This article over on the Guardian, itself inspired by a New York Review of Books article by the poet Charles Simic, got me thinking about my physical writing process.
Novelist Alex Preston makes an interesting contribution:
“I think each writer, and each novel, has an inherent pace,” he says. “It’s important to find a tool that matches the pace of the writing. I composed my first book in a computerised blur; for the second, I wanted to be more scrupulous, more thoughtful. This is the pace of longhand. Writing with the fetish objects – the Uni-ball pen, the Rhodia notebooks –and watching the imprint of pen on page reminds us that writing is a craft. If everything is done on keyboards and fibre-optic wires, we may as well be writing shopping lists or investment reports.”
For myself, over the last few year I have seen my process morph depending on what I am writing. Flash Fiction tends to be written in longhand in my A4 notebook, the size of which I find useful as I can comfortably write a complete piece over a two page spread. Short Fiction tends to be planned in my notebook but is written both in the pages of my Conceptum and on my Macbook, I draft sections longhand, then type up and organise the sections in Scrivener, whose corkboard makes restructuring of scenes and sections a breeze.
As I limber up to begin the novel that will become the main assessment of my recently begun MA I have been thinking a great deal about how to manage the far more mammoth process of writing a novel with the tools I currently use. While I can see me spending even more time in Scrivener, I have also purchased a couple of notebooks that will specifically be used to house notes and section drafts that I wish to produce longhand. Preston’s point about finding the tools that match the pace of the project is certainly something I will be giving further consideration to.
And my current favoured writing implement? Still the Fisher Space Pen. Great for writing lying down with book held up above me, stood with notebook resting on a window while I peer out, jotting down a bright idea while undewater (not actually tried that one but its supposed to work), plus they don’t leak. Oh and these rather brilliant pencils from Faber Castell, for much the same reasons.
How’s about you? Is writing longhand lovely or laborious? Does the computer screen scare you or seduce you?
7 Responses to The pen is mightier than the PC?
I have different notebooks for everything – which is a great excuse to trot down to the stationers to buy a new one. So yes, I have another shiny one, in extravagant colours, for the MA.
When I was travelling (I went off on my own for a year, not so long ago – now a book!) I took exercise books and scribbled all the time (posted home when they were full). It was the only way to take it all in. So I could (if you wanted me to) tell you about every hotel or hostel room, every bus/train/tuk tuk ride, every conversation. Everything was so different – and the sensory bombardment so confusing – the only way to make any sense of it was to write it down. Sometimes even finding somewhere to buy new books was an event in itself (not many stationers in the mountains of Nepal). Still treasure those books, even though it’s all safely on the computer now.
(Over the Hill and Far Away, on Kindle, if you are interested.)
I too am a bit of notebook hoarder. Got four unopened ones sitting on my desk right now. One for my MA novel notes, one my next A4 Conceptum (latest on nearly full), the other two for emergencies.
Love the idea of filling in a notebook and posting it home while on travels. I’ve been reading Over the Hill and Far Away over the weekend. Very impressed, both with your courage at heading out round the world alone, and with your writing on the subject. Didn’t take me long to go from reading the sample to hitting the buy button. Will have to do a review here for you once I’ve finished it.
Pfft. I feel the same way whenever I read anyone asserting anything about “how it’s best to write”: Speak For Yourself. For me it’s a computer screen all the way. The only thing I can write with a pen or pencil is poetry or a grocery list.
There is no right way or wrong way, as you say Jen. Just the way that works for you. Interesting that you write both poetry and shopping lists longhand, but then both require careful thought and just the right word. 🙂
Longhand! Almost exclusively. Pelikan into a Moleskine, because they work.
Your comment appeared at about the same time as your recent post about editing, Nik. Which was a nice little slice of serendipity. Thanks for taking the time to share.
Always a pleasure! Great post, that
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