Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Do You Write?

There must be a secret to writing the breakout blockbuster novel. Is it the Hook that draws in readers? The Characters with whom readers can empathize? The Concept that captures the imagination? Or is it the Method the author used to compose the first draft?

I've heard attendees at writing conferences and workshops ask how the presiding author wrote his or her novel. Was it long hand with a ballpoint pen on yellow legal paper? Using grandpa's old typewriter? Or with a state-of-the-art computer using the latest and greatest software? As if the instrument used to place words on paper (or screen) takes care of characterization, story arc, theme, etc.

I have reverted to my original writing method:  ballpoint pen on paper. A Pentel RSVP fine point black ink pen. College ruled (I prefer narrow ruled but it's impossible to find) three-hole punched binder paper. I then enter the handwritten pages on my Mac (editing as I do so) using Microsoft Word. Double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point.

For me, the equipment always seemed to get in the way of the words. Typewriters are hell to compose on. Typos and stuck keys are distracting. Corrections require stopping to apply white-out or scribbling between lines once the page is completed and removed from the roller. It took effort for me to learn to compose on a computer. I had to for work. Even so, I would often hand write difficult paragraphs or scribble an outline with key phrases.

For me, there seems to be a kinetic aspect to the creative process. The story flows from the imagination down the arm to the hand and through the pen onto the paper. No placing the fingers on the wrong row of keys or hitting caps lock instead of the shift key. The ideas get down without the equipment interfering.

My initial forays in writing as a child were with pencil on tablet paper. So apparently I am more comfortable with my original process. Since then I've learned about story structure and the other elements that make for a good story. It isn't the how but the what that makes for a well-written novel.


The Impulsive Texan said...

I think you're right. The old way is best. But my handwriting is so bad, I would probably lose most of the story in trying to get it stored electronically, so I don't take any chances. I use the newest technology available.

I will at least be able to read what I had in mind, whether it was a good storyline or not!!!

The Impulsive Texan

MLA said...

If I don't have my trusty MacBook at the ready, I'll resort to yellow legal pads and a comfortable pen--not easy to find all the time! Much of my first book was drafted this way, because I was without computer access, and then later transcribed onto the Mac and Word. The greatest school course I ever took was Typing I and II way back when I was in high school (ancient history!) and even then it was learning on a manual machine. I was thrilled with the advent of the word processor and programs such as AppleWorks and, later, Word. The key is to have enough coherent thoughts to type!