Ink or keyboard? When a computer-loving writer prefers a pen

I adore, adore, adore my computer. I have acres of folders for each book I write, stuffed with research links, musings about characters, thoughts about the story’s overall direction. I have thematic notes, background, significant geography, historical events that might make a difference. I write my text on the computer, I have scribble files for experimenting, outtakes files and the text proper.

But there are some parts of my work that I have to do in ink.

I hadn’t thought about this until an email arrived from Robert Scanlon, who’s using Nail Your Novel with Scrivener and was wondering whether to put the beat sheet analysis into the note cards for each scene. The short answer is, yes if it works for you. Personally I wouldn’t write a beat sheet on the computer, but we all work in different ways.

So this will be a very idiosyncratic post, but I thought it might make a creative discussion. I’ll tell you mine, then you tell me yours, okay?

The beat sheet step by step – starring Harry PotterBeat sheet

Going back to Robert’s question, I find the beat sheet’s distinctive methodology ( a sheet of A4, coloured pens and smiley faces) helps me to see it as a fresh phase and therefore to analyse the material for new ideas and narrative directions. So it’s paper beat sheets for me.

In a nutshell, the beat sheet is a way to analyse your entire novel for pacing, character arcs, structure, subplots and theme. It shrinks your novel to a few easily readable pages of A4. It’s singlehandedly saved me from literary chaos over and again.

I tried writing beat sheets on computer and they were a disaster. Something happens to my brain when I get keys under my fingers. It’s like letting a fresh horse step onto springy turf. I just go. Words gallop away and I end up with a long, musing essay about the book. Although this might do me good in some ways, it is useless for analysis.

So I have to write beat sheets on paper. The pen makes me aware of every mark. Some writers like spreadsheets because the format forces similar practical distance.

Index cards for synopses

When I’m outlining, I write the main events on index cards and shuffle them to get the best order. Although I’ve tried this on the computer, my brain thrives on complication and it always gets out of control. Index cards and a fat marker pen keep me focussed. (The cards game is also a tool from Nail Your Novel.)

mar13 003Non-fiction

I plan my Nail Your Novel books differently from my fiction. I write scribbled outlines on scraps of paper. The characters book is nearly finished and I’ve thrown its notes away, so this is the outline for NYN 3, which is in rough manuscript. Yes, those are bits of paper torn from the bin. I love the organic look of them, which reflects the feeling of a book evolving and becoming better. Don’t be fooled by the ramshackle appearance. They are highly organisational and will be much-consulted documents until the manuscript is ready for polishing.

To-do notebook

Each book generates vast amounts of admin. Research needs to be done, books must be added to reading lists. I find it easier to keep track of this in a notebook. Then I also have the pleasure of crossing items off and they stay there, a testimony to another job done. Way more satisfying than erasing them with ‘delete’.

001Schedules

My notebook also contains charts for each book’s production. This is a legacy of my years in books and magazines, where I had to invent systems to keep track of 30 books at different editorial stages. It covers everything from checking cross-references, finalising spine wording, buying artwork, the websites I’ll need to update when new books come out etc. Again, I prefer this on paper because I can see the books developing at a glance.

Ideas notebooks

Journals of scribbled ideas were the very first kind of notebook I kept. I still use them, but the ideas in them aren’t very findable. This irks me and I wish I could x-ray them to categorise all the useful stuff, but alas that would be a mammoth job. So I now dip into them as an inspiration slushpile. Most things I find are rubbish or irrelevant to my immediate needs, but I also uncover useful gems.

Why not Scrivener?

I clearly have the organisational mindset, and people often ask me why I don’t use Scrivener. Especially as Nail Your Novel fits it like a glove, I’m told. I’ve thought Scrivener might be fun, but I like to have some aspects of my books in touchable form, on scattered (but precisely organised) papers and notebooks. Also, I love inventing, period, and that includes systems for my books. Or put another way, I’m a nerd.mar13 004

If there is a general pattern, I use handwritten notes to get clarity, distance, control and simplicity. The big picture stuff. I use the keyboard to indulge my creative riffing, musing, speculating and – of course – for the writing.

