How do you write your manuscript?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

We received a question via email from John in Canada. He asks: “I have read that writing with a pen is “better” than typing when it comes to this mysterious quality feature. But the old fashioned technique of course suffers from an efficiency standpoint. It’s best to have it digitally recorded for editing and updating. I’ve also been told to read my work out loud to myself. I do read work to a group, and I feel the benefits. I’m wondering if any of your writers, or if you know of any, that write with a pen then read their work out loud with a tool like Dragon to record it. This “workflow” seems to accomplish much: establishes that writer-paper relationship with the pen and slows down the writing, all to increase quality. It adds reading out loud, a proven editing technique, and the digital recording just happens.”

John, I do know of a few authors who write difficult sections of their manuscripts by hand and then type it after they feel they’ve written what they want to. I’ve heard that changing the method of writing by getting away from a computer can help an author to conquer writer’s block. I don’t think any Books & Such clients write manuscripts completely by hand, but I do think it is true that writing by hand can improve quality because it does force the writer to slow down. It’s just not the way of the world these days though and it would be so time consuming to write that way. The improvements that could be made aren’t likely to be significant enough to be worth the extra work in most cases either.

I am a firm believer in an author reading a book out loud after it is complete. You can catch so many mistakes that way! I encourage all of you to leave enough time before your deadline to take the time to read your book out loud.

This topic makes me think of Jane Austen and I’ve pondered this before.  I love Jane’s works so I have wished that she had access to a computer so she could have written more than six complete books in her lifetime. But if she had a computer would the books have turned out as well? I don’t think they would have, but there’s no way to know for sure.

I don’t know of any authors who use voice recognition software to write books, but we can ask our blog readers. Do any of you use voice recognition software like Dragon?

And I’ll end with a little note on something related to this topic: If you do write your books by hand, you will need to type them after. Agencies and publishers do not accept handwritten projects.

Here are a few other questions for our readers:

Is there an author you wish could have written more before he or she died?

Do you think that writing by hand improves quality in any way?

Do you ever write parts of your book by hand?

FYI: If any of you has a question you would like for us to answer on the blog, feel free to send them to representation @ booksandsuch.com (be sure to remove the spaces). Thank you!

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118 Comments

  • Navdeep Kaur says:

    I always find myself turning to pen and paper when I just can’t think. Usually I will write a few sentences before going back to my laptop–to which I am attached like a mother Kangaroo.

    Otherwise, I just can’t write by hand for too long. I am so out of practice that after a couple of sentences, my hand is completely yelling at me to stop the torture. I had a professor who forced us to write by hand before word processing any assignments, but it was easier for me to start by typing and revert to paper-pen if needed. I guess it depends on how you train your mind and body.

    I do need to read my manuscript aloud in order to really understand what I have written and grasp the typos that I so often glance over. Though I rely on my voice for proofreading, I would not trust voice recognition software. It feels that when we write, our ideas are being noted and are traceable, but when we speak, the words are captured into that simply cannot be translated into readable work.

  • I may or may not know someone who helped a bit with Dragon. Maybe. Or not.
    But when I acquired it, I was annoyed at the time it took to set everything up. Something about attention spans and children talking to me while I was trying, over and over, to get things up and running. “Who are you talking to, Mommy?” followed by the sound of me slapping my forehead and saying “shhhhh” do not a successful experience make.

    No, I write very little by hand, only grocery lists. I have arthritis in both hands, and it is far too painful to write. And yet, I can play with power tools, God is good. But gripping a pen or pencil is pure suffering after about 5 minutes. Imagine needles up each finger. Thank the Lord for keyboards.

    I can think of many authors I’d have like to heard more from, but since my son’s project is on the computer, it sure would have been nice if the world could have read about Anne Frank going home.

  • Michelle Ule says:

    I had a similar problem with Dragon, along with others, when I bought the program several years ago.

    I hope it has been improved since then.

    1. You have to speak like a GPS to “train” it well to recognize your voice and patterns of speech.

    I’ve been reading aloud for 32 years. I simply could not train myself well enough to read it without inflection.

    2. It took me 45 minutes to dictate three paragraphs riddled with errors. I type 120 words a minute. It took me three minutes to correct those paragraphs I originally could have typed in about five.

