Writing a 100,000 word novel takes a lot of time.
Writing a 100,000 word novel by hand takes even more time.
So why did I write a considerable amount of my novel by hand?
1. I enjoy the experience. This is the same reason why I prefer to read a physical copy of a book rather than a digital version. (Also I want to continue to build my personal library. Some people collect shoes or clothes… I collect books!)
2. Writing by hand cuts out a lot of the distractions that I find while typing. When I’m writing by hand I don’t waste time on spelling or get distracted by social media. I’m in the zone. The scratch of my pencil on paper is my writing music.
3. Editing is easier. When I try to edit on a computer screen I miss glaring errors like a main character in a scary movie misses warning signs.
When reading a page of my handwritten story, the experience is quite different. First, I’ve got to decipher my handwriting. Sounds like this would be awful right? Wrong! I’ve got to actually pay attention to the words I’m reading this way and I often catch a lot of errors because of it. Lastly, when I type my handwritten pages into the computer I get a nice second round of editing in.
4. Immediacy. For me writing a novel or scene begins with a vivid daydream. I know immediately that I have to capture it. The easiest way I’ve found is to grab a piece of paper (I tend to not care what piece of paper and will write on receipts, school forms, that piece of paper crumbled at the bottom of my bag… pretty much anything) and let it flow. If I wait until I have access to a computer, then I usually lose some of the richness of the scene.
Now this one is also a bit on the problematic side of writing things by hand. I have been known to lose these lovely pieces of paper. The good news is that I find once I write something down it does tend to stick with me much better. Still, I had to change things up so that I didn’t lose these key inspirational writing moments.
First, I tried leaving voice recordings on my phone. I can honestly say I’ve never gone back and listened to a single one and whatever great idea I thought I had at the time is completely dead.
Next, I tried notebooks. Problem was that I never stuck to the same notebook. This lead to enraged searches around my house for the correct notebook (I have A LOT).
Currently, I designate notebooks to ideas. I still write on scrap pieces of paper, but I put them in the folder of my designated notebook as soon as possible. This has and continues to work well for me.
5. Sketching. Sometimes I can’t quite get the words right to describe a main character, city, or world. So when in doubt, I sketch it out!!! I’m learning that this is really helping me with the world building of one of my newest novel ideas. I’m sketching the buildings, a map to the world, etc. It helps bring them to life for me.
Now don’t get me wrong, here…. I am NOT sketching beautiful masterpieces here. Oh no. I’m talking quick and dirty what-the-heck-did-I-just-draw-because-I’m-not-sure-I-can-identify-it kind of sketches (See below and you’re welcome in advance for the good laugh!!!). I’d say 1 out of every 10 sketches I actually spend time on. The quick sketch simply captures ‘gestures’ of my idea that often times helps me sort everything out.
So when do I type instead?
When I began my novel I wrote nearly all of it by hand. As the book progressed I did begin to type more. Often times it was because I was rereading what I had typed from my handwritten pages and then was struck with inspiration. If I’m already sitting at the computer and an idea hits me, I’ll likely type it and not write it. Especially if I want to get something down as quick as humanly possible.
At the end of the day I believe every writer has to do what works best for them. For me, writing a scene by hand is often worth the hand cramp!
Side note: If I had to ballpark I’d say I wrote half of my manuscript by hand. Even the scenes I typed though typically began with a written outline, idea, or snippet.