Now it’s your turn. When do you use the computer and when do you use ink and paper? Do you have set habits and how did you develop them?

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  1. #1 by Katherine Hajer on March 31, 2013 - 3:39 pm

    I have absolutely horrible handwriting. Nowadays people like to blame that on computers, but I’ve had bad penmanship for my entire life. I have had to show my handwritten notes to other people to ask their help in deciphering them.

    I took to the QWERTY keyboard right away, though, and have been touch typing everything since I learned how at age 13. Any drawbacks to working with a keyboard are mitigated by the benefits of legibility.

    • #2 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on March 31, 2013 - 3:53 pm

      I have appalling handwriting too, Katherine. I always had trouble with it, was forever being told off at school. But I can usually work out what I mean! I love the idea of you showing your notes to other people.

      • #3 by Dave on March 31, 2013 - 4:47 pm

        Roz is not kidding. Her handwriting is harder to decipher than Linear B. I come in and find little notes of infinite impenetrability. My dinner may be in the oven, but equally it may be destiny and it may be in the omm…

  2. #5 by Moonshade on March 31, 2013 - 3:43 pm

    I tend to type everything unless there’s some kind of picture involved– a map, one of those plot graphs that looks like an EKG, a zigzag on my beat sheets, etc.

    But when I’m reading, I’ll keep a notebook handy and write down lines that really strike me as memorable. Writing them down by hand forces me to slow down and really think about the line and what I like about it, and in the end it helps wedge it more thoroughly in my brain.

    • #6 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on March 31, 2013 - 3:54 pm

      Moonshade, that’s an interesting point about the pen making the idea lodge in your brain. I’d heard that from other writers too.
      And don’t you just love plot graphs, diagrams and pictures? So creative.

  3. #7 by Debby Hanoka on March 31, 2013 - 4:47 pm

    I tend to use both. I get my ideas started on my ever-present yellow legal pad, and when I’m far enough into it, I go on the computer and type it up. But unlike most, if not all, writers using a computer, I rarely use MS Word. It’s always Corel WordPerfect or Lotus WordPro. Nothing against Microsoft. I just find WordPerfect and WordPro easier to use and better suited to what I’m doing.

    • #8 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:26 am

      Debby, I’ve never used anything but Word. I’m intrigued by what these other packages might allow you to do, though.

  4. #9 by engridknight on March 31, 2013 - 5:39 pm

    Your blog entry couldn’t be better timed — for me! I’ve signed up for the How To Think Sideways course, by Holly Lisle, and she recommends — yeah, yeah, insists — we leave the keyboard for the pen/paper to link both sides of the brain. I wanted to argue, as did others in our forum, but going to give it a try now. I’m actually looking forward to it. Thanks for the push!

    • #10 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:27 am

      Thanks, Engrid. Holly is awesome. I didn’t know she made a distinction about when one way of writing might be more suitable than another – how interesting. Have fun!

  5. #11 by Thomas Marlowe on March 31, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    I loved this piece – I’m very much a ‘puter person myself (not least because my handwriting would make cryptologists twitch and hand in their slide rules) but I do still understand and appreciate the visceral satisfaction in having something *real* to handle. I do still tend to brainstorm new ideas for myself on paper too – lots of circled notes and swooping arrows to connect things, but then for the sake of convenience it ends up electronic.

    • #12 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:29 am

      Thanks, Thomas. Your mention of the swirls and arrows is another reason why paper notes can be so satisfying. And what about those bubble pictures where you draw Venn diagrams of various aspects of the story? If that’s even possible on a computer it’s not as much fun.

  6. #13 by Teddi Deppner on March 31, 2013 - 9:23 pm

    My experience is very similar to yours, Roz. When my fingers hit the keyboard, they fly. And I wander and ponder and take long, meadering walks through my story. Or bang out scenes with precise alacrity. But I don’t do planning well that way.

