Thursday, June 28, 2007

Laptop, Desktop, Typewriter, Pen or Something Else?

So, how do you write your drafts? And why do you it that way? My first book was written on my first computer. This is not a coincidence. Without modern writing tools and the ability to freely move paragraphs around and make corrections I probably wouldn't be a writer. I love the freedom to change my mind.

In fact freedom is generally important to me in writing. My first book was written on a generation one MacIntosh which I could easily pick up and move around the apartment to suit my current whim. Much of it was written with my feet up on the couch, the keyboard in my lap, and the computer off to my right on the coffee table. Terrible ergonomics, but ideal for my thinking process.

Now I do all my writing on a laptop and I have for as long as I've been able to afford one. This means I can write on the porch, at the coffee shop, in bed, sitting in the corner under a stairwell at one of my wife's physics conferences, even tucked away behind a display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and I've written happily in all those places.

On the other hand, I know people who draft long hand with a pen, on an actual typewriter, using voice recognition software, or dictating into a tape recorder while walking in the mountains. Everyone does it differently and we all have our reasons. The only thing that really matters is that the writing actually gets done.

So, what about you? I'm endlessly fascinated about the way writers work and their reasons for doing it the way they do it.


Anonymous said...

Until recently (back in February), I wrote entirely longhand. I've had to teach myself how to write on my laptop - and I must say I've done well. :D It saves a ton of time, too.

From my blog and elsewhere (from January):

I write totally out of order. I write whatever scene, chapter, vignette, etc, is in my head at a given time. And I’m one of those weirdos who writes longhand, to boot.

After I write everything down for today, it goes in the “to be typed pile” for tomorrow. Then, I take the completed chapter printouts (and only after the chapters are “completed”) and put them in page protectors in a 3″ binder. This becomes my “working copy” where I can scribble notes, ask myself questions, write more information/scenes/dialogue etc in the margins or on the backs of the sheets.

The revised, completed copy I make from that “mess” becomes the “readers draft” which goes out to my first readers.

Anonymous said...

My first drafts are always in pencil, on notebook paper or sometimes scraps -- I recently wrote the big points of a new plot in a puzzle book, actually, around an anagram magic square puzzle, along with bits of dialogue and narrative. Changes & mistakes in the pencil draft are always marked out with a line-through, never erased.

When I start to stall out for momentum, I type up the chaos of pencil notes into an organized, linear word processing document. At that point I rearrange a little and do some editing, but have learned not to overdo because that creates more work for me later. I do print out what I've typed but I try to resist messing with it; my own sentences will echo in my head, though, when they're not right, so sometimes I have to get out of the shower and hustle toward a printed draft to change a word or write down something I want to be sure to remember later.

I finish a piece going back and forth this way. Once the whole of the story is written, I work off the minor pencil edits from my earlier printed drafts, then print the whole file, then pick up the pencil again and take editing on as a major task. The result of that becomes my "readers' draft".

Anonymous said...

sometimes I have to get out of the shower and hustle toward a printed draft to change a word or write down something I want to be sure to remember later.

I do that! I've also been known to commandeer pens and napkins at restaurants or to dash into shops at the mall and ask for a slip of cash register tape to scribble on. Although I try not to be without pen and paper, it happens. :(

Erik Buchanan said...

My ideas I write down on whatever comes to hand, and like you, I was once caught without and had to ask for a slip of paper and a pen. In a bookstore, no less. Became the plot of my third novel (The King Below, and I've got to start editing the damn thing next week).

Actual writing I do on my computer, preferably locked in an office somewhere, though I have been known to write anywhere the fancy takes me, if I need to get the idea down.

Kelly McCullough said...

I've never had to drag my butt out of the shower, but I wake up in the middle of the night or too-damn-early in the morning all the time. Oy. Then I crawl out of bed and head for the laptop. The only time I make notes on anything else is if I don't have it with me. Then it's on my palm.

Kelly Swails said...

I'm a laptop girl all the way. I can type way faster than I can write, and I love the flexiblity and freedom of a laptop. Not feeling it in the office? Write in the kitchen! Dirty dishes distracting you? Go to the Friendly Independant Bookstore! Going away for the weekend? No problem!

My earliest short stories that I wrote as a teenager sprang to life on an electric typewriter.

Usually I have a pen/paper handy for out-of-nowhere ideas, but if I'm missing those, Ken is usually a pretty handy palm-pilot. He'll at least be able to jog my memory enough so I can find the kernal of info I wanted to remember.

Anonymous said...

The first "practice" novel I wrote I typed, saving the thing to a jump drive and taking it from home to work and other places that had computers to work on.

The current hopefully not practice novel, is all going by longhand so far. It started that way and it's hard to switch now that I'm in to it. Longhand makes it take way more time, but I erase more (more than I think I backspaced during the first one) and I hoping I get a better first draft because of it.

Kelly McCullough said...

Y, I heart my laptop.

Word Nerd, is it the visceral pleasure of using a pen that got you started down that road? The more careful pace? Accident turned method. I know a couple of folks who go the pen route, and they've had very different reasons.

Michael Merriam said...

As with most things, it depends.

I typically write short fiction longhand in my notebook. I can write by hand faster than I type. The one big problems is, because I'm visually impaired, I sometimes have a rough time transcribing.

I carry a microcassette recorder around with so I can make notes or talk myself through scenes when I'm walking to the store or riding the bus.

When I work on a novel, I work on the laptop. I love the freedom to move lines, paragraphs, and whole chapters around it needed. I love the ability cut something out and save it to a holding document in case I want it later. And I love being able to work wherever I want. I hate working at a desk. I lay on the floor, sit on the patio, curl up in bed, go to coffee shop and parks. That mobility keeps my mind fresh and working

I'm slowly learning to write short fiction this way as well.

Poetry always stars out longhand in the notebook. Always. It doesn't get typed into the laptop until the final draft.

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