    3. While I resonate with Rachel’s comment about the value of slowing down, such a rate of dictating won’t work for me right now.

    4. We need to physically write however it works best for us. Hearing a Kindle read our projects out loud can be helpful, but reading it aloud ourselves is best.

    5.I find it helpful to print out the full manuscript and attack it with pencil. It’s amazing to find so many errors when the words simply look different on a page. I also send it to my Kindle and read it that way–same situation, the words look different when they appear in a book font/format. In my case, I move back and forth between Kindle and computer, making corrections as I see them.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Jill Kemerer says:

      Michelle, I love this advice, since it’s my process too–about reading it out loud AND printing it. I like to change the fonts and spacing. I catch more mistakes that way!

    • I do the same thing, Michelle. I print out a copy of my MS and make it bleed. :) You should so see my first MS draft. There’s more red splattered on those pages than blood in a horror film. lol

      I also have been reading my MS on my e-reader for the final edits. It’s interesting what your editor’s eye catches in different formats. I have caught different errors on the computer, print and e-reader.

      I now have editing stages set when I use all of these tools. Gotta love technology! lol

      Merry Christmas Michelle!

    • For some odd reason, I’m scared to print mine out. Beats me why. And if I read mine to myself, one of us is going to correct the other’s English accents and Navajo pronunciation. And there is no way on earth the hubs will read it to me. I’d spend hours explaining things to him. I can hear him now “How does somebody just swing up onto a horse? Who does that? And why would she swoon if he recites Byron? Who is Byron?”
      Maybe I will print it out…it’ll be like a dare!
      I need to get out more.

      Merry Christmas Michelle!!

    • Michelle, I agree on the value of printing out the draft and then going through with pencil or red pen making corrections. I can do it while traveling in the car (as a passenger, of course)to make use of my time. Alsoc,it is easier on the eyes than working for long periods at the computer.

      Merry Christmas to you, too, and a happy new year writing!

  • Lisa says:

    I write everything by hand first for my work in progress. Sometimes multiple drafts before I type it in. I’m getting better at revising on the computer. But for some reason words flow from my mind to the written page with much more ease.

    I don’t do this with anything else. But my stories, come in this way. Efficient it is not :)

  • Anne Love says:

    Great topic Rachel!
    I started writing my first WIP13 years ago. I had never used anything but a typewriter to write in college. So, my experience was years of handwritten papers, later typed carefully so as not to overuse the correction tape. Dating myself here, I know!

    I started writing my first WIP all by hand, but in 2000 I went back to grad school. I clearly remember my husband pressuring me “honey, you will just have to FORCE yourself to write straight onto the computer!” I had dragged my feet saying my brain just didn’t think onto the screen, only on the paper. But, he was SO right!

    I painstakingly transcribed the whole MS onto my desktop, editing as I went. Now days, I write straight onto my laptop. I can type fast. I close my eyes to type. Might sound funny, but my piano teacher always told me you don’t need to look at the keyboard to know the keys–your fingers and your mind know them. I find that when I close my eyes, I use a different part of my brain. I like to believe that!

    I’ve also heard that walking and talking out loud to yourself, through a rough patch in your WIP can help writer’s block.

    Dragon? Ick!! I have access to use it at work to dictate and I wholeheartedly agree with Michelle! I get reports from doctors who use Dragon and they are terrible to read!! Scary, I know. I’ve called a few of them back to say–“did you realize your report actually says…..”

    Authors: I’ve heard that Laura Frantz writes her WIP by hand first. I’m not sure if it’s true, or if it’s only partially done on paper?

    • Jill Kemerer says:

      You’re my hero, Anne. I can only imagine writing out an entire book by hand!!

      • Anne Love says:

        It was an exercise in putting pen to page. I didn’t know I could do it. Now I know. That was huge for me! :) So, I say when you’re starting out, do what’s natural. But grow, don’t stay there. Push yourself!

    • I wanna know what the reports said!!
      It’s funny you said your brain doesn’t think onto the screen, I’m the opposite. I need the words in front of me, all neat and tidy. And legible.