    I use paper for organizing the storyline, for brainstorming breakthroughs, for doodling ideas. Really enjoyed hearing about your approach. Gave me some ideas for new things to try. Thanks!

    • #14 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:31 am

      Thanks, Teddi. Glad to hear from another writer who finds the keyboard is like being offered a motorway. The trouble is the lack of boundaries. The text file will go on and on offering new space and never check the flow. With paper you have to fit it in a finite space.

  7. #15 by acflory on March 31, 2013 - 9:59 pm

    Interesting post Roz. It made me look at my work in a different way. I have notebooks full of scribble, but for that global overview I use a feature in StoryBox that lets me keep track of what I’m doing in an almost organic way.

    I’ve read that StoryBox and Scrivener are similar so perhaps they both have the same feature. In StoryBox there’s a pane on the left that lists each chapter and scene in a collapsible ‘tree’. It’s meant to be for navigation but by labeling each scene I can see at a glance how the subplots weave together. It also allows me to restructure the whole story with ease.

    • #16 by Teddi Deppner on March 31, 2013 - 10:18 pm

      Yes, acflory — Scrivener has something similar!

      It also has a feature where you can view your story as if your outline were on index cards on a corkboard. You can drag and drop them around and it moves everything. I find that even nicer than the outline view, in some ways.

      • #17 by acflory on March 31, 2013 - 10:48 pm

        Aaah! StoryBox has those features as well. I use the ‘cards’ when I’m restructuring. Can’t imagine struggling with Word ever again!

        • #18 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:35 am

          I guess what I do is the steam-powered version of StoryBox and Scrivener!

          • #19 by acflory on April 1, 2013 - 9:22 am

            I do understand the need to actually slow down to steampower at times, I just hate doing it coz my handwriting has become so awful!

  8. #20 by Bailish on March 31, 2013 - 10:21 pm

    I use paper and pencil incessantly when brainstorming. But unlike you, Roz, I organize it and then immediately type it into the computer. No loss of legibility. Also, if I don’t like it, I’m more likely to throw away the sheet than to delete it on the computer. Guess those 0’s and 1’s have more permanency to me.

    So why don’t I brainstorm on the computer? I’ve tried it, and it just doesn’t work for me. Something about how I interact with a keyboard vs paper, maybe the feel of the pencil, don’t know. All I know is that I’m not nearly as creative at a keyboard.

    • #21 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:38 am

      ‘No loss of legibility’… that remark made me smile, Bailish. Trouble is, I don’t always have the computer to hand. Many of my notes are made while out freelancing, or stopped at traffic lights. Thanks for sharing your method!

  9. #22 by ED Martin on March 31, 2013 - 11:52 pm

    I tend to use both, depending on where I am and not what I’m writing. If I’m at home writing, I always use my desktop computer to write, and this includes plotting and planning (I use Google Docs for everything, so anything I write is accessible anywhere with an internet connection). But if I’m out somewhere – free time at work, my favorite away-from-home writing spot, or a hotel or visiting someone’s house – I use pen and paper. I have a writing bag that I take with me everywhere, so I always have a couple notebooks and pens handy. And I also keep a small notebook in my purse, just in case the muse hits me.

    • #23 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:45 am

      I like the idea of a writing bag! I have a wide variety of handbags, some of which aren’t capacious enough for notebooks. But I always have a pen. If the muse strikes, I can usually cadge a corner of paper to make notes on.
      Dave often has his ideas when on the treadmill at the gym. He sometimes runs out of the workout room and begs pen and paper from the bemused receptionists.

  10. #24 by raizscanlon on April 1, 2013 - 12:13 am

    Thanks so much for answering my question in such a wonderful way Roz! (And inviting others to share is very helpful too).

    I think I’ll try the long hand for the beat sheet then, as I think this is one area where the “boxes” that computers literally put around things will be too limiting.

    For what it’s worth, I have a non-fiction book under way in planning stages – and that’s sitting in a pile of 3 x 5 cards and snips of paper.

