Now this was truly frustrating because ideas for plots, characters and dialogue were leaping out of my brain and screaming to be captured. My WIP was going nicely and I was itching to write more.
So, what to do?
Good old pen and paper to the rescue!
For the last month (yes a month) I have been writing by hand.
At first the process was ad hoc. I wrote on snatches of paper, all different sizes, which ended up paper-clipped together in piles on my desk. This became a nightmare of disorganization.
Then I tried an exercise book because I thought this would be neater and I wouldn’t lose any sheets. Only, I found that when I made additions to the text, there wasn’t room and I had things like ‘PTO, Go to page 28, or see top of page.’ Aargh! In short, a completely unworkable mess.
My final format is working nicely. I have A4 looseleaf sheets (numbered) with corrections/additions marked in red. These additions are written on a separate sheet and inserted behind the section where the addition will be made. All additions are labelled according to the page number they reference. For example, if I want to include an additional sentence on page 19, I would write 19A or 19B in red in the text which would correspond to the separate sheet.
This simple method suits me, but you could also use coloured pens or paper.
So, having written by hand for the last month, what have I discovered?
Well, several things actually.
Firstly, I really enjoy the physicality of writing. I like putting pen to paper. It seems to engage my mind more thoroughly and the relative ‘slowness’ of the technique allows my mind to filter what I want to say before I put it down on the page. As a consequence, I have far fewer corrections and the sentences flow logically without great holes in the story.
Secondly, there is no BACKSPACE button so there isn’t the temptation to instantly correct or edit your work. I believe more care is taken when thoughts bubble their way to the surface and you can actually give them more time.
Some might argue that they need to type to keep up with the fast mental imagery that pops into their head but I believe that this can be self-defeating.
As Kevin Hartnett says on his blog www.themillions.com, the process of writing by hand is like
THINK THINK THINK WRITE WRITE WRITE
As opposed to typing where it’s more
THINK WRITE DELETE THINK WRITE DELETE
Give some thought also, to the lack of distractions that writing gives you. How many times have you ‘just checked your emails’ only to surface an hour later?
When you write by hand, you only have the paper and your mind. Writing engages your memory, fine motor skills and gives your brain a workout, which as we age can be good for fighting off dementia.
As you write, your brain tends to focus and retain what you are physically doing. Not only are you seeing the words, you are forming the words and this repetition cements them and their context in our minds.
I can write far longer because I don’t get brain fade or sore eyes from the screen. As a sleep specialist once told my daughter, screen time should stop one hour before bed, to give your body the chance to unwind. Apparently, the constant unseen flickering of the screen interrupts our biorhythms – and guess what- you can write instead! You’ve just gained another whole hour of writing.
If you would like to consider writing as a viable option, I would:
1. Choose good quality paper where you can’t see the writing on the reverse side. Eg Reflex lined looseleaf and store them all in a two ring binder.
2. A good pen, one that feels nice in your hand and flows without blotting.
3. A system for corrections and additions
4. 20 min bursts of intense focus followed by 10min rests.
Of course, you will eventually have to type your MS, but this should be straightforward because all the hard thinking will be done.
Plenty of published authors have written books by hand eg. J.K Rowling (first HP book), Jeffery Archer, Truman Capote etc.
So, if you have stopped writing or are procrastinating or perhaps the white blank document on the screen is giving you the heeby geebies- then turn to paper!
It has a lot to recommend it.