Before I continue, I want to say this post is inspired by a blog post author Monica Corwin put out the other day. You can read her post here, and visit her on Facebook here. You should do both these things.
In her post, she talks a little bit about writers and their rituals, but more pertinent to my post here, she talks about how writing with her Blackwing takes her to a softer place, somewhere slower, where she can articulate her thoughts (really, go read her post).
Now, we all understand each writer is different. Our process is different, but that doesn’t change the validity of a thing, and in this case, that thing is handwriting.
If you’re a fan or a friend, you know that my next book is woefully behind schedule. There are a lot of reasons for this, all of which are my own and I own them, but one of the primary reasons is that the book needed to be handwritten. And handwriting doesn’t take me to a softer place, safer place, it takes me to a braver place, a place where I can give no fucks and be okay with that.
Let me explain.
It’s easier (for me) to scratch out an entire page of the written word than it is to just highlight a bunch of text and hit delete. Doing that fucks me up emotionally, you know? Growing up in the digital age (well, mostly, I mean I started with Pong, dial up, and CompuServe) there’s a finality about using that DELETE key. It’s gone, motherfucker, and it’s NOT COMING BACK (yes, you can CTRL-Z to undo, usually, but that’s not always workable, depending on how far ahead you’ve gone).
True story… when I was working on my first novel, Necromancer, my youngest son was three. He was trundling around while my wife was out somewhere, and my other kid was off playing his XBox. Pretty normal state of affairs in my house at the time. I was doing a final edit based on beta reader notes, and I stupidly left my computer screen up once while taking a leak. I came back out and he wasn’t around my computer or anything, and I went back to work. I had saved the file some five times before I noticed I was missing 18,000 words.
Holy wordage, Batman.
I freaked out. I couldn’t undo that far back, had overwritten my previous file. A note here… I save “versions” of a book, which are the drafts. So, I could certainly go back to necromancer[v1].doc if I wanted, but why? The best I could figure out was to go back to the latest untouched draft (the one I’d sent to beta readers) and start the entire final editing process over. A lot of work, that. And it sucked. Since then, that DELETE key scares the shit out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I still type stories and novels and delete things, but it was a tough lesson learned in how permanent that can be.
It’s not like that when you write on paper. Nothing is set in digital stone there, nothing is written that can’t be lost; it’s not permanent. Nothing is, not there. Even when I decide I don’t like a line and I cross it right the fuck out, I can still generally read it (unless it’s so bad I physically color over it with ink). That way, if there’s some merit to the line, I can still use it. I delete that damn thing from Word and that’s not possible.
That emboldens me to take chances, to throw words down that I might not otherwise do. If they work, fucking great, and if they don’t, I can either cross them out right there on the spot or not put them in when I transfer from paper to screen. Best part there, too, is that I still have the paper draft rolling around somewhere. Okay, they’re in boxes, but that’s beside the point.
The only downside to handwriting is the time. I’m a slow writer anyway, one of those a book every two years, it seems. That sucks when you’re writing a trilogy and you want to keep an audience, but on the upside, the book is getting the proper attention it needs. It’s delving deep into some issues close to me and I’m not unhappy with what’s come out so far. The trade off is worth it, in my opinion, especially when your project needs you to be bolder than you normally would.
I won’t write everything by hand, but there will be project that beg for it.
Writers who read this, what are your thoughts on handwriting? Special, a waste of time, what? Let me know.