    And FWIW #2, the novel above in Scrivener that I asked you about actually started in an A4 spiral notebook from Concept–>Synopsis (horrible)–>Chapters with brief note of progression–>Chapters broken down by Scenes (with brief notes for each scene).

    Then I transferred all the scenes to Scrivener, and as the process of transferring from handwritten word to computer was another chunk of my time, I decided to force myself to try writing ‘direct to screen’.

    As engridknight says above, I think there may be more naturally-anchored creativity in actually writing and for this reason and a slow typing speed I had never gone ‘straight to screen’.

    I have however witnessed others retrain themselves to be intensely creative in front of the screen and so I thought I’d give it a go – and then it was you, dear Roz, in NYN who liberated me, the man who cannot leave a mis-spelling for a micro-second without a frenzy of back-spacing and must vanquish all red-curly-underlines while writing. Yes, you said, kick that inner-perfectionist into touch while you blast out your first draft.

    So I did, and I found I was able to “lose myself” in the imagery of the story; and having the scenes already roughly sketched, made a huge difference.

    I suspect I’ll still want to being my planning & creative thinking process using pen and paper as others have said in these comments. I particularly like getting out of the house and going to a cafe to be creative, suddenly stuff spills out of my head where it won’t budge at home. Though I’ve also done this straight to iPad, so the process is clearly blurring (what an oxymoron haha)!

    Thanks again, I’m clear now that I will skim each scene and and write a beat sheet from there. I ‘get’ that this might be a return to the organic and creative elements that kicked the novel off in the first place.

    • #25 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:49 am

      My pleasure, Robert! I hadn’t really thought before about how much I still value our simplest writing tools. Delighted my writing book has made such an impact on your creative life.

  11. #26 by Laurie Evans on April 1, 2013 - 1:17 am

    I write on Scrivener, but I have loads of notes on index cards and notebooks. I’m trying to find the best method for me, which I think will be a combination of technology and index cards.

    • #27 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:53 am

      Thanks for commenting, Laurie. Sometimes it takes a while to find the way we need to work. Hooray for stationery.

  12. #28 by Wendy Van Camp on April 1, 2013 - 1:32 am

    I used to be only computer based in all aspects of my writing. I have been slowly switching back to pen and paper over the past two years. The more I incorporate paper into my creative process, the better my work seems to be. I now do my brainstorming and basic outlines in a composition notebook that is dedicated to a particular project. I write my first draft in an Alphasmart Neo, basically a digital typewriter. There is no monitor, just a few lines of text to keep my place. From there, I send the text to Scrivener where I break down the scenes and turn them into virtual index cards for shuffling and color coding. I like the searchablity and the keywords that Scriverner provides to use in the revision and editing process. So while I have not given up the computer completely, I do find that there seems to be a balance in using paper.

    Lately, I’ve been finding that more and more writers are returning to paper. A few years ago I never saw anyone with a notebook, now at least half of the writers seem to use it for note taking or general writing on the cuff. Most of the writing coaches that I speak to recommend notebooks too.

    • #29 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:56 am

      Wendy, wow a digital typewriter! I can imagine the appeal of not having a screen. Do you find that it lets you flow and imagine better? Also, there’s no chance of being distracted by the internet or emails. You have the ease of keying with total concentration. What a good idea. Thanks for commenting!

      • #30 by Wendy Van Camp on April 1, 2013 - 3:30 pm

        I find that writing on the Alphasmart Neo increases my word count a great deal. It is my go to device for rough draft writing out in coffeehouses during Nanowrimo or with my writing group. You can pick them up inexpensively on eBay for around $50 or so for a used unit. When I’m using it, I keep my iPod Touch nearby to access the net if needed, but honestly I prefer to bring a printed thesaurus and dictionary instead. Keeping the internet off is the whole point of writing away from my desktop. When I’m editing or revising, I prefer my desktop or laptop, that way I have Scrivener and other programs to help in the process. It is a balance. Paper and pen and the humble typewriter all still have a place in the writing process, at least in my humble opinion.

