Monday, 16 December 2013

Longhand versus Keyboard: How To Write

Working on my latest Tudor novel, I occasionally resort to more creative methods of generating inspiration than simply staring at the computer screen and hoping something will happen, that another sentence will be added to the last, and in a reasonable amount of time.

Back when I only had to write about a hundred thousand words a year, I used to write longhand all the time. I would saunter along to a café I favoured, order a latte, put on my headphones, and write to my heart's content. It felt leisurely and rather ladylike, as though I had been transported back a century and was part of the Bloomsbury set.

But then I grew more successful, my book contracts outstripped my handwriting speed, and production rates became an issue. So I dropped the whole Virginia Woolf pretence and just banged the words down, straight to keyboard.

Recently though, I have started writing new sections longhand again, only transferring them to the computer later that day or the day after. I also rather cunningly expand and revise this written work as I type it up, so that 500 words by hand can grow and develop organically into 1000 words on screen.

This seems an ideal solution to keeping up with the daily word count, which can feel inexorable at times, especially since I have been known to become inexplicably blocked at the mere sight of my laptop. Association of object with activity, I suppose.

Though 'blocked' is the wrong term, and misleading to boot; I am lazy rather than blocked. I can chat online with ease, but knuckling down to my novel requires considerably more effort than Twitter and Facebook!

The old ways can be soothing when you have had surfeit of technology. It's so nice and undemanding for a writer, sweetly old-fashioned, to be penning a few carefully-chosen words in a specially designated notebook. Especially when those words can later grow, line by line, into paragraphs, and thence into pages and chapters.

I couldn't write a whole book like this, of course. It would probably kill me - and take over a year to do so. Let's face it, I can type much faster than I can write longhand. Legibly, at least.

But when it's cold and damp outside, as it is today, and I can curl up on the sofa with a notebook and ink pen, there's a Virginia Woolf feel to the process of writing a novel.

Shh, if you listen carefully, you can hear the birds singing in Greek.

A short version of this post first appeared on Raw Light.

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Many thanks for visiting my website and commenting! Victoria.