almost non-existent (the more usual state!), being able to indulge in a bit of real time editing can jump start the process.

I don't carry a notebook either. I use the Notes application on my mobile phone. These days I struggle to write on paper at all. I'm so out of practice it doesn't come naturally now, and the result is largely illegible. I wonder if I will live long enough to be able to don the 'control cap' and simply think it all into existence on the computer. Now that would be something to conjure with.

Feb 19, 2010, 6:45 pm

My hands and wrists hurt too much anymore for long-term longhand. Which sucks.

Feb 21, 2010, 1:06 am

I can't even imagine trying to write with pen and paper. I can't even read my own writing when I try. Fortunately, I type fast ... faster than I talk. haha I love the flexibility of using a computer with spell check. hehe

Feb 21, 2010, 5:48 pm

It depends on where I'm working. For a while it was notebook for first drafts, but since I currently work at a computer I use (another) computer for first drafts, but I plot through as thought I were writing by hand. if I'm strict with myself a first draft will include plenty of telling rather than showing, lots of continuity errors, and plot points I hated as soon as I wrote them. It's moving past that to finish the draft that allows me to call anything complete; if I stopped to correct as I went along I'd remember how much I like editting and get stuck in a 1k loop.

Feb 24, 2010, 12:39 pm

I write all my fiction with pen and paper. I prefer black pens and special writing pads with narrow lines so I can get a lot onto each page. I've written several novels this way, and a lot of novellas, short stories and poetry. That includes both of my trilogies, at over 300,000 words each.

Nonfiction, on the other hand, I type. Part of the reason for that is so I can do research, and manage graphs, tables, reference notes and pictures.

Feb 27, 2010, 1:52 pm

I penned much of my first novel on a legal pad. The one I'm working on has been strictly on the computer.

Jul 14, 2010, 11:17 pm

I almost always write longhand, although I also write on typewriters. I try to save on-screen work for revision and editing: for me it's too easy to type something on the computer, look at how neat and pretty it is, and subliminally think: "Ah, it's done. I don't need to revise."

Retyping the manuscript makes me revise -- and think.

(No one would mistake one of my typewritten drafts for a final manuscript, there are too many notes in brackets and an overweening drive to get words on the page without regards for neat margins and consistent line spacing and ink color.)

Jul 15, 2010, 1:11 pm

you could make notes like that on word - i do all the time. it has the comments thing, very useful for making notes on the side

Jul 15, 2010, 4:50 pm

I personally think writing with pen and paper is the way to go. But inspiration comes to me in the strangest places, and you could be different. I dont sit at the computer and think about what to write. I just let things come to me and write them down...

Jul 16, 2010, 4:18 am

I can write either way, but I have three full notebooks I still haven't got around to typing up, even though I finished the last one over a year ago. As a result, I tend to prefer writing on my computer!

Jul 16, 2010, 7:36 pm

I write on my computer, I'm a bit slow though.

Jul 17, 2010, 12:01 pm

Writing with a pen in a leather bound book - Anne Rice ha-ah - sounds romantic but my hand would not be able to handle it. I type a lot faster and it's a lot easier on the fingers and anyway I change a lot so I would have to write in pencil and use a eraser or pen and tip-ex! No the laptop is king!!!

Jul 17, 2010, 1:52 pm

Wanda? raises an interesting point in #109 (I know it's been up above, too, but this is now): editing as you go.

I'm currently slogging through a Member Giveaway book on business writing, and even for short e-mails, the writer/teacher INSISTS that you refrain from editing until you have your thoughts down. He also calls for lots of hardcopy prewriting -- brainstorming, outlining, etc. -- and yes, even for short notes and e-mail replies.

To me (and I must have backspaced or otherwise returned to the scene of a crime a dozen times in this short post), if you expect it to be published in any way, you're more likely to write it in electrons. And the more experienced you are as a writer, and the more you trust your instincts as a writer, the more likely you are to edit as you go, and the more effective that editing is.

Jul 19, 2010, 2:02 pm

>110 bkswrites:: I'm a believer in edit as you go. If I see there's a typo or really horrendous word choice a line above, it's like walking with a rock in my shoe to leave it there and move on.

If you know your ideas are tenuous and likely to disappear if you don't get them down right now, then, yes, wait till it's done to go back. Otherwise, if you get a brilliant idea that contradicts something you've put down earlier, I think it's a good idea to go back and put a note in immediately that you're going to need to deal with the previous work that is now in error. Otherwise it's a pain to have to find the previous point.

Making sure everything earlier is final draft perfect before you move on to the next section is counter-productive, but fixing egregious errors as you see them that won't derail the process seems a perfectly good idea to me.

Jul 7, 2011, 11:22 pm

As to #40, I to have a manual typewriter, but my family finds it loud and obnoxious, and my ink ribbon is running low and it seems like you can't get them anywhere these days and even though you can get them online I am paranoid enough to try and purchase as little as possible on Amazon after reading customer service reviews in their instead I go with a paper and pencil. There's something personal about it, and it also makes you slow down and think about what you're writing lest you get hand cramps. When I can, I always try to write on a completely blank sheet of paper without lines or anything. It seems silly but when I get writer's block having a place to just doodle and think without my drawings being divided by a series of thin blue lines can get me back on track a lot quicker than if I didn't have that option available to me.