  13. #31 by Rosanna on April 1, 2013 - 6:42 am

    How wonderful to find someone who still writes in ink most of the time! I’m a feature writer contemplating on writing a book, but I’m stumped – couldn’t decide whether to use scrivener or notebooks. I’ve been journaling most of my adult life and the notebooks seem to be calling to me. But this is my first attempt at writing a book for adults (have written 2 books for children), so still trying to figure out how to handle the research notes and all. This post enlightened me. Thanks!

    • #32 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 1, 2013 - 8:59 am

      Thanks, Rosanna! Good luck with the transition to adult books, how exciting. Is it fiction? If you’ve been a feature writer you probably have oodles of material.

  14. #33 by Gargi Mehra on April 1, 2013 - 10:53 am

    You asked for it! Here’s a poem I penned many years ago when I first started writing:

    Writer’s Dilemma – The Keyboard or The Pen?

    With paper and pen
    I try to write
    I just can’t do it
    I give up the fight

    Switch to typing,
    Everyone said
    Your handwritten gems
    Cannot be read

    So I start to type
    And hear with ease
    The rhythmic tap
    Of the keys

    On the screen I see
    My thoughts flow
    My mind is clear
    I’m ready to go

    I finish my piece
    It reads all right
    But before I submit
    I must rewrite

    Again I sit,
    With paper and pen,
    I read it through,
    And make amends

    Now I flatter myself,
    Whether I type or write
    The result remains
    A reader’s delight!

    • #34 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:26 pm

      Gargi, you get the award for most stylish comment. Thanks for typing that all out! I especially like the line about handwritten gems🙂

      • #35 by Gargi Mehra on April 3, 2013 - 5:02 am

        Thank you! I appreciate your appreciation!

  15. #36 by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough on April 1, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    I often turn to writing in a notebook when writing on the computer is too intimidating because the ideas haven’t gelled yet. I want to try things out. I have voices starting conversations in my head and before I forget what they say, I write it down. Of course, often I can’t read it afterwards but as someone else has said already, the process of writing it down makes it stick. So I have character names, bits of conversations, descriptions, odd connections, all of which usually occurs inside a notebook before it gets typed into the computer. I can’t organize anything until after I’ve written it. Once I get about 1/3rd to halfway through a novel, maybe more, I will map it, scene by scene. Sometimes I do that in a notebook initially but it gets typed into the computer before long so I have something to refer back to for continuity or in case I want to insert something or change something earlier in the book. Everybody sounds so orderly these days, analyzing and x-raying and so forth. I write what comes to me and the more I write, the more I think about what’s going on, who is whom and why they’re doing what they’re doing. It is maybe an old-fashioned approach but I get in trouble if I try to decide who is going to do what ahead of time. If I try to boss them around, the characters stop talking to me. I usually need the notebook to coax them back.

    • #37 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:30 pm

      Elizabeth, I like that point about the computer being too formal. I think that’s why I favour those scrappy bits of paper which then become my master plan. First of all they are written in the spirit of exploration. I can throw them away if necessary and start over. Usually I don’t, but the knowledge takes away the stage fright.
      i don’t know many people who hammer away until a third to half-way, then get into the mapping, but I can see that would work well for exploring who’s who. Thanks for sharing an interesting process.

  16. #38 by Dennis Langley on April 1, 2013 - 1:26 pm

    My writer’s notebook and fountain pen gets the brunt of story ideas, character generation, flash scenes, and workshop notes. I have also found that paper in hand is my preferred method of editing and revision. Once I have the red ink on paper, I can go back and make the changes in the computer.

    • #39 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:32 pm

      A fountain pen, Dennis? You also get a style award. I love the scratch and flow of a fountain pen but am rarely organised enough to keep one freshly charged. I can also induce spontaneous haemorrhage in the best engineered pen, LOL.

