Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Joy and Pain of Longhand


Only blue. Why do none of these pics use blue ink?
When I was first writing ALL my first drafts were longhand. I wrote about a million words worth of novels (if I count the fan-fiction, and honestly, for this finding my voice thing, I do) longhand before I even TRIED a first draft by computer. That is three novel-length Harry Potter stories and three novels, one of them over 200,000 words...

The first story I tried to type at the computer, Deniability, was a spy story of sorts and sounded pretty darned clinical. It was for my first NaNoWriMo, so I really wanted to be able to OFFICIALLY word-count—something longhand doesn't allow. Now the MC is a psychitrist, so the clinical voice doesn't NOT work, exactly... but it is also not very... ME. I haven't had the heart to get back to it and see if it is salvageable. I still love the first line. "I slept with Bill Clinton."  And it's very fitting... Ah, well.. I digress...

Well HE might have enough supplies...
In that time I had begun blogging (only about 7 months in at the writing of that book)... and I think there was a sort of slow voice transfer... getting my longhand voice to flow through the keys. For BuNoWriMo in 2010 I did my first true COMBO attempt, Kahlotus Disposal Site... some typing, some longhand (a person just can't sit in the bath long enough for 50K in a single month) and it actually worked out beautifully. It has had the most success of my non-cozies—a semi-finalist for ABNA and for a time, anyway, earning me an agent... I theoretically am querying with it now, though I only sent one and it was rejected... My heart isn't quite there yet... (to query-town). And so SINCE then, all my books have been sort of a combo... until this last... number 13 I wrote ENTIRELY by computer...


So now I have gone back to Medium Wrong, Book #11, as I hope to enter it in the ABNA contest this year, and what do you know... I'd forGOTTEN about all the bloody TYPING I would have to do! I was SURE I only wrote a teeny tiny bit longhand, but NOOOOOOO...


Like this, only with less pink and more angst...
You see, initially I really NEEDED longhand. I journaled for many years, laying my emotions raw onto the page, via medium blue ballpoint... Where by DAY (on the computer) I am a statistician (I know, right? Who wants to read THAT?) And my early first drafts were messier. I could justify the typing round as a first edit because there were so many changes. NOW, there are still changes, but I tend to do BIG changes first and it all has to be typed before doing the BIG changes. Did I mention the bloody TYPING? GAH!

But I still turn to longhand if I'm stumped... or if I have a really emotional scene to do. I make myself cry regularly when I'm writing longhand and I think I've only managed it twice typing. So there will always be a role to be played for me, but right now I am mostly grumbling about the darn habit.

Any of you write longhand? Anybody change over time?


23 comments:

mooderino said...

My handwriting has deteriorated over the years (lack of practice?), but I used to enjoy converting longhand to typing, worked as a form of revision. These days I go straight to the keyboard.

mood
Moody Writing

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I used to write mostly longhand, although it was as messy as hell. (No one will ever be able to translate old manuscripts after I die - trust me.) But NaNo 2010 forced me to use the computer, even though I type even slower than I write. I still write out some scenes and often blog and guest posts. But I'm comfortable with the computer now.
Even if I'm still hunting and pecking for the stupid keys.

Diana Wilder said...

I still do. I carry a small notebook around with me and jot in it for whatever I'm working on. Or I snag paper towels or napkins... Or the backs of paper menus. Transcribing gets interesting. Haven't used a fountain pen recently, and I used to love them. I doubt I'll go back though... I found a couple of notebooks where the ink had faded pretty badly over 10+ years.

Sheila Siler said...

I generally write on the computer, but am working to write more longhand. It seems to feel more "authentic" when the words flow from my fingers to the paper. I do find it easier to edit that way too.

SP Sipal said...

My handwriting is so incredibly messy, and I'm such a fast typist, that the only time I will write in longhand is if a computer or Alphasmart is not available. However, I almost always do my plotting and planning in longhand. Don't quite understand what kind of psychological thing is going on there, but the initial creation just needs to come out by hand.
--Susan

Creepy Query Girl said...

I haven't written longhand since taking notes in college. My hand seriously cramps up just writing out checks. It's sad. I'm a really fast typist and sometimes, when I'm really going- it's like the keyboard and I are 'one':)

E.J. Wesley said...

So grateful for keyboards. I was abysmal at handwriting--both in penmanship and speed. Not that I'm a super-fast typist, but I can at least read my drafts when I'm finished. :-)

Hart Johnson said...

