Writing Novels by Hand

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you likely know that I’m a bit of an old hat when it comes to how I do most things. Obviously I’m not completely against technology – I am writing a blog post here, after all – but I do prefer to do most things the old fashioned way. Pens, books, paper – I love it all. 

Most of you are also aware of my non-fiction writing life. The life that I call my “money making” side of the day, in that while I’m interested in most of the things I write about, it’s mostly to make money. That isn’t to say I don’t plan on making money from the fiction side of my writing, it’s just that it won’t be as immediate and I’ve only just started in on exploring that side of my creative self. 

But yesterday I was working on my novel and my friend says, with a laugh, “Surely you’re not going to write that with a quill pen by candlelight, are you?” 

Not by candlelight, and sadly I don’t have a quill pen, but yes, I do plan to write most of it by hand. 

[Room for the gasp.]

So why on this green earth would I ever want to write a novel by hand? Because, quite frankly, my creative juices flow better when I’m not staring at a glaring white screen. I find pen and paper to be more inviting, easier to work with, softer, and the action of looping letters to be more conducive to the creative muse. Even with non-fiction I prefer to work from books and write by hand before typing up and submitting my work. 

But if this description isn’t convincing enough for you, you might be interested to know that many popular authors still write by hand, as well. Most notably J.K. Rowling. 

Still nothing? Alright then. Here are my reasons for writing by hand, with a pen, on paper, and – where applicable – from book references. 

Battery Life is Awesome

Indefinite, actually. In fact, not once have I ever had a book die on me. I’ve never had a pen suddenly decide to lose power. And if it runs out of ink? I’m always packing. Pens. Literally a pack of pens. The same kind per project, also – it’s a quirk. 

Much Lighter a Load

Do you know what a hassle it is to have to pick up a laptop back every time I want to go to Starbucks and write? It’s obnoxious. I feel like I’m packing for a camping trip even if I’m only going to be gone for a few hours. Or eight. Whatever. The point is it’s much easier to carry around a pen and a notebook than it is to carry around my laptop and charger…speaking of which…

No Outlet, No Problem

Starbucks has gotten a lot better at providing outlets nearly everywhere for its ever-so-tech-savvy clientele. But it’s really frustrating to have to rush to the outlet every time I want to write. Fortunately with a pen and paper I’ve never once had to reduce my writing space to the corner table, barely suitable for one person even though it has two chairs tucked under it, to use the outlet. I simply open up my notebook, click the pen, and get going. 

Portability Rules

Not only is it lighter to carry around, it’s actually portable and I can carry it around – paper and pens, that is. I always have my notebook and pens with me, and if an idea strikes me in the DMV line, or while waiting for a friend, or anywhere else, I can always pull out my notebook and jot it down. I don’t have to pull out my laptop, open it, wait for it to come on, wait for it to load, find the program….forget it. 

No Prying Eyes

I’m a control freak – I know this. So the last thing I want when I’m writing anything, let alone fiction, is to have someone staring at my computer screen. Trying to avoid this means not only do I have to seek out the one corner table with no room that’s almost conveniently located by an outlet, but that still requires a bit of maneuvering to get to, I now have to find the one where nobody will be around to peer over my shoulder and be a snoop. Result? I end up at that dank table by the restroom everyone tries to avoid. With a pen and paper I don’t have to worry about it, and even if someone tries to be snoopy there’s far less of a chance they’ll be able to read what I have down on my paper, anyway. 

Freedom

Writing – be it fiction or non-fiction – when done mainly for online venues can be extremely limiting. If you’re trying to grasp at the available orders on content mills, chances are you’re staring at a screen, typing into a text box about stuff you don’t really care about, trying to meet a deadline, dealing with stupid questions and “edits” about grammar rules you’ve supposedly broken but didn’t really, and feeling – shocker – like you’re at another day job. 

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t quit a corporate job where people dictated my time to pick up a job from home where people dictated my time. Sure, eventually if you go the traditional publishing route you’ll have deadlines – but that’s different. If you’re locked to your computer, think about why. Are you going after only the “pays right now and is guaranteed” work? Take a chance on the work you get to dictate the specifics of, that has a chance to pay you way more, but that perhaps doesn’t feel so secure. 

Nothing is secure. Textbroker recently downgraded me from a level 4, where I’ve been writing for over a year, to a level 3 for completely stupid reasons, as I outlined in my last post. I thought Textbroker was a “sure thing” when I needed fast cash. Now I don’t even have access to orders I would normally take, just because of the order my articles were reviewed in and even though the clients were extremely happy. 

But back to the topic at hand – I like to write with a pen and paper and get information from books because I know that if I’m doing that I’m free. If I have to log in somewhere to work and earn money, I’d rather be getting paid hourly for it at a corporate job. Sure I need to use a computer for my job. I do second drafts of fiction on my computer – sometimes first if I’m on idea overload, but rarely – and I have to type up and submit articles I’ve written for Constant Content and perhaps books I’ve finished for the Kindle at the end of the day. 

But that’s a far cry from being chained. 

For me, books, pens, and paper mean freedom – from outlets, from chargers, from people dictating what I write about and when, from the race to get the only three decent paying articles available, from having my livelihood ripped from under me because I thought something was “secure”, from timelines, from the computer screen – it means I can be me. I can write what I want, about what I want, where I want, whenever I want. And get paid for it. 

It might pay later, and waiting might be inconvenient especially if you’re just starting out or have drastically changed your business plan recently (like I have). But it almost always pays much better. 

For me, if it means waiting a couple of weeks to get a way bigger paycheck and there’s less of a rat race in between, it’s worth it. Stressful sometimes, but worth it. 

On the other hand, if you feel free carrying a laptop everywhere, or you have awesome battery life, or your creative juices just flow better on a computer, go for it. But if your life starts to feel like corporate America with less financial reward, start to ask yourself how much of what you’re doing could be done if your internet access went out. 

I think that sometimes going back to “old fashioned” means of writing does the mind and career some good. Being able to write what you want, submit it, and let people buy it as they will is freeing. But more than that, as I’ve said before, I believe that writing with a pen on paper forces you to slow down and consider your words. In short, it makes you a better writer. So even if it’s just one writing exercise a day in the morning where you write it instead of type it, I would encourage you to do so. 

Here’s a fun challenge for you. Find a photo you think is beautiful. (Yes, it can be online.) Look at that photo and type a description. Now look at another photo, or that photo if you like, and write it down on paper. Compare the quality of both descriptions. Which one is better? 

Tell us how your experiment went below!

And until next time, happy writing!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m with you. I LOVE writing in my notebooks. Just feels better.

    1. courtneyherz says:

      I feel the same way! 🙂 Staring at a glowing screen with “clackity clack clack” keys is just annoying to me. The exception is when I write science fiction and technical things, because it gives the clinical feel I’m looking for. But for most other things I write, no way. If I have a moment where my hand can’t keep up with my brain, I’ll type it out, but it usually requires extensive editing haha. Just something about a pen and notebook you can’t beat. 😀

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