Okiekokie. The question is this: as a writer, do you prefer to type your "raw" material, or are you in the habit of scribbling it all longhand then typing it up? And, of course - why?

Historically, until the start of this year, I'd written absolutely everything - upto and including school essays - on the 'puter. Notwithstanding the fact that my handwriting and spelling skills (damn autocorrect!) have suffered terribly as a result, I was quite happy to hammer away at a keyboard, gradually fucking-up my spinal column with my lousy posture and allowing my skin to turn 40% transluscent as a result of sunlight starvation.

I wrote the entirety of my first "real" novel (and all my slightly embarassing work-for-hire ones) in this fashion, and it was only whilst proof-reading the first complete draft that I started to rethink my approach.

Firstly, it occurred to me that whole chunks of the text were completely irrelevant. Stylistic guff, basically: pointless and irritating. I started to think about how it could be that all this clearly-superfluous bollocks had found its way into my work, and sooner-or-later I decided to point the finger firmly at - you guessed it - Typing.

I've done so much of it that my typing speed tops-out at about 90 words per minute. That, I believe, is a little faster than my brain can keep up. Consequently whilst my mind is chugging-along to create the next slice of attention-searingly wonderful prose, thick with poetic brilliance and plot-relevance (yeah, yeah... I can dream), all the time my fingers are hammering away regardless. It's like the digital version of Hugh Grant stammering, or someone stopping to say "uuuuuh..." between sentences. Brain-plays-catchup, essentially.

On top of that I'd noticed that when I came to read things back they acted very differently upon my attention depending if I read them on the screen, or on printed paper. Something to do with portability, perhaps, or the organic nature of "feeling" paper in your hands, or... whatever. I don't know. But I started to think it would certainly be more useful to experience everything I'd written via the medium of paper, because that - after all - will be how it eventually reaches the reader.

And last but not least, the longer I stay sitting at my computer hitting keys, the more liable I am to get bored and spend a calming 5 minutes on the 'net, or chatting on MSN, or simply jerking-upright with indecent excitement every time the latest scrap of Viagra-shilling spam splatters into my inbox. All of which eats-up a loooot of time.

The freelance writer, I concluded, is not biologically designed to operate in the presence of such a wealth of procrastination opportunities.


So for the current WIP, I thought I'd try something different. I went out and bought myself a big fat hardback brick of a writing-pad, 500+ pages, and have ever since endeavoured to do things the Old Fashioned way.

My findings:

On the down side, my wrist spends much of its time hurting like hell (though this can be a useful excuse for getting out of doing the washing-up). Also I'm developing a charming callous on the side of my finger, and my posture hasn't improved much at all. I'm also spending rather more money thanks to the sudden appearance of coffee shops, pubs and bars in my working life.

But on the plus side, I'm taking the time to choose every word I write. I'm not filling-up pages with random dross that'll only get deleted eventually anyway. I'm getting out of the house and not getting distracted every time the "You Have Mail" bell tinkles. I'm saving time - believe it or not - because whilst I write each sentence slower, I'm procrastinating faaar less. And above all there's something indescribably *natural* about being able to see the evolution of a page: the crossings-out, the reinstatements, the notes and corrections and margin-conversations with yourself. There's something charming about being able to flick through pages and pages of your own illegible spidery text, and say to yourself: Yeah... Yeah, I did that.

I'm about halfway through my first draft now - 50,000 words and counting - and I simply wouldn't go back. So who's with me? And who's prepared to give it a go? And who's going to come-out fighting for the humble Keyboard?

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For me, there's no comparison - the computer rules! I find my thought processes and - how to say it without bragging? - imagination and creativity are light years ahead when I type. And I edit and rearrange as I go, without messy cross-outs and retyping. Like you, I'm a fast typist, though not 90 WPM. I taught myself touch-typing in high school by doing what now would be called journaling on an old manual Smith Corona with my eyes closed, and I spent many years at underachieving jobs that involved lots of typing. My fingers don't get ahead of my thoughts - they operate at essentially the same speed.

