Writing Longhand: Tips and Tricks — November 17, 2011

Writing Longhand: Tips and Tricks

I talked last Thursday about why I write longhand.  Today I’m sharing my tips and tricks for effective longhand writing.

Now, writing longhand can get kind of messy.  Especially if you’re making changes later in the book that affect earlier sections.  Also, formatting.  Dialogue and such can all be formatted as you go, jumping down to the next line on the page, etcetera.  Italics (for inner thoughts, writings, dreams, etcetera) gets tricky.

Here are some tips for writing longhand, if you’re wanting to take the plunge and try writing longhand first.

Tip #1: Use college-ruled paper.  Okay, maybe this is more of a personal preference, but the narrower lines allow more lines per page which equals more space in each notebook to write.

Tip #2: Use a notebook that feels right in your hands.  For Oracles Promise (I won’t let this project go), I used spiral notebooks you can buy at Barnes & Noble or other stationery stores.  These one have hard fronts and backs with pretty designs and aren’t always 8 1/2″x11″ paper formats.  Pretty, but expensive.  For Mirror, Mirror, I used 70-sheet college-ruled spiral notebooks you can buy for cheap in the grocery store’s school supplies aisle.

Tip #3: Find a good pen.  I like to use Bic Ultra Round Stic Grip.*  But that’s only because Pilot stopped making my favorite writing pen ever.  *sniff*

Tip #4: Learn BBC code to help with your formatting notes.  The main one I use is the [i] and [/i] combination.  (Using preview to see if that went wonky on me…sweet, using spaces worked.)  This sets off passages as I transcribe so I know what needs to be in italics.  If you need something bolded or underlined (I can’t imagine) use the brackets with the letters b or u in them.  This will help your transcription, I promise.  (Unless you’re typing late at night.  Then you might just inadvertently literally transcribe your code and have to fix it several drafts from now.)

Tip #5: Do not transcribe as you go.  The entire point of this is to focus on the narration and action not the word count number.  If you transcribe at the end of each day, it sort of defeats the purpose.  Sure you’ll figure out what you can average per set number of pages and estimate that way, but try not to think about it.  I do recommend transcribing when you finish a notebook.  (My latest WiP took a little less than two spiral notebooks.  When I finished #1 I typed it out and then wrote the rest of the story in #2.  Now I’m typing it out.)

Tip #6: Enjoy your distraction-free writing time. The beauty of writing longhand is that it allows you to take your lightweight notebook with you wherever you wish so you can squeeze out some words while you wait somewhere on someone.

*No one paid me to say any of this or anything. I just like these pens.

That’s it for now, folks. I’m taking a blog break next week because of the holiday but I’ll be back at the end of the month. Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers who celebrate. Happy rest of November to those outside the US or who don’t do anything for Thanksgiving.

Why I Write Longhand — November 10, 2011

Why I Write Longhand

All right.  It’s no secret here on the blog that I love to write longhand when I’m working on a novel.  I’ve pretty much alternated project-to-project with how I write it, whether it’s straight into the computer or longhand first.
I’ve discovered time and again that I do prefer writing longhand first.  Here’s why.
1) Writing longhand helps me to focus on story over word count.  I can estimate a word count, but that’s only an average count.  Some pages might come out with far fewer words, depending on how much dialogue is there.  (I’m a classic under-writer and have to add in scenery so I have more than just floating heads.)
2) No internet.  Internet=evil.  Internet use is counter to productivity.  If you write longhand you’re not on the computer.  Far fewer distractions.
3) Ease of editing.  Okay, now I know what you’re thinking.  How easy can editing be when you’re writing on paper and it’s hard to erase?  You don’t edit when you’re actually writing it.  The quick edits come when you’re typing it into the computer.  So often as I’m transcribing I find that the saids which are so easy to write out when you’re on a roll aren’t necessary.  Also, you get to really see just how conversations are working as you type it out fresh rather than looking at what’s already typed in a future edit and wondering how the scene is working.
4) Portability.  I can take my notebook and iPod pretty much anywhere I want.  Yes, I do have the project binder sitting on my lap so I can reference maps and calendars and all the rest that I need, but the notebook is so much lighter than an actual computer.