    • Navdeep Kaur says:

      I remember when I wrote my first manuscript. I was around 13 or 14 years old. I would come home from school, drop my backpack and run to my old-school computer to type away until I was forced to eat dinner by my parents. 222 pages. And then I deleted it because I didn’t think it was good enough. :(

      I guess that’s why I think on the computer now. I diagram, plot, draw, and take notes on paper. But my narrative comes to life on the screen.

      • Anne Love says:

        Don’t delete it though! I same rejected scenes. I might decide to recycle them into the next WIP.

      • Navdeep Kaur says:

        I wish I hadn’t. I was only a teenager and didn’t think of actually becoming a serious writer until many years after that first manuscript. I got frustrated with all the plots that the story began to generate. But I did begin re-writing that same story during NaNoWriMo. Let’s see where it goes now. :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I’m not sure if Laura does that or not. Somehow I doubt it, but she might write parts by hand.

    • Laura Frantz says:

      I do write all my manuscripts by hand. Bless you for remembering that:) I simply think better on paper and always have. Plus those legal pads never suffer from DELETE like my laptop…!

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    I rely on my laptop for almost everything! Gripping a pencil or pen gets painful for me after five minutes. In fact, my worst grades in elementary school were for penmanship–try as I might, I could not grip that pencil properly!

    I do scribble scene notes before each writing session, though.

    My revising process echoes Michelle’s. I do a few passes with my computer, but I always read out loud and print the book too. Those are my final revisions.

    However, one thing I’m not always great at–reading out loud and re-printing if the final product needs subsequent revisions. It’s something I need to add to my checklist!

    Oh, sometimes I write words in an unnatural order–reading them out loud is the only way I can train my brain to catch it.

  • Jeanne T says:

    Hmmm, interesting thoughts. I’ve written small sections of my ms by hand, usually when I had no computer handy, but I did have a composition book. I liked the different format. But, I type so much more quickly than I write that it takes a lot longer to write things out by hand.

    I’ve never tried Dragon or any other similar software. I do read chapters to myself, and have found those areas that don’t flow in time to change them.

    This was a thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Mindy says:

    I will write down dialogue, but that’s usually the extent. If I have any desire for legibility, I have to type! As fast as my brain thinks, my hand can’t keep up, and it ends up looking like a jumbled mess on the page. Poetry and journal entries I will pen, but anything longer than a hundred words goes straight to the laptop.

  • My handwriting + WIP = lengthy ransom note. I have the world’s scariest penmanship; honestly, we’re talking Olympic Medal ugly. Writing anything long hand is a sure fire path to failure. Imagine pouring your heart and soul onto a page, only to scratch your eyes out because you cannot read it! I’m a jotter, and as such scribble the occasional note, but for the sake of legibility I rely on the Talk-to-Text app on my phone, it’s great for random thoughts – some WIP driven, some grocery reminders.
    And an author I wish had more time to write – Maeve Binchy. Loved her!

  • I wish Margaret Mitchell could have written her own sequel to “Gone With The Wind.”

  • I write like an axe murderer.

    MS Word’s speech feature will read your manuscript aloud, and this helps me catch an enormous number of overlooked errors. There is indeed something about the aural mode that prevents the brain from supplying missed words.

  • Lacee Hogg says:

    What a great question! I am experimenting with writing my newest first draft by hand and so far I really love it. I am thinking that when I type it up it will become my second draft–that I will edit as I go. I used to do this in high school (because I didn’t have constant access to a computer) and writing classes in college (because we wrote in class some) and it worked really well. There’s just something about actually writing the words that makes me feel more creative…we shall see, though! I am usually with the rest of you about typing.

  • Hi Rachel,

    I actually wrote the majority of my current MS by hand. It just depends though. I feel when I start a MS that writing by hand really gets me into the writing flow. After I’m into the rhythm of writing, I can turn to the computer. If I’m having trouble with a scene or writer’s block, I’ve always turned back to handwriting and it works for me.

    I read somewhere from another writer that they tend to write the majority of their MSs by hand because they feel the speed of their words flow the same speed as they can write. I thought the notion was interesting and I realized I feel the same way. I’m forced to slow down a bit and consider every word I put on the page.