      • #40 by Dennis Langley on April 2, 2013 - 4:15 pm

        A “lawyer friend”, now that’s an oxymoron, turned me on to them and I use almost nothing else. Careful of the sharp pointy end.😉

  17. #41 by Daniel R. Marvello on April 1, 2013 - 2:36 pm

    Thanks for the article, Roz. I love hearing about other writers’ process. You never know when you’ll find a new idea to improve your own process.

    I’m used to thinking into the keyboard, so I rarely use pen and paper. I guess that comes from being a software developer for 25+ years. I can type much faster than I can write. If an idea comes to me while I’m away from my keyboard, I put it down on a scratch pad and later transfer it to my computer. I do my first draft in a software program I developed myself called IdeaWeaver (very much based on the index card metaphor), but will probably move to Scrivener for my next project. My wife has been using Scrivener for her romance novel and loves it. I may take a look at StoryBox as well, because I know the developer, and I use his TrackerBox software to track my book sales data.

    The first thing I do at the start of a new project is create a beat sheet. My beat sheet is as an Excel spreadsheet, which suppresses the flying fingers problem. My columns include Chapter, Beat, POV, Scene Title, Scene Description, Timeline, and Word Count. The beat sheet helps me keep a handle on the big picture throughout my drafting process.

    I do fall back on paper when it comes to drawings though. I like to draw floor plans and scene maps to help me envision the space the characters move through. Occasionally, I scan a drawing and clean it up in Photoshop, or redraw it with a vector drawing program. Usually though, I just 3-hole punch the drawings and add them to my loose-leaf notebook.

    The only phase of my writing that still goes to paper is the final proofreading pass. I proof better in print than on the computer screen for some reason. I’ve also discovered that reading the book aloud helps me find awkward phrasing and missing words, and having a print copy means I can take the manuscript where no one else has to hear me speak it.

    • #42 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:37 pm

      Hi Daniel! Love that phrase ‘thinking into the keyboard’… And trust you to have written your own software for noveling.
      I’d never thought of floorplans and maps, although I’ve used photos to orient me in my characters’ world. I’m impressed that you clean it up in Photoshop. Does this mean you’re a Belbin completer-finisher type?

    • #43 by Daniel R. Marvello on April 2, 2013 - 4:44 pm

      Thanks for the lead on Belbin Team Roles. Now I have a new tool for character development!

      I’d say I’m mostly an Implementer, although I could pinch-hit as a Monitor Evaluator. In Meyers-Briggs terms, I’m an INTJ. As for cleaning up drawings in Photoshop, I only do that when I plan to publish the drawing on my blog.

  18. #44 by writejenwrite on April 1, 2013 - 5:21 pm

    I absolutely LOVE Scrivener, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world, but… there are times when writing out in longhand is absolutely necessary for me. I find when I’m in outlining/brainstorming mode, I need the physical motion of writing it out. There’s something about connecting my hand to pen, pen to paper, that makes my brain work in a very different way than it does when it’s working away in front of a computer.

    I also find that if I’m blocked in a scene, switching to pen and paper does wonders.

    When I put together my beat sheet (ala Nail Your Novel), there was no thinking twice about doing this in long hand. I got myself one of those large stickie pads and thick markers and outlined every scene. I may have sniffed a bit too much of those marker ink fumes, but what resulted was a brilliant road map for me to follow in the revision process. I couldn’t have gotten this far in my revision without handwriting all of that out.

    • #45 by Robert on April 1, 2013 - 10:39 pm

      That’s super helpful to me writejenwrite! It confirms what I was asking Roz (and maybe shying away from) which was moving back from Scrivener (which I also LOVE) to pen & paper to make the beat sheet.

