I’ve been meaning to do a few blog posts that look at the writing process, so I thought I’d start this series of Writer’s Room posts with my latest writing experiment – pen and paper.
I’m currently working on a short story for a collaborative short story collection and I must be on the fifth or sixth draft by now… I’ve lost count. It’s called The Flood and it explores a number of different themes, but primarily it sets out to look at the connection between rain and memory. I’ve always thought that rain has very strong associations in my mind with particular events or times in my life and I wanted to write a story that explored that connection. It hasn’t been going too well though because my trusty editor keeps sending back my drafts with the same comment – I’m rushing through things and I need to elaborate more.
I decided part of the problem is that I’ve been writing on a laptop. I’m able to type faster than I can properly form a sentence, so when I get going I don’t take the time to carefully craft my writing. That’s probably fine for the first draft, but at this point I need every word to add to the narrative and I want to have a final, polished piece.
The other problem with a laptop, of course, is the constant distraction that is the internet. So, I decided to turn off my laptop and give the old tried and tested pen and paper method a go.
For the past few days I’ve been writing away in my notepad and I think the experiment is paying off. My story isn’t quite there yet – I’m just going over the first handwritten draft with a red pen – but it’s much longer than any previous draft I’ve written. The act of writing by hand is much slower than typing and that slower pace seems to give the writing time to breath. It also gives me time to think. I’ve found myself pausing if I’m not sure what word to use next, instead of bashing out the first thing that comes to mind on the keyboard. I’ve done a lot of scribbling out and editing as I go along, something I don’t really do when I’m writing on my laptop. It’s as though the extra effort of writing by hand gives each word added value.
It has also been a much more relaxing experience. Without emails and Twitter to break up the process I’ve been able to focus wholly on the writing and it has become much more therapeutic as a result. Also, instead of reading a blog post or article when I get stuck for ideas I’ve been pausing to look out of the window, which is much more illuminating than The Guardian online has ever been.
I’m not advocating all writers throw out their laptops and after the second paper draft I’ll probably have to return to mine – I’m not sure my editor has time to wait for my story in the post! You’ve probably also noticed that I didn’t write this blog post with paper and pen. However, I think I might be using it more in the future and I’d recommend giving it a go if you’re struggling with a piece of writing.
There is one downsides though – hand cramps!