February 6, 2013

Writing Club Wednesday: An Ode to Pen and Paper, by Becca Weston

We've got a very exciting Misfits first this morning - that's right, it's our very first guest post!! Please welcome Friend of Misfits Becca Weston to YAMF and make sure you show her some love for boldly going where no non-Misfit has gone before ;)

Writing Club Wednesday: An Ode to Pen and Paper

[First off: A big thank you to all the Misfits for letting me put some of my ramblings on their fabulous site!]

I'm on the computer a lot. I mean, A LOT. Five days a week, I'm at work, editing and proofreading on double monitors for eight or nine hours. After dinner, I'm on my laptop, emailing or drafting or revising or (more often than not) tweeting.

And hey, that's cool. I love computers. I've been a fan ever since we got our first family PC when I was just a kid.

But not too long ago, I was driving home from work, and my eyes were so tired that the idea of hopping on my laptop was PAINFUL. I had several scenes I needed to draft, but I couldn't bear the thought of looking at that glowing screen.

So I stopped by a Walgreens, picked up some nice pens and a giant 5-subject notebook, and I drafted the rest of the book the old-fashioned way. Just curled up with a paper and pen, scribbling messily away even as my fingers started to cramp.

I LOVED IT. Yeah, it was slower-going than if I had been typing, but in a lot of ways, it was freeing. Nostalgic, even. I used to write all of my fanfiction and epic fantasy novels (they were terrible, don't ask) longhand, and going back to that method felt like reconnecting with 15-year-old me, aspiring, idealistic, tucked into corners of the school auditorium, frantically jotting down scenes during musical practices.

In fact, I'm thinking that longhand might be the best way for me to draft in the future for a couple of distinct reasons:

1) No distractions

I've tried Write or Die. I've tried turning my WiFi off. I haven't tried Freedom yet, but that's not the point. The point is that as soon as I open up my laptop, I'm distracted. This blog post, that television recap, this article... Heaven help me if I hit The Mary Sue or iO9 because then I'm really lost. There are just too many videos of adorable animals and too many excuses to "just take a quick mental break" that ends up becoming a half an hour or an hour. With the notebook, I don't even need to touch my laptop, so there's no chance to get sucked in. And I can curl up anywhere, anytime. No need to worry about a desk or a powercord.

2) Perfectionism is impossible

It can take me forever to get a first draft done. I write a sentence, delete it, rewrite it, tweak it, fuss a little more. I mean, I can get hung up on a paragraph for hours without making any forward progress on getting the freaking story on the page. The cleanliness of a Scivener text card or Word doc just feeds into my perfectionism. But I never had this problem in high school, when all my story dreams were being touted around on a notebook inside my bag, because it’s almost impossible for me to achieve perfectionism with a pen and paper. I scribble. I write things out of order and just draw swooping arrows to where they’re supposed to go. I thought-vomit onto the page because, hell, it’s messy anyway. “It’s okay,” I tell myself, “you can fix it when you put it onto the computer.” This is how first drafts SHOULD go — with wild abandon — but I can never achieve it with a keyboard and screen.

Now, of course, old-fashioned longhand is not going to work for everyone, and it doesn’t always work for me either. (30-year-old me gets achy fingers a lot quicker than 15-year-old me.) But if you struggle with focus and perfectionism, stepping away from the computer screen could be a nice change of pace. These days we read a mix of ebooks and paper books; why can't we write in a mix of electronic and paper mediums as well?

What do you guys think? Do you ever write longhand? Or do you think I'm a crazy person who needs to go sit in a corner?

Bio: Becca Weston is a YA writer who mainly pens science fiction and fantasy stories where girls save the day and stuff blows up. She also watches any TV show that includes aliens or magic and throws together experimental recipes with varying degrees of success. You can find her on Twitter [http://www.twitter.com/callmebecks] or ranting and raving on her blog, [http://beccaweston.wordpress.com].


Kate Michael said...

OMG, I laughed out loud reading this! All my drafts are longhand, for exactly the same reasons. And they're messy as hell. Swooping arrows? Yes. All over the damn place :) I love it.

Feaky Snucker said...

I write a lot of things out on paper, then type them up. And I find that when I type them up, I find new things to add as well, and ways to make it shinier. It's like drafting and revising all in one! <3

Yael said...