    I understand this method is not the best use of time. But if you’re in a creative tough spot or just need a break from tapping away at the computer, I recommend sitting in a nice comfy chair (perhaps not too comfy…no sleeping allowed. lol) and put pen to paper.

    Reading my MS aloud has helped a lot with catching mistakes and making sure the dialogue is realistic. I actually did a blog post recently about reading our MSs aloud and how I use my hobby as an actress to improve my MS. If anyone would like to check it out, visit this link:

    http://www.pensonaworldmap.com/2012/12/a-way-to-enhance-your-writing.html

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Morgan

  • The idea of writing an entire ms by hand makes me shudder. Of course, I’m an editor and I can’t imagine editing by hand either. It takes too long to look at my notes and put the edits into the computer document–like you said, Rachel, it’s just inefficient.

    But when I’m brainstorming, I’ll often write by hand, because it feels more…organic, maybe? Like the ideas just flow better…I don’t know.

    And oh, if Jane Austen had only written more books…I’ve read all six and loved them all (though P&P will always reign supreme). But maybe you’re right…maybe she may have been tempted–as some authors today are–to write MORE and lessen the quality of each. Who knows.

  • Jana Hutcheson says:

    I find it helpful to write long sections of dialogue by hand. I go back and forth between characters without including desciptions, except maybe brief notes or breaks to indicate pauses. Oddly, it seems to flow better if I use white copy paper and Pilot Neo Gel pens!

  • It took me a long time to make the switch to writing almost 100% on the computer, but I’ve done it. I have horrible penmanship, plus I have tendonitis in both hands. The only reason I haven’t tried something like Dragon is because of how many negative comments I’ve heard about voice recognition software.

    That said, I still like to take myself away from the computer to start a story or work through an issue that I can’t figure out with the Internet and my email telling me it would be much easier if I would ignore writing and play with them instead.

  • Larry says:

    I dunno about reading ones’ work out loud.

    After all, if one has an idea for what our characters sound like (and know exactly what tone they take, and all those other little details) but the person reading out loud doesn’t sound like ‘em, might one think that their writing is sub-par, when it might be instead the delivery of the writing being spoken?

    Of course, hearing someone give voice to awful writing can make one realize how much work the writing needs. Guess it depends on what the work is?

  • Sarah Thomas says:

    I still write poetry by hand, but that’s about it. And then I transcribe it quickly, while I can still read it.

    All of you who write your MS by hand? Wow. I kind of wish I could bring myself to do it–it seems so Romantic.

    As for authors I wish had written more? That question gave me the most wonderful thought–what if C.S. Lewis keeps writing in the new heaven and new earth? Bouncing ideas around with Jane Austen? Another something wonderful to look forward to!

  • I’ve written short scenes by hand, but not much beyond that. Of course, I scribble notes like crazy when I’m away from my laptop. My church bulletins are often marked up with thoughts about my characters’ spiritual journeys. I still remember my husband glancing at my note-taking in church once and whispering, “What are you doing?” “Shh, I’m plotting…” A visitor in the pew in front of me gave me a very odd look.

  • Cheryl Russell says:

    I write out rough drafts by hand; I like the slower pace. I’ll print out my work to edit it. I print on one side of the paper so I have room for notes and such on the back. I hadn’t thought about sending work to an e-reader–good idea. :)

    • Hi Cheryl,

      The e-reader thing is really working for me now and it’s cheaper than printing out more and more drafts of your MS.

      Plus when you see your MS on the screen, you get a tiny taste of what being published feels like! good luck!

      Morgan

  • Kay Kauffman says:

    I do all my writing by hand. I used to not have reliable access to a computer, so it was just easier for me. As a result of all that practice, I have fairly neat handwriting…most of the time. :) But I also type up what I write as I go along. I usually write during my lunch breaks, so then when I get home that evening, I’ll type up what I wrote over my noon hour. It might add a little bit of time to my process, but I edit a bit as I type, and, as they say – do what works for you.

    I enjoy the physical act of writing almost as much as I love the act of story creation and worldbuilding. For me, both processes are intimately connected. I have a much harder time creating things when I have to type them up from scratch than when I’m sitting somewhere – anywhere – with a pencil and paper. But no pens – I like a clean copy and I cherish my pencil’s eraser as much as I cherish my keyboard’s backspace key. :)

    • Here…Here, Kay!