      It seems this will surely be the most helpful way and I’m glad Roz asked everyone the question🙂

    • #46 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:39 pm

      Hi Jen! It’s interesting that you switch to pen when blocked. If I get stuck, I get scraps of paper and scribble pros and cons of what I had intended the characters to do. It’s like working through a mathematical problem. After a few lists I get clarity again.
      Or maybe it’s the pen fumes…

  19. #47 by cydmadsen on April 2, 2013 - 12:56 am

    Paper, paper, paper! I’ve tried every bit of software and app, but nothing works like hand-to-eye coordination. I’ve had multiple surgeries on my hands and wrists so I can continue working this way (yar! Frankenhand!) I do write first drafts on the computer, but that is always printed out for edits. Now that I’ve firmly planted myself writing film and TV, I’m back to butcher paper tacked to the wall around three walls of the room and everything tracked with colored markers. I have to see it. But I’ve also found writing everything in Final Draft invaluable, even prose. There’s a playback feature that reads the script or manuscript in that artificial, digital voice. If a logline or anything critical doesn’t transcend that dull voice, then I’ve got to get going and make it tougher, leaner, and more engaging.

    • #48 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:44 pm

      Hi Cyd! Wow, would love to see a picture of your study with its walls decorated with story. Trouble is, the surprises would be spoiled (which is why I blurred that beat sheet picture). I’ve heard that some people use the Kindle read-aloud facility to proof their work. Still trying to get my Kindle to speak to me….

  20. #49 by Minuscule Moments on April 2, 2013 - 6:23 am

    Wow I thought I was the only one who used paper, note books lists and hand written ideas. I have all the writing apps but like you I seem to focus better when I get my pens and red markers out. Loved the post

    • #50 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:45 pm

      Thanks! I’m surprised by how many people still use paper, especially in this age of Scrivener, Evernote and apps galore. Thanks for commenting!

  21. #51 by Dave Hitt on April 2, 2013 - 3:15 pm

    I can’t keep track of notebooks, so I have a Scrivner project for random ideas and one liners. There’s a blog section, a podcast section, and a section for odds and ends. I’ll often cut and paste a facebook post into it.

    If one of the sections becomes, say, a blog article, I move it to the published section, or, more often, the trash can.

    When I get a random idea, instead of jotting it down on a piece of paper that will get lost, I record it on my phone. Every once in a while I listen to those recordings and put them in the random ideas Scrivner project.

    As much as I like writing with pen and paper, I usually end up with an undecipherable mess. Revisions and clarifications are a PITA, and then I’ve got to put it on the computer anyway. However, I do like printing out a project on paper and using a pen to make revisions, that I’ll then go back and fix on the computer.

    • #52 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 2, 2013 - 3:49 pm

      That’s a good idea, using Scrivener as an ideas bank. I put post ideas on a page in my notebook, then enjoy putting a pen firmly through them once they’re done.
      I forgot another kind of paper-based proofing I do. Once I’ve fiddled with a book to the point where I can’t see any more changes to make, I print a Lulu copy. Either Dave reads it or I read it out loud to him. Lulu paperbacks are cheaper than printing from the computer. And the paper feels nice to write on too!

  22. #53 by Adam A. Haviaras on April 13, 2013 - 2:25 pm

    Great post, Roz!
    For myself, I usually write my first draft long hand in notebooks mainly due to the ease of carrying them around on the subway and at work etc. etc. I like it because when I type it all out, I’m already working on my second draft. I also like to be able to jot notes and ideas down quickly in the margins etc.
    Cheers!

    • #54 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on April 13, 2013 - 2:34 pm

      And cheers to you, Adam! What you describe is the way I wrote my very first attempt at a novel. It was a rather bad attempt at sci-fi. I scribbled in schoolbooks longhand, then transferred to my typewriter, editing as I went. Actually I rather enjoyed the process of making it better as I transcribed the scribble.
      Thanks for commenting. I love the name of your blog – for those who might not be able to see, it’s called Writing the Past.

  23. #55 by mandilynnwrites on April 16, 2013 - 4:03 pm

    Everything I brainstorm is in written form. I outline with a poster board and make notes in a spas rate notebook. I use my computer to save different websites that I use for research, but for the most part I like to keep everything except the novel written in a brainstorming notebook.