I love drafting on paper. It's so much easier to carry around a small notepad than a laptop (important since I can never focus at home), there are no distractions, and I don't have to wait for it to turn on before I start writing. Unfortunately, almost all of my writing is revisions, for which I need a computer.

Ashley Mays said...

That's a great point about leaving perfectionism behind when you write with a pen and paper! I'd never thought of it that way, but it's so true. Next time I get stuck, I'll be sure to go back to my notebook instead of my computer screen. :-)

callmebecks said...

Hurrah! I'm not alone in my love for longhand writing! <3

Ashley, it's definitely worth a shot if you're stuck and having trouble focusing.

Maggie Hall said...

Oh, awesome! I take almost all my notes longhand--I have notebooks full of them--but for some reason I had never really thought of drafting that way. What a good idea (she says as she procrastinates by reading this blog post). I am going to have to try it!

Morgan York said...

This is a really interesting perspective! For whatever reason, I've trained myself not to be distracted when writing first drafts on the computer, and don't have much difficulty enduring the typed-up word vomit. Somehow, I've conditioned my brain to understand "writing time = writing time." That means the phone gets stowed away, too. I really love to see your reasons for preferring longhand, though, because for me, the hand cramps/slowness drive me crazy! I'm glad it's freeing for you.

Rachel O'Laughlin said...

Every time I get a new story idea I go out and buy a brand new notebook. I scribble down a few scenes and lines and character thoughts. It's always my first step, and it's sweet and organic and certainly nostalgic.

I got goosebumps just reading this. Writing fan fiction and epic fantasy at fifteen, huddled backstage during play rehearsals... that was me, too. Your points about the distractions of the Internet and the niceness of swooping arrows are reminding me how wonderful it was to blurt out those whole first drafts into college ruled notebooks. I want to go back to it now, just to see what it feels like...

Maya Prasad said...

I haven't tried writing a scene on paper, but I do jot down all my random ideas into a journal. It really helps me plot to be able to put arrows all over the place and use short hand.

Also, turning off Wifi for serious writing is a must!

Anonymous said...

I plotted my most recent novel in a yellow notebook (which I can't find! Tragedy!) and wrote the first 5-10 scenes longhand before typing them up. This was partly because I was living with my in-laws at the time and wanted an excuse to sit in coffee shops for an extra long stretch. I also think your point that "perfectionism is impossible" in a notebook is spot-on. When you're resigned to being imperfect, the writing flows.

Nice post!

Anonymous said...

I've been rediscovering longhand. We can't take laptops/kindles/cell phones out in my new work area (only in the breakroom), so whenever I've stolen a few minutes to write/make writing notes, it's been on paper. Plus I had a REALLY hard time writing the last chapter of SW, and so I had taken that to paper just to get it somewhere. It is freeing, even as it's also annoying to have to type it all up later!

Chandra White said...

I do a lot of my drafting in longhand. I pretty much do it until I HAVE to know my word count. I usually have to go back for every problem that requires thinking. The computer is for quickly writing up all of the stuff I already know how to get written. If I can't get from point A to point B, I need pen and paper.

Carrie-Anne said...

99% of my magnum opus (to end up in 12 volumes) is written longhand, and has been ever since I began it in September '93. I love buying beautiful notebooks for it, and the ability to look back over all the notebooks I've filled for almost 20 years and instantly know on sight what's in each.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I love drafting my hand. I wrote a big chunk of the first draft of my first manuscript that way. And for the same reasons - I'm easily distracted on my computer, and I'm a perfectionist who constantly re-reads paragraphs when I type. I don't do that when I write by hand, which helps me write faster. Plus, I like the feeling of writing by hand! :)

I'm about to start a new WIP and I'm planning on breaking out my notebook and pen.

Brenda Drake said...

I may try this prehistoric method, but my fear is that I won't be able to read my writing afterward. Wonderful post! <3

Amanda Olivieri said...

Sometimes, if I'm stuck, I write longhand. It definitely helps to change it up. Or if I don't feel like staring at a screen. BUT ALSO--my first attempted novel was ALSO written in a notebook in the corners of my school auditorium during musical practice!!! OMG SOULMATES.<3

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