      Handwriting my MS is such an intimate connection with my work…but as writers we must do what works for us. :)

      There’s just something about picking out the right notebook, feeling the paper under your fingers as you turn the page and move your pen/pencil over the blank space to add a story to it. It must just be my long-time love affair with pen and paper. lol

      Swoon…

      Happy handwriting! & Merry Christmas!
      Morgan

  • Sarah Sundin says:

    I wrote my first three novels by hand. When writing my first novel, A Distant Melody, I used cursive for my heroine’s POV and print for the hero’s. That helped me remember which character’s head I was in. The process of entering the chapter in the computer served as my first edit – and I slashed lots of material. However, by the time I wrote the third book, Blue Skies Tomorrow, I found I was writing cleaner and the difference between the handwritten copy and the computer copy wasn’t that big – I was duplicating effort.

    Now I write the rough draft straight into the computer. But I do print out my chapters and do a lot of editing on the hard copy – I catch things better in print than on the screen.

    • Sarah Sundin says:

      And I’m a HUGE fan of reading your work out loud. Awkward sentences, annoying rhymes, repetetions, stilted dialogue – these all pop when you read out loud. Granted, my family thinks I’m crazy! Especially when reading my most recent book in a Southern accent. And I’ve lived in California all my life.

      • haha! I’d love to hear you read some of your book with a Southern accent…since I’m a Southerner and all. Love it!

        Changing your handwriting style for each POV=genius! I think I shall have to try this for my next WIP. It’s tough sometimes to differentiate between my present day protagonist and my past one. :) This might help! Thanks! :)

        Merry Christmas!
        Morgan

      • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

        Just read it to Daisy that way you’ll have an audience. :)

      • Sarah Sundin says:

        Daisy has heard all or most of it. She thinks I’m crazy too. That’s all right, because I know she IS crazy. (Daisy’s a yellow lab, folks :))

        Morgan – I guarantee my Southern accent is atrocious. But the effort did cause me to pick up times when Georgie sounded too Yankee.

  • I can’t write creatively by hand at all anymore. If I am somewhere without my laptop and find I have time to write … I usually can’t, not without the laptop. I think way too fast and edit way too much as I go, and it’s too much work to go back and re-type. I just don’t have the time. I’m going to go back and read the comments, but I’m guessing now that I’m in the minority.

  • Fascinating discussion! Writing by hand when it comes to non-fiction (like studying for school and taking notes) helps me remember things. I don’t know why, but there is something in my brain that seems to connect to the motion of my hand … something that helps me absorb information more effectively. That being said, I wouldn’t dream of hand-writing as a novelist. Why? Well, because I have friends who write that way who are now in the throes of very serious carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and even shoulder problems thanks to all those years of hand-writing. So for me, it’s typing all the way … unless I’m out and about and just have to get an idea or a phrase down. Then I write it in a little Moleskine notebook I take with me everywhere. Reading aloud is an important part of my self-editing process before I turn a book in … but I haven’t learned to dictate a book. Yet. I’m going to try it, though … because I’d love to be able to get more hand-quilting done. If I could dictate my story’s first draft while I’m quilting … best of both worlds!

    • You are soooo right about the carpal tunnel and shoulder problems when hand-writing a manuscript. Only for me it’s not about writing it. It’s about typing quickly from the written page. When I’m composing into the computer it’s stop and go typing as I think through the story. When I type from the written page, it’s non-stop and stressful.

  • I too often turn to pen and paper when nothing else is working. I make most of my development notes on paper, sketch out character backstory on paper, track things I need to edit on paper.

    But when it comes to actual writing of prose on my current WIP I prefer my keyboard. I leave out too many words when I’m writing on paper and rarely capture the sentence the way I want it. It may have something to do with not being able to handle messy margins…

  • Donna Pyle says:

    Notwithstanding the remarkable ease of technology, there might be some ways that technology interrupts a writer’s creativity. Maybe it’s the Google-effect. Is Google making us stupid, fidgety and unable to focus like Nicholas Carr wondered in the pages of the Atlantic?