  24. #57 by Jessica on April 24, 2013 - 10:31 am

    I totally agree with your list. I’d also add that I have to edit my manuscript with a print out and coloured pens. I have to feel like I can scribble all over my work. Editing on the computer doesn’t let me see where I’ve come from with what I’ve edited away.

    I also find that when I’m struggling to write, switching to pen and paper can really help with my flow and get the words moving again.

    So glad I’m not the only writer who can’t give up the pen and pencil.

    • #58 by rozmorris @NailYourNovel @ByRozMorris on April 24, 2013 - 4:33 pm

      Jessica, I forgot to mention editing. When I think I’ve done as much as humanly possible to my manuscript, I make a rough paperback on Lulu and give it to my husband. Or I read it to him out loud. He is a ruthless critic, as I am to him. We then proceed to scrawl all over the paperback.
      I like your point about seeing what was there before. Often we need to keep hold of the heart in the original words. I copy scenes before I attack them, so I can look at the way I originally envisaged them.

      • #59 by Jessica on April 25, 2013 - 2:01 am

        I never thought of having a rough paperback printed. I’ll have to give that a try someday! Part of me thinks I’d forget to edit and just go to jelly holding it in my hands. But you have to try everything at least once!😀

  25. #60 by angelabooth on April 29, 2013 - 3:01 am

    Reblogged this on Angela's Hub On WordPress and commented:
    Wonderful ideas in this article. It makes me feel much better about my fountain pen and colored inks habit.🙂

  26. #61 by Peadar O'meachair on May 22, 2013 - 11:04 am

    i get the impression that it’s the looking at the screen that is the main problem… like it puts your brain into a certain mode that’s not very conducive to the writing process – and that when you’re coming up with the good stuff you need to have your eyes closed or be walking or talking to yourself, daydreaming or something – not looking at a screen

    • #62 by rozmorris @NailYourNovel @ByRozMorris on May 22, 2013 - 8:49 pm

      Peadar, you might be right about the brain modes. Perhaps the computer encourages us to be too perfectionist and judgemental. That’s why I leave the wrong spellings and mistypings, because I’m telling my critical half to take the day off.

  27. #63 by Cassie on March 12, 2014 - 11:31 am

    I love the feel of a good pen & just writing. Some women love shoes, I collect pens – fountain, felt, ballpoints, you name it. I love Scrivener & composition notebooks. I use them equally & more around convieience when traveling & doing my ‘day job’. I end up in Scrivener mostly & I love the notebook feel of it. So I guess you could call me ambidextrous for using both.

    • #64 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 12, 2014 - 8:59 pm

      Fountain pens? Oh heavens, Cassie, you might start a craze. They’re so elegant.
      Basically, I’m up for any excuse to go shopping for a beautiful thing. When I bought my notebook computer I spent many happy hours browsing the leatherwork I could wrap it in.

  28. #65 by KenB on April 24, 2014 - 5:31 am

    I agree with Cassie. Fountain pens filled from a blue glass bottle—yes. Tactile sensations are nice. For me it’s about my output keeping up with my brain. When my story is flowing, I prefer the speed of a keyboard. It really disappears and I can close my eyes and forget about how it gets out of my fingers. To me, tools are just tools—a means to an end. I’ve been using Scrivener since the first version. It was created by a writer with suggestions from well published writers and it shows when using it. I can take notes in my iPhone and dump them back into Scrivener. Roz, the colors can be changed in the note cards based on setting, POV, as you mentioned. Thanks for your tips.

    • #66 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2014 - 6:07 am

      ‘Fountain pens filled froma blue glass bottle…’ Oh divine luxury, Ken! I know what you mean about the keying speed. For drafting, a keyboard is essential for me too. But my thoughts run away with me, so if I’m to make concise notes a keyboard is fatal. it’s like having a piano to lose myself in (your disappearing keyboard!)
      I love talking about these differences. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Top Picks Thursday 04-04-2013 | The Author Chronicles
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