In contrast, when I take workshops that involve longhand writing, what I produce is usually pedestrian, not worth sharing much less publishing. That includes a weekend workshop with Julia Cameron, who swears by the superiority of longhand.
I've begun most of my works longhand. I write in a memo pad until that writing compels me to the keyboard. Going from one project to the next, I simply skip a line. This eliminates fear of the blank page. Granted most of my writing has been stories and poems to this point, but I think I'd approach a book similarly.
Okay, so you have proved that you really, really are insane. Like the rest of us. ;-) (And that whole 90 words per minute thing? Doesn't it make you wonder how fast you could really type if you didn't have auto-correct? :-)

Personally I use a combo approach. I like the computer for when I want to process something really really fast without thinking too much. Like when you have that spark of an idea, and if you sit there and think about it, it disappears before you can actually get it down on paper. Or for the mundane descriptions, computer works great.

But when I'm at a particularly testy part of the book, a scene that isn't gelling, or that needs that extra something that isn't coming out on the screen, or isn't coming together, or isn't even written because I can't think, there is nothing like good old fashion pen and paper. There is something about writing it out that seems to work best for these times. (And it also comes in handy for any down time, like waiting in a doctor's office, etc.) But I tend to write fast, messy, sometimes crossing off long blocks of text that don't work, then starting over. It's okay, though. Some of my best scenes are hacked out in this fashion. For me, though, I need to sit down and translate my scratchings straight to the computer, because if I wait too long, often I can't read my own writing.

I actually have heard of a handful of writers who write out their whole first draft in longhand. I couldn't do it. I used to write reports for a living, (before computers were a godsend, and, as happened to me, you need to be careful that you don't develop tendinitis--once it starts, it doesn't go away. You can only manage it. So if your wrists start hurting, it's time to rest, or pick up the keyboard and start typing to give them a break. Anything too repetitive like that can hurt you. (It's better than carpal tunnel, but still hurts like hell.) (Of course, I'm so not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Not everyone develops tendinitis, nor becomes an alcoholic or becomes totally insane from handwriting pages and pages day after day. Please don't drink liquids over your keyboard. Especially if you're drunk. Results may vary depending on the individual.)
Heh! You've identified another benefit of the pen and paper approach... Spill red wine on a manuscript, the worst that can happen is that a few pages go purple and smell kind of tasty, and a few words turn into beautiful blurroscope Art.

Spill red wine on a laptop, and you're stuck with pen and paper whether you like it or not.

A pragmatist would suggest cutting-out the wine from the equation rather than the laptop, but I've got my priorities in the right order, haythangewsomuch.
I've got a friend who alternates between longhand and typing. I think he's ka-razee, but...whatever works is pretty much my mantra.

When I'm feeling stuck, I'll work on pen and paper, but I get incredibly frustrated at the slow pace. I cross out stuff a lot, have gotten used to being able to cut and paste sections and that's a bitch and a half with longhand. Lots of annoying notes in my cramped handwriting. All that dross you mentioned is stuff I chalk down to exploration and learning. Much easier to delete than to scribble out. Then the ever horrible shit, what does that scribble say? just plain makes me nuts. The 'puter is definitely my weapon of choice!
As a general rule, I write longhand first then do a bit of an edit as I type the stuff in. I enjoy writing longhand more than I enjoy typing - probably because my typing skills are okay but not great. As I've mentioned previously, however, when I did NaNoWriMo last year, there simply wasn't the time to write longhand then type up, so everything got bashed into the comp, either at home or at work (don't tell, now!) or on my husband's knackered old work laptop, which accompanied me on my travels to London. Thank heavens for laptop charging sockets on trains and portable USB drives! For reading and tinkering with drafts, though, nowt beats the printed page. Certainly not my shamefully poor handwriting!
I started writing before home computers became common, so everything was done longhand, in spiral notebooks. I used to have to keep track of two, three, or four notebooks by the time I got done with a story.