    Since writing calls for creativity, deep thinking, and higher cognition, going analog instead of digital for some manuscript portions is key for me. Stepping away from the computer (and oftentimes away from the office altogether), grabbing a legal pad, heading out into creation, and making marks on emulsified wood fibers allows deep thoughts to flow uninterrupted.

    Some things that work for me:

    • At the beginning of the task, take 30 seconds or so to quiet your mind. Pray. Be still.
    • Take a sheet of paper and write down the ideas/plots you are working on – keep it to 1-2 words.
    • Spread the ideas over the whole page, leaving space to fill in follow-up ideas or tasks later.
    • Write them down in whatever random order they come to mind, because our mind is not really working randomly at all.
    • Now, look at your list of ideas/words and let your mind wander.
    • As ideas arise, write them down under each idea name.

    It’s often a pleasant surprise to discover what surfaces!

  • I cannot imagine handwriting an entire manuscript! Since I don’t like lugging around a laptop or netbook on planes, I am forced to handwrite. But it is so much slower. Typing is my preference–and I learned to type in the dark ages when the manual typewriter was the only thing available!

    Merry Christmas to all!

  • Stephanie M. says:

    I write all my notes by hand, usually b/c ideas come to me at odd/awkward moments where busting out a laptop would be difficult (and rude). Then I go through all my notes and decide which are good enough and where they will go. My best material comes from the hand-written stuff, my real “work” is done at the laptop.

  • Sue Harrison says:

    I tried Dragon years and years ago, so I imagine it’s improved since then, but I had the same trouble as others who replied to this blog post. It took me forever to correct the errors, and because I was then writing about Aleut and Athabascan peoples in Alaska, I was using some native words. It was all a complete train wreck.

    I don’t write my ms’s by hand, other than notes I jog down when in the car, cooking supper, etc. I speak out loud as I write first draft and always have. For some reason that allows me to get into my characters’ heads and see the world through their eyes. I also read one of my last drafts aloud, and love, love, love doing that rewrite.

    Reading aloud is a great way to catch errors AND to make sure the voice you choose for each main character is consistent. (I know most writers would disagree with me, but I use a different narrator voice for each of my POV characters. I’ve had good luck with that.)

  • Dale Rogers says:

    I’ve always written my first draft by hand, but
    a couple of years ago I did much of it on my computer. I found myself feeling rushed, and then there’s so much to change on the computer. It works better for me to use a pen & a big composition notebook, read through it, making changes, & then type it on the computer. That way, I already have a hard copy, and if I’m ever accused of plagierism, I have proof that the work is mine. When it’s polished, my husband reads it aloud to me, & I make notes of anything I want to change. This system works well for me.

  • Jane Austin! Definitely. And if the movie about her was accurate, she edited by cutting parts out with scissors.

    I wrote a lot of my manuscript by hand before typing. But it was not a pen I used. There is something about the feel of a mechanical pencil against the paper that inspires me. I like this method because it’s more like free-flow writing. I’m more “in the zone” leaning back, legs up, notebook against my knees. And being “in the zone” helps me place myself in the story world more. In fact, I was amazed at how much I actually DID type right into the computer. It felt foreign at times, but with all the other inspiration, I did it. Of course, writing this way is time consuming, but typing it became my moment to edit the raw thoughts from the page. I’d NEVER want anyone to actually read my pencillings! They are more of a skeleton. I fill in details as I type.

  • Interesting post, Rachel. Personally, writing a book by hand would not make my work better. The ideas sometimes come so fast, I can’t get them typed as fast as they fly through my head. I’m afraid too many ideas would be lost if I tried to hand-write them. I tend to journal my prayers, and I know how many thoughts get lost from the brain to the pen. (I console myself that God heard them, so it ‘s okay.) But a whole book that way? I’d end up with a half-baked book and carpel tunnel syndrome.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I’m sure it’s different for everyone and I’m definitely not saying you should change the way you write! I think using a computer is a great idea. :) I’m a huge fan of technology and not a fan of Carpel Tunnel.

  • Ann Bracken says:

    I print out a blank outline that I scribble on when I can. Sometimes my work leaves me with nothing to do for five minutes or so, and instead of falling asleep, I write the outline. It ends up looking like it was written by a miniature chicken on crack, which is why I will never write my story by hand.

