January 24, 2008

Dan Leone over at Cafe Leone was wondering if other writers prefer to write their stories longhand or on the computer. After I'd typed in two paragraphs in his comments and was getting read to start a third, I decided that perhaps I should make a blog post about this instead of leaving poor Dan a novella of a comment.

So, longhand or computer for writing? Well, it depends on my thinking process, actually. There are times when I want to move more slowly and deliberately and think through things - that's when I write longhand. I'm usually still getting a feeling for the characters at that time and possibly the plot (at least the beginning details) as well. Often I haven't fully built the world in my head yet.

Once I'm rolling, I certainly prefer the computer for writing. I can type much faster than I write and my handwriting, particularly since I have ADHD, is beyond atrocious. I have a terribly tendency to write with a .5 or .3 mechanical pencil and begin writing smaller and smaller as the story goes on. This makes transcribing it later a nightmare.

Joe Schumacher's Videowriter imageThe first novel I wrote in high school, Lichtman's Bluff, was based on a dream I'd had which really, really captured my imagination and I knew I had a great storyline and great characters. School that day was a torture - I wanted to write, not listen to boring classes. That evening, I had to babysit my favourite family. As soon as the kids were in bed, I found some paper, pulled out my trusty .3 pencil and commenced. The first draft was about 30 or 40 pages, light pencil scratch on baby blue paper ... no margins to speak of. Then I began transcribing it into the Commodore 64 word processor. I could not touch type then. It took forever. A year later, I had my own word processor, a Magnavox Videowriter, and was working on the third draft. At that point I was closer to touch typing and the story went a lot faster. Not to mention, the action on the C-64 keyboard almost required me to two-finger type anyway. The action on the VideoWriter was much easier and less stressful on my li'l ole fingers.

(I was going to post a scan of that draft ... but I can't find the original draft any more. :( )

Most of what I write today begins life on the computer. Not everything, though. I have been known to grab scraps of paper and begin a character outline ... or a bit of plot ... just to capture the moment. Even I don't have my laptop with me every moment of the day. (I know this is hard to believe, but it's true. Of course, when it's not with me, I go through withdrawals, but that's another story.)

However, the biggest drive to using the computer to write fiction today ... has less to do with the feel of paper and pencil versus keyboard. It's much more practical than that. You see, I prefer to write in the dark. I can, to quote Adam from MythBusters, "reject your reality and substitute my own" far more easily with the lights off. And since I have a happy MacBook Pro with the light up keyboard ... writing in a dark room with just the glow of the stereo and the computer, I can more easily transport myself into the world about which I'm writing.

So, the short answer to Dan's question is that I use both ways of writing at different times and for different purposes.

* Photo of the Magnavox Videowriter is from Joe Schumacher's EXCELLENT photography site. If you have not been there, please check him out. There are just some stunning shots there.

Posted by Red Monkey at January 24, 2008 5:00 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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