Jul 8, 2011, 3:14 am

I like to write creative things by hand with a fountain pen on narrow-ruled paper. Much of the real work of the first draft takes place while I am transferring text into the computer.

With analytic text, I prefer the computer from the beginning.

In either case, I have to print things out to edit them--I can't "see" errors on the screen.

Jul 10, 2011, 12:13 pm

I do almost all of my writing on my computer, with pen and paper to supplement when I'm not at my desk. I also edit as I go--my writing day begins by editing what I wrote the previous day, adding in beats if needed or fleshing out description or expanding dialogue, so that by the time the book is finished, it's more or less finished (one final read-over to polish.) It's what works for me, though others might disagree...I think it's important to find one's own process.

Jul 10, 2011, 5:37 pm

I can't figure out how to use OneNote efficiently for writing. My "notebook" is a mess.

Jul 15, 2011, 12:22 pm

Neal Stephenson once said that he thinks editing w/pen and paper is easier than editing on a computer. I was like, "Huh?"

Computer all the way. Makes editing so easy.

Jul 18, 2011, 2:36 am

There is some validity to his statement, depending on what you think he meant.
I've been a member of a writing group for the past 2 years, and have been managing the group since April.
Our last critique meeting was Saturday - 10 submissions, 12 reviewers, including one who attended remotely.
That's a pretty typical critique meeting, with the numbers varying by 3 in either direction.
All the pieces are submitted as computer files a few days before the meeting. The vast majority of us will print out the document, and use whatever color pen they have handy to mark up the pages, write marginalia, notes on the back... It's easier to circle text than it is to highlight it on the computer.
It is also much easier to find an error on a medium different than that which you created it. And it doesn't matter which you do first.
Scenario A: Type it up on the computer and print it out. Edit the paper copy.
Scenario B: (Part fantasy) Write it out on paper, scan it into a computer that has good OCR capability, and read it on the screen.
Either way, the flaws will be easier to find.
Or just change the font.

I'm the exception. My penmanship is indecipherable - even I can't read it, so I'm stuck doing everything on the computer.

So, was Neal Stephenson using the word "edit" to mean "critical review for mechanics and continuity"? Or did do you think he meant it as the next step - updating the document with the corrections noted in the re-read? My money's on the former.

Jul 18, 2011, 1:02 pm

I never thought of changing the font as a way of highlighting problems. That's rather brilliant.

Jul 18, 2011, 9:42 pm

>117 WholeHouseLibrary:
Well, I totally agree about editing as error detection - in fact I routinely do both of the things you mention; print out a hard copy and change the font (and /or the font size). (For those of you who haven't figured it out, changing the font changes the way the words are placed on the screen, so it lets you read it in a way that's different from how you've read it before.)

For editing as making changes, though, the computer is infinitely easier. You want to change the order of paragraphs? Just cut and paste. Etc.

As to what Stephenson meant, I got from the context that he meant the cut-and-paste stuff, which is why I thought him crazy. But now I'm not sure.

Edited: Jul 17, 2012, 9:40 pm

Just found this for those of you who use pencils!

How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, (etc.)

Jul 18, 2012, 11:44 am

I wrote my first book on several small newsprint pads (they were handy) with a gel pen. At that time I did not feel I composed well while typing, and it enabled me to pick up where I left off in the middle of the night without having to go to my computer. That was pretty handy because that first book was practically channeled, with sentences popping in my head at all hours, and in all places.

The downside to this is that I had to type the whole thing, and that was a grind, and lead to a zillion errors to fix.

Somewhere in the middle of my current WIP, I started composing on the computer. I get a lot more done, and the end result is cleaner, since I am not trying to plow through so many pages at a time.

I always print out and edit on paper, same for my beta readers, so they can write whatever they want all over the margins.

The computer also helps me establish a more disciplined approach to my writing. I can watch the number of words climb in the bottom left hand corner of my document and it helps me feel accomplished as well as spurring me to do more. My baseline is 1,000 words per day, with more than 1,500 rating a "woo hoo!" I keep a calendar of plot events on my desktop, along with a chart of characters with their attributes. If something moves in a direction I didn't plan on earlier, I can quickly find places that need a quick fix, instead of having to remember to go back later.

I'm thinking about switching to Scrivener, since it has organizational tools built into the book file - I'll try it out for the next book.

Jul 25, 2012, 7:48 pm

Pen and paper are romantic and all, but let's get real. I can't cut and paste with pen and paper. That, and my first drafts look like a chimp wrote them. There's just too much cleanup for pen and paper to be a consideration.

Feb 18, 2013, 7:37 am

I do most writing and editing on a PC, but it is nice to handwrite sometimes - garden, park, bus, cafe, museum etc. The typing up takes ages afterwards though.