    Reading out loud to someone else works really well for finding errors. I grab a willing victim, um, volunteer, and watch for that ‘what on earth?’ look.

    I haven’t tried using a voice recognition software yet, except on my smartphone. Those tend to have my intended text interspersed with a few too many “I said no!”‘s thrown in to make me interested in purchasing something for my computer.

  • I speak. My dog types. My cat edits. (repeat)

  • Jenna C. says:

    Hmm…that is something to think about…sometimes I think it would be better to write by hand to take yourself away from the computer and it’s distractions…I’ve thought of writing with a typewriter before…it’s a neat way to write and it doesn’t exactly take as long…but there are the disadvantages with editing. You’re right about Jane Austen…It would have been nice if she could have written more, but with a computer, I’m not sure her writings would have been as good.

  • David Spaugh says:

    This could be a generational thing. I graduated from h.s. in 1978, just before computers came on the seen in a popular sense. Coupled with the fact that my typing skills aren’t that great (even after 2 years of typing in h.s.), I find I’m much more efficient in writing than typing. I watch teens and twenty somethings use computers, or watch them text at the speed of sound (compared to me), and I think it’s because they had that technology ingrained in them from grade school and before. Some tech just frustrates me, and I think better, write better, and concentrate better with a pencil and paper. As a pastor, I do the same with my sermon mss.

    It’s sort of the same thing with an e-book verses the printed page. There’s nothing like actually having a book in one’s hand, and a shelf full of books, to give a feeling of satisfaction and add a sense of “reality” to literature. I feel the same way regarding pencil and paper.

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    I work strictly on a computer when I write. To proof, looking at a printed copy helps, reading it aloud helps more, and using text to speech software and listening to it, helps me the most.

  • If you could see my handwriting (typical of a doctor’s) you wouldn’t ask–I write everything on computer. After the first draft, I have it printed out (Office Max is cheaper than buying the ink cartridges and paper), use it for editing, and make corrections via computer. As for reading it aloud–I “hear” the dialogue in my mind, but rarely read the entire book aloud after it’s finished. By that time, I’m sick of it, anyway.

  • Until a few years ago, I wrote entirely by hand, then after revising a few times, I typed the pages on the computer. Now, I write most of the time on the computer and only write by hand when I am not at home and want to write while I’m stuck somewhere (e.g. the doctor’s office or the airport). At this point, I really don’t feel that writing by hand improves the quality of my writing. I think the things that most improve the quality of my writing are: revising, revising and revising, taking time away from the pages, then revising again, reading aloud and revising again, reading the story aloud to my critique group and then revising again. So while I agree that taking time to write improves the quality of writing, I haven’t found that handwriting in itself is the key.

    Reading out loud, I have found, is an essential. It always helps me find mistakes that I never saw, no matter how many times I read the pages. Also, it helps me hear where the writing is awkward or doesn’t flow. It is especially helpful with discovering whether my dialogue is natural or not.

    Thank you, Rachel, for inviting us to write with questions we would like answered. What a wonderful present!

    Have a great week.

  • Darby Kern says:

    I’m sorry if I’m saying something somebody else mentioned; I haven’t read all the responses.

    John LeCarre’ is an author that writes EVERYTHING by hand. He says he is a disaster with a typewriter and has his wife type his handwritten pages. He’s an author I wish had written more before his talent died. I think his last few books have been rubbish but his early work is amazing.

    Kevin J. Anderson is a sci fi writer who often writes (wrote, I guess. I haven’t heard how he works lately) by dictating into a digital recorder and has someone transcribe for him. He may have graduated to voice recognition software by now. In an article I read many years ago he was working on a Star Wars book that took place, in part on the desert planet of Tattooine. He said he dictated much of it while hiking through Death Valley. I give him credit for his ability to do that, I’d be far too distracted by the scenery, and I’m sure it informed his writing on the environment as well.

    I’m not capable of writing like that. I usually type it as I’m writing, but lately I’ve been doing lots of writing on legal pads, mainly because my laptop is old and the battery is dead so bringing it with me wherever I go isn’t worth the effort.

