NaNoWriMo the Longhand Way

imageI’ve been thinking about doing NaNoWriMo a little differently this year.

I recently stumbled on this post on Neil Gaiman’s blog from back in 2007, when he was in the middle of writing The Graveyard Book (I got there, as usual, by some convoluted route while I was procrastinating. It’s how I find most of the interesting things I come across.)

I loved seeing the blank book in which Gaiman wrote his first draft. I know he writes all his novels in longhand, using a fountain pen, which sounds both wonderful and tiring to me. But I admit to trying out the longhand way this summer. It never quite took, though. For me, there’s something about my fingers flying along a keyboard that really lets me get the image in my head down onto paper in just the right way.

But I think the children’s book that I’ll be working on as part of NaNoWriMo next month (my intention is to work on two projects simultaneously) would benefit from being written in longhand.

I’m saying this after what happened with last year’s NaNoWriMo project, WAVERLEY. I “won” NaNoWriMo last year, hitting over 50,000 words in November. But after that, I got stuck, so I set the project aside to mature for a bit.

Now, usually this is what happens when I reread something I’ve set aside for a while: I almost always think it’s better than I remembered; but not so in this case. I ended up cutting 33,000 words from it.

And back then I had thought I’d be able to plunge back into rewriting the words that I’d kept. But I haven’t been able to. Because I realized something else a little while after that.

I’d written a very different story than the one I wanted to write.

And I’ve been thinking today, it’s because I wrote it on the computer. My writing brain took a look, found a tangent it liked, and basically took the whole story down another rabbit hole.

(I actually think that tangent is a good tangent on its own, just not a good fit with the story I was trying to tell.)

Also, doing NaNoWriMo the longhand way gives me an excuse to find “just the right notebook” and “just the right pen”. Such excuses are worth their weight in gold!

What about you? Do you write on the computer, or by hand? Or a bit of both?

21 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo the Longhand Way

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)

    If I wrote a whole book in longhand, I probably wouldn’t be able to read it later. Good luck with your writing project! I can’t wait for you to become a published author, so I can tell everyone I knew you when!

  2. Cathryn Grant

    Your description of your writing brain finding a tangent made me laugh. I agree that we write very differently on the computer and in longhand, and I also agree that I can disappear more into the writing as my fingers fly over the keyboard.

    I make notes in longhand, sometimes journal entries, but I don’t think my hand would hold up for an entire novel. Although perhaps my hand has grown lazy, clearly I would have found a way in pre-keyboard days.

    I look forward to hearing how writing in longhand affects your story.
    .-= Cathryn Grant´s last blog ..Fatal Friday- Introverts at Conferences =-.

  3. Holly Ruggiero

    Computer, definitely. It’s faster and I can a read what I write when I’m done.LOL I do have a notebook for ideas, paragraphs, and outlines though. I’m not ready for a NaNo challenge yet, maybe next year.

  4. Elaine

    When I write MG – I do a lot of it by hand. I think slower when I’m handwriting long hand. The first draft, once I get the voice right, needs less re-writing.
    The YA and it’s longer word count seems to need the word processed approach.

  5. Lydia K

    I definitely do most of my writing on the computer but when I’m brainstorming a plot I go freehand on paper. Actually this morning I desperately needed a pen and didn’t have one and it drove me nuts!
    .-= Lydia K´s last blog ..Genre Envy =-.

  6. Kimberly Loomis

    I commend people who join in NaNoWriMo and all its productive insanity – good luck! While I have notebooks and pens galore, but I tend to use them only when I can’t/won’t go to the computer (darn bed time inspiration!). If I relied upon handwritten notes for the process I probably wouldn’t be able to read them later. Not that this has happened to me before or anything…. *whistles*

    The danger of computer writing though, in my not so humble opinion, is the ease in which it is to throw words down willy nilly. The lack of physical discomfort (yeah hand cramps!) and the speed we’re capable of as a result makes more words appear than are completely necessary. I think the most important part of writing in general that can save oodles of time on second drafts is to sit and think carefully before putting anything even on the computer screen. It’s slower and, at times, feels less productive, but in the end it seems as though I’m deleting less than I did previously.
    .-= Kimberly Loomis´s last blog ..Review- Time Enough for Love =-.