So interesting how different people can approach it all differently!

Diana-I carry a small notebook in both my backpack and purse, as you never know!

SP-I do ALL my plotting longhand, so I definitely hear you there!

LTM said...

Oh, man. I type everything now, it seems. Nowadays if I try to do something in longhand, it's just a disaster my penmanship is so sad. :o|

OK, and I love "I slept with Bill Clinton"--LOL! You need to salvage that first line regardless! :D <3

Sarah Ahiers said...

ugh, i can't write longhand. It hurts my hand too much. Also, my handwriting is atrocious and hard even for me to read.
BUT! I do make my outlines and notes and revision notes and all that junk long hand. Which why i probably won't ever use something like scrivener.
And i didn't know about the agent thing with Kahlotus. I definitely think, when it comes to querying, that it's much better to wait. Especially if you're heart's not quite there yet.

Johanna Garth said...

Such an interesting post. I kept journals for years too and did them all long hand. Now whenever I try to write my hands cramp up. Unused muscles and all. Everything is on the computer and I do think there was a bit of time spent trying to get my voice to transfer through my fingers on a keyboard vs through my fingers with a pen.

Joe Bauer said...

I'm going to show my age a bit here, but I started 'serious' writing on a computer and it really shows in the way that I compose my prose. I'm constantly grabbing text and moving it around and making changes on the fly. Just for fun I tried writing the first draft of a short paper longhand a few years ago. It was disastrous. I went through a LOT of paper. Except in a few special cases I haven't taken notes on paper since about 1995 (laptops were pretty revolutionary that way). Even my grocery list is on Google Docs.

Old Kitty said...

I have totally dispensed with longhand!! And I thoroughly love how I can control Word!! I couldn't with my penmanship - I ended up with scribbles and scrawls - not NAKED at all!! LOL! Take care
x

Cherie Reich said...

I've never been much for longhand. My hands cramp up after a while, but they never do that when I type.

Hart Johnson said...

So funny that hands have muscles that get used to writing. When I was a teen, I wrote for hours on end and the only damage done was the lump in my middle finger where I pushed too hard with the pen. That is significantly reduced now.

Madeline Jane said...

I'd love to write longhand, just to be a good old fashioned writer. Also, I love to see my writing in a physical form. Then I remind myself I type 120 words per minute and can just print it out later. Plus I hate handcramps. ;) Good luck sorting it all out!

L.G.Smith said...

I'm the same way. Just tonight I knew I needed to figure out this stupid chapter and the only way was to sit down with a notebook and write it out. I don't know why that is, but I always do better if I write by hand first -- though I think a big part of it might have to do with disconnecting from the computer and internet! :P

Helena said...

I started out in longhand years ago. But I'm so old that's also 'cause the personal computer hadn't been invented yet. Once I had a computer, I gradually switched from composing with pen and paper to the keyboard. But in the meantime I had to type the final versions of my first book (from longhand) on a Selectric II typewriter. Pain in the butt.

Pk Hrezo said...

I started out with longhand too. Spiral notebooks galore! Now I only use longhand for outlines and character sketches, worldbuilding. But occasionally, if I'm just not able to get to my laptop, I'll scibble out a chapter longhand---desperate to get the details down. lol

jamieayres.com said...

I keep a notebook with me at all times for when a scene comes to me I can write it out. Also, I'll go to longhand when I'm having trouble with a scene. I don't know why, but stepping away from the computer like that sometimes helps me get into my character's head better.

Trisha said...

I don't write in longhand anymore. If I did, I would probably have trouble reading what I had written, as if I get impatient with how slow my writing is going, I tend to get REALLY messy. Whereas I can type at about 120 wpm so that's way faster for me.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Hart,
I started out writing longhand, but I only do it these days if I have a burning idea and no computer at hand. I feel your pain having to do the job twice out of habit.

Carrie-Anne said...

I also began writing longhand, since I grew up in the era before kids had their own computers. I was lucky my parents had a computer since 1984, but I had to wait my turn to use it. It got a little better as I got older and we had more computers (so I got to keep the older Macs), but I always kept writing my magnum opus by hand. (I began in 1993 and have been steadily writing it ever since. It goes from 1941 to 2050.) It's kind of odd that I mostly have continued writing that with my right hand, even after switching my primary writing hand from right to left last summer. It somehow just feels more familiar and faster, probably due to muscle memory.