My first novel (Turner) was set on an isolated island so I went to one to write it (Ynys Enlli, more commonly known as Bardsey Island. I took a pile of notes and handwrote Turner during a week on Ynys Enlli, working by gaslight at night since there was no electricity, with animated shadows and draughts and strictly rationed spirits for company. A lot of the details in Turner came from that experience e.g. the seals' haunting cries, Manx shearwaters calling at night, the lighthouse, the tunnel to an underground chamber - it really helped me immerse myself in the atmosphere. Having said that, it was quite scary to go to bed at night in a house with no locks on any doors, even the front door, after writing some of the most tense chapters of Turner! My imagination gets carried away with itself sometimes. The weather was great for the first few days but soon turned stormy, so much so that I was stranded on the island for a few days at the end because the weather was too bad for a boat to come out. I was low on supplies and morale by that point and wanting to get the novel typed up in case my only copy got blown away or swallowed by a shark. That was another downside of only having a single copy that couldn't be backed up! It took a long time to type up that novel too.

Mar 10, 2013, 9:27 am

PC, it is easier to read my thoughts that I have and go back and reread. I use paper and pen when I edit thou, I print it off and go over it and re-put it back on to my PC. I find this the best way to think.

Mar 12, 2013, 6:52 pm

I start with an old-fashioned salt 'n pepper notebook to jot the stuff down as it comes to me. I keep track of research in there, it becomes a catch all for the stray scraps of paper, post-it notes, newspaper clippings, poems, photos, drawings, character names, family trees, time lines, random bits of this and that...having a nice smooth writing pen is always good...I have horrible penmanship, but I love the act of writing itself (my fingers are calloused from gripping pens and pencils so tight) it feels better when the pen is fresh and doesn't argue with the paper. I transcribe it to the computer while it's fresh (always fun when I have to play "Name that scribble!") The notebooks are archived in my file cabinet once the major writing takes shape and I'm off and running...they are so beat up and beautiful even if the contents are unreadable nonsense that only make sense to me...

Mar 27, 2013, 6:45 am

I tried to read what I had written in my notebook and realised how difficult it would be for someone else. I'm transcribing it to computer as fast as I can, alternating with continuing the story on paper. I'm longing to find out how it looks once it is printed in manuscript form as I have to keep scrolling back to remind myself of what happened. nearing the end now but I keep spotting typos, names not capitalised and spaces where they shouldn't be. I have tried to save on a memory stick as I go so I should have two copies eventually!

Apr 27, 2013, 2:01 am

I collect vintage and antique pens and take great pleasure in writing letters to my friends on good paper— I've an excellent hand, I'm told, which I guess means my writing can be read without undue effort.

My two books of poetry were written in pen in notebooks. But the manuscripts for submission to contests and publishers were typed, with my switch to a Mac taking place in the mid 80s. So much easier.

My nonfiction work was transcribed from small field notebooks to the Mac and composed on the screen. Likewise a novel. All my work begins with notes. But I found it so difficult to redraft from handwritten or typed paper pages, that the computer was a gift. I could redraft and edit without having to handwrite or type the whole bloody thing over, which I dreaded.

But I still like to print a ms. out for an edit. The rustle of pages and the diminishment of one stack, while the pile of edited pages grows, is a pleasure.

Apr 27, 2013, 1:29 pm

> 127 But I still like to print a ms. out for an edit. The rustle of pages and the diminishment of one stack, while the pile of edited pages grows, is a pleasure.

Mmmm . . . me, too, for ages. For 20+ years after I shifted to composing exclusively on my computer, I still printed my drafts out to edit by hand. I couldn't imagine doing it on the computer.

Then I started to collaborate with a partner who (at the time) lived in a different state. And shortly after that started editing essay collections whose contributors were spread over multiple states and, in some cases, multiple countries. Suddenly I had to be able to share my edits with other people . . . and got very experienced, very fast, at editing on the screen, using MS Word's electronic markup tools to "show my work."

And . . . four years, five edited collections, and about a dozen collaborative articles later . . . editing the screen is so second-nature that I do it for my own stuff and never give it a second thought.

No moral . . . no attempt at evangelization . . . just a "never would have imagined it" kind of story. :-)

May 2, 2013, 5:49 pm

I need the feel of connection.
Sadly, it may be a generational thing. I feel the words as I write them. I feel closer to the work when I read paper books.

I will always love the feel of the connection between pen and paper of being able to dog ear a page or write in a margin as I'm reading. I realize that may sound cheesy, but then perhaps that's a fading craving as well. ;-)

May 4, 2013, 2:03 am

My love for writing as a physical act was the start of my pen collection. I bought a special pen for each book I published (along with quite a few non-book pens).

At present, there are very few publishers who would read a handwritten manuscript without an established connection to the author. I write letters in pen to friends and they reply with e-mail.

A lost art, which makes me sad.

May 23, 2013, 9:54 am

Research and notes with pen and paper. Everything else is electronic... except the proofs. I like turning pages when I give it those last couple of reads.