  7. Helen Ginger

    I, like others, used to write solely by hand with pen and paper. Now I use the computer. I went from one to the other, no typewriter writing in-between. I like the quickness of getting my thoughts down and the ease of making edits with the computer. Of course, my handwriting now is almost unreadable since I do so little of it.
    .-= Helen Ginger´s last blog ..Book Review- Scar Tissue =-.

  8. Steve Kubien

    Well, I’m not a novelist or anything serious like that (just a humble, infrequent blogger) but when I write, I write, preferably with a fountain pen. Of course, I am biased because I make the things but I’ve came to love fountain pens after I made my first for ME! Fountain pens are sensual and if you have one whoch fits your hand well, effortless in use.

  9. Janel

    Just this week I started writing longhand instead of on the computer. I think slowing down is working. I’m not sure, but I think I have more usable material in a handwritten first draft since my mind has slowed down to less than 70 words per minutes!
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..Could Be Better =-.

  10. Sharon Mayhew

    I usually start each project on paper. I write my first drafts on paper and then type them on the computer, then print them out and hand do my first round of revisions.

    Last year I participated in NaNo, but didn’t “win.” I did finish several children’s projects though. :)

    Good luck…
    .-= Sharon Mayhew´s last blog ..HOWS IT GOING =-.

  11. Beth F

    I used to believe that I couldn’t hold my thoughts on screen as well as I could on paper. But after decades of editing online, I have pretty much flipped 180 degrees. Now I’m not so sure that I don’t write more clearly when I can play with thoughts on the screen.

    I however am not much of a writer.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Spotlight On Kate Ledger =-.

  12. Rural View

    I had been writing on my computer but I got so darn wordy and everything ended up needing to be trashed – probably because I typed for a living my whole working career and I type very fast. Now I write in longhand and when I have time I transcribe that onto the computer, editing as I type. I think it’s going much better that way.
    .-= Rural View´s last blog ..Negative Campaign Ads Drive America Totally Loony! =-.

  13. Molly

    I enjoy writing longhand – but not sure that I can do that for 50,000 words! I like to write longhand for thoughtful journal entries; somehow I think I reflect better with an old-fashioned pen and paper.
    .-= Molly´s last blog ..The Inner Critic =-.

  14. Memory

    I used to write longhand when I was on vacation, then transcribe my work into the computer when I got home, but since I got a laptop I only write on the computer. (Well, aside from my journal, which is a different form of writing altogether). I did like working longhand, but I’m not sure it would fit with my current working methods. I do a lot of as-I-go editing, and that’s much more difficult to do in longhand.

  15. Becka (StickyNoteStory)

    I’ve written all of my novels long-hand. For some reason when I sit looking at the computer screen I just can’t make myself write – nothing comes to me. I get distracted by the internet and my muse hides from all the glare on the screen. But sitting down anywhere I wish with a pen in hand and a thick folder brings her back and helps me bring ideas to the page. It slows me down enough to think through what’s going on as I write it, so fewer tangents. But then you have to type it all up, which is my least favorite part. You end up writing 100k in November instead of 50k because you write every word twice!

    As for pen, my favorite is the G2 gel pen by Pilot.

    Thanks for joining the Blogchain!

  16. patti

    ever since those master’s courses in literature, the computer has been my writing buddy. In fact, I have worn the keys off two keyboards now.

    It’s just so easy to watch the screen and fly!!!

    Love being outta my cave and saying hi!!

  17. Caroline

    I like writing long hand. I don’t like it with the computer, because it’s far too easy to completely get rid of ideas that you might come back to like afterwards.

    The computer might be a lot quicker, which is what I’m probably going to be using for NaNoWriMo (it’s my first year) but I normally feel like I do my best writing when it’s long hand. Of course, I can always edit the NaNoWriMo piece later.


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