Then came computers. I figured they were good for typing in what I'd done and getting an easily manipulated copy of the manuscript that I could edit, shift things around in, etc, without having to retype anything. And then I discovered I could actually keep up with the speed of my thoughts if I typed it in to the computer to begin with, rather than putting it down longhand first.

What comes out through the keyboard is often more detailed than what I write longhand, maybe because I can see the words on the screen and edit myself before the next ones come out. In longhand, I'll often have whole lines crossed out, and lots of detail stuff added into the margins. Even then, the longhand stuff still comes out more of an outline of the scene, with the meat added when it gets put on the computer. I still carry a notebook around a lot, because one never knows when the time and opportunity will come up to write.

But I agree, with the internet and all so easily accessible, it's way too easy to procrastinate when you work on the computer.
I'm with Jim: if it wasn't for the computer, I might not be writing. Typing on a typewriter's too frustrating. That last sentence, for example. If it wasn't for the ability to backspace over an error and retype it without having to hunt for the Wite Out, It would have taken me long enough to correct all the typos that I'd go find something else to do.

All that said, for this past Christmas, I got one of those cool Moleskine notebooks, the kind Hemingway used and Neil Gaiman and Bruce Chatwin still do. I've mostly been using it for jotting down notes, fragments, ideas and dreams.

A couple of weekends ago, however, an idea for a short story popped into my head, and I started writing in the notebook. And I kept going in longhand until the story was done. I found it a very interesting experience.

Usually, I obsess over every word, going back and revising as I go. it's an excruciatingly slow process, and it takes me forever to do a first draft. The upside is, when I'm done there's not a whole lot of editing left to do. The downside is, before I get through, I really really hate the book.

In longhand, however, I can't go back and retype and retype and retype again. After a couple of strikeouts, I just have to say "screw it, I'll deal with it in rewrites," which I have never been able to say before, because I didn't have to. In addition, there's just something about pen on paper that seems more intimate. I'm left handed, so I actually end up with the ink on my hands, which perversely makes me feel closer to the page. That, and this is really important, I don't obsess over wordcount, because I can't just reach up and click the button to see how much I've written. It's done when it's done, not when I've hit a certain number of words.

So, I'm thinking of doing a bit more in longhand, just to see what happens.
All good points - "screw the wordcount", that "I'll-sort-it-out-in-rewrites" cavalier attitude, and the intimacy of the process.

Oddly enough, I'm left handed too. I wonder if that correlates in some way with the longhand/keyboard preference...
What was the question? I read all the interesting answers and forgot where I was---just like high school. I do not miss a room filled with the odor of pencils, I'm allergic to that resonant mix of cedar and graphite, I can't afford to fill my inkwell. I jot---with a pen, consistently, but I use the word processor--oops, the computer to write.

Other than that, I try to spend my free time forni---watching the golf channel.
I found some very interesting observations in all of this discussion.
My method is to buy large post it notes in bulk which I scribble on incessantly when I am in the mood, and yes, the odd glass of red has occasionally found its way over them late on a Saturday night.
Mostly, I write short stories at this time (of widely varying lengths) and the scribbling is usually in no common timeframe for the story concerned. I then sort the bundle of notes out into some semblance of order (like a jigsaw puzzle), type them up on the computer and add and delete sections where I feel appropriate. Eight hours of editing and it's ready to go…
Writing for me is always done on the computer. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that I can't read my own bloody handwriting. The words don't go down fast enough and I get frustrated, so everything gets more and more obscure until everything resembles a slightly squiggly line that could mean anything.

But editing has to be done with pen and paper. Doesn't work otherwise. I think it's a structure thing: when it comes to the edit I like to see everything in a page-sized block I can scribble all over. Makes me feel like I'm achieving something.

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