    I don’t think there’s a wrong way to write. When I’m working my regular job I find myself composing paragraphs and character things, most of which I have to wait until I can write it down (stinking jobs…), but it still keeps me sharp. I can look at things I’ve written and know when I wasn’t able to let my mind run free, because it’s typically a little “deader” in the prose department (not that I’m particularly flowery there at my best). Today I made notes on the back of a receipt.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I would hate to be the person in charge of typing up a complete manuscript off of a tape recorder! So not the job for me. :)

  • Jenny Tavernier says:

    By Hand First.
    Handwriting is something I will now NEVER give up, although there are a lot of scary articles on the web about schools across the country phasing it out.
    (Just Goocle ~handwriting+phasing out.)
    …..My penmanship sucked-big time! pretty illegible. I hadn’t written for a long time, really. But I decided to get eith it, since I can’t lug a tower computer around, and can’t afford a laptop. It was pure torture, but the benefits were SO immediately apparent. (like jotting down margin notes or thoughts, for one thing). And after about a week or two, I noticed how much the muscles had come back. And I really think that there is a direct connection with the brain, and mind! Use it or lose it.
    …..Typing it back in is no problem if I am seriously into what I am doing, (and a first proofread draft), but the Neo 2/Alphasmart is where I want to go next. No internet, and a USB to port that typing into the computer. I am saving for one. handwriting, (and the hopefully soon to be Neo) give me portability, and comfort. And that is vital to me.
    …So for journaling, blogs, poetry and verse, short stories, handwrite. I notice it doesn’t slow my brain down, and I have gotten fast and strong! WooWoo! – just keeps getting better… BUT by-hand for me, truly increases the *depth* of the writing, hands-down. Neo for the longer stuff, and reports.

  • Jan Thompson says:

    I do both but I prefer typing because it’s just faster and saves me time.

    When I’m plotting or planning, I’d do it by hand most of the time. I sketch, draw, diagram, whatever on paper. Lots of paper. I also write some scenes by hand if I’m somewhere without my Mac. But 99% of the time, I type all my outlines and chapters directly into the computer, print them out, and then I edit/revise with a red pen. That way, I can edit anywhere without worrying about laptop batteries.

    I’m always out of time because I wear many hats, so I just can’t imagine writing by hand — long hand takes me a long time to write — and then having to do double work by typing everything in. It feels like a revised copy when I do that :-)

    OTOH my DS prefers to dictate to his Mac. He writes better talking to his computer than typing it by himself. To each his/her own :-) I’ve never used Dragon, but Macs come with built-in voice recognition software that types into Pages as you dictate to it. It does a very good job, IMO. Better than any PC software I’ve used before.

    I’m old school so I type with a full size keyboard. Anyone here write your books with an iPad? Er, iPhone? :-) A new meaning to all thumbs? :-)

  • Voni Harris says:

    Computer for me–I still cry at the scene in Little Women where Amy burns Jo’s manuscript.

  • Kimberly says:

    I like to journal by hand. It feels a little more authentic to see my private thoughts scribbled in my own hand. Often, I find something useful comes out in my journaling that I can take and adapt into publishable material. Everything else is done on the computer, for the sake of ease and editing.

  • Rene Diane Aube says:

    I do my rough drafts by hand and most editing and revision work on the computer after making notes in the rough draft.

    I read my work outloud to find where to put in more action, adverbs, adjectives, etc. I have not yet tried a voice recognition program. Maybe someday.

  • When I got my first computer I wrote by hand and then typed it in, but now I usually write on the computer unless I’m stuck for an idea. Then hand writing helps the creativity flow, probably just because it gives me a different perspective. Years ago I tried Dragon while recovering from a neck injury, but I lived on a busy street and the background noises messed it ip so badly it was a waste of time. Maybe newer versions work better.

  • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

    Thanks so much for participating in the blog, everyone! I appreciate it!

  • Donnell Grabinski says:

    Carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by nerve compression in the wrist, is another possibility to consider. The most typical symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain in the wrist and tingling and numbness in the fingers, but hand spasms may also occur. If you experience spasms in other areas of your body, such as the upper arm, neck, or face, this could indicate a more serious neurologic cause, although this is relatively rare.`-^^

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