Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Long Road Home

Once upon a time I was a prolific writer. My boys were 2.5 and under but slept good enough that between nap time and night time, I got quite a bit of writing done. Flash forward a few years later, life, my daughter's arrival and other changes have slowed my writing down. Too much, some might say. Okay, I say. :) But the one thing that's been consistent about my writing process is my desire to write by hand. Huge parts of every book I've written (with the exception of Call Me Cupid I think) have been done longhand.

Unfortunately, writers can sometimes get hung up on their writing process. Ever since I started writing I've been extremely curious about how other writers get the words on the page, so much so that along the way I've lost hours to researching that, hunting for tips and tricks to improve my own productivity.

If you're a writing newbie or just frequent your favorite author's websites, then you've probably heard most of them say "What works for me, won't necessarily work for you". But how often does that stop you from switching things up to see if their process might help you streamline your own? I've tried just about every process out there at one time or another. In the beginning I favored index cards, lots and lots of index cards. Then I dabbled with skipping the plotting in advance and just writing by the seat of my pants ( which didn't work well for me at all). I've tried programs like Scrivener (which if I wasn't such a pen and paper junkie, I would probably use more) and WriteWay Pro. I've used Write or Die and tried writing sprints like 1k1hr via Twitter.

But the one thing that has always been consistently part of my process is writing by hand at some point, whether it's drafting the scene I'm going to write in advance or actually putting the words down on paper exactly how they're playing out in my head. The worse part though is when I write a scene or two by hand, then tell myself I should type it and try to continue writing on my laptop, only to reach for a notebook again and again and again.

The problem is that because of my on again-off again obsession with my writing process, I always give myself a hard time about writing by hand: it's too slow, doubles my work load, involves a ton of typing at the end, I could be way more prolific if I didn't, most of my writing friends don't need to write by hand so why should I?

Because it all comes back to that author point about doing what works for you.

I'm done arguing with myself about which way is faster, which way is more productive or works for my friends. Writing my first draft by hand works for me, and the moment I accepted that, believe it or not my daily word count actually increased. And here's why:

- I spend less time staring at the blank page. Writing by hand opens my creative side more easily and it takes a lot less time for the words to start flowing.

- I can write for longer periods of time. Without a little word count button to hit, I stay more focused on the scene and characters than how many words I've written so far.

- I don't have to worry about extended periods of glare from laptop screen triggering migraines, which has been a recurring issue for me.

- My posture is better. I have a bad habit of slouching slightly when I'm at the keyboard (not to mention occasional flare-ups of carpal tunnel) so my shoulder muscles are less aggravated when I'm writing by hand.

- Writing a little slower (versus typing which I can do more quickly) gives me just a little more time to think through an action/dialogue/plot point to know if it works. I cross out far less by hand than when I'm typing and use the delete key. My solid first drafts by hand take far less editing and revising.

For the writers out there: Have you had periods where you obsessed about your writing process? How does your writing process work? Do you write by hand, use things like #1k1hr to help you get the words down?

For the readers: Do you visit your favorite author's website, curious about how they write their books? Or are you tempted to dig out your voodoo dolls to keep an author properly motivated to finish the books you're already dying to read?


Erin Nicholas said...

I write by hand at some point in every book. Usually it's either when I get stuck and need to "shake things loose" or when it's not practical to pull the laptop out but I have ideas and time (ie, on the plane... I HATE writing on my laptop on airplanes). So, I get it. I also understand the hating the typing part after the hand writing :) But I've found that I can edit a little as I do that, so the scene ends up cleaner.

Bottom line, you have to do whatever it takes to get the words down. And I, for one, am happy to have your words on the page-- however they get there-- Syd! :)

Sydney Somers said...

Thanks, Erin! I also find editing as I type helps break up the monotony of inputting it.

kris said...

Let's see ... I plot, I plan, I write out notes upon notes by hand, I Write or Die, I index card, I whiteboard, I curse at the computer, and sometimes I even sit calmly in front of the screen and get some words in place. But just once in a while :-)

Sydney Somers said...

LOL Kris! It's crazy what we do to ourselves just to make the words come out, but whatever works. :)