I write book reviews, I also write books, and occasionally I write about myself!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday on Writing... Back to Basics

A couple of weeks back, readers, I hit The Wall...

And I hit it hard. Everything was going so well, I had finished rewriting the two chapters that I was just not happy with and the WIP was going well, I was in my stride, hammering out great word count numbers daily and beginning to think "wow, I can actually do this!"

Then it happened...

I had all these ideas, sentences, dialogue snippets, etc, bouncing around my head but I could not get them down. My brain froze, my typing fingers went on strike, my computer just sat there humming away, while my chin rested heavily in my hand as I gazed out of the window.

This wasn't the urban myth 'Writer's Block' because I actually knew what I wanted to write, and how it was going to work, there was no lack of ideas, but I couldn't seem to actually, er, write.

I was stuck. Big time. So I did what I thought would be best, I took a couple of days away from the WIP, but that only made it worse 'cause I kept thinking about it.

Cue much self doubt and I'm-never-going-to-be-good-enough thoughts.

Then there was the rare occurrence of a sunny day here in the UK. My husband was out for the day, our brand new picnic bench that hadn't been used once in the two weeks we had had it due to the non-stop rain was tempting me, and I had the ideas and the time to write. But I wanted to sit outside.

So, I raced up to my study and grabbed my research notebook, my pencil case, a notepad, emailed myself the latest version of my WIP and took it all outside with the iPad, a cup of coffee, a bottle of water, and my sunglasses.

The words came!

They flowed from the end of my pen like... well, I can't think of a good analogy at the moment but you get the idea.

Surprisingly, this has worked quite well. I managed 3000 words that day, I'm surprised that my hand didn't wear down into a stump!

My desk for that rare sunny day!

I was well and truly past the wall, I thought, until I tried going back to the laptop... then it happened all over again.

The next week I was sitting down in front of my laptop, chin firmly in hand, getting once again frustrated by my lack of words. I thought about writing with pen and paper again, but it was raining so I couldn't go outside. But I took decisive action, I switched off the laptop pushed it to the back of my desk got out the same pen and pad I had used the previous time and started writing!

It was a miracle! It happened again... I wrote for nearly seven hours straight that day. And I have been doing the same ever since.

I have been typing up as I go along, and when I type up the previous days/weeks work I do a mini-edit, but I have the basis all there in ink to help me. It's like my version of the Fast Draft.

There is something strangely soothing and organic about putting pen to paper; my ideas don't seem hindered, and I'm not so distracted by everything. Every-damn-thing! It's an almost romantic feeling. A blank piece of paper looks far less daunting than a blank word document...

And, you don't get that glaring, mocking red wiggly line underneath a word you've spelled wrong, which no matter how hard I try to ignore at that moment I simply can't. It's freeing!

Plus I love the fact that if I want to go and write outside, I don't have to take my laptop downstairs, set up an extension cord, etc, I can just go with a pen and paper. If I go out, I can take a pad of paper with me much easier than lugging my laptop about! 

I have long been one of those people with a bit of a stationary obsession, I have tons of pens and stacks of notepads. My 'gear' of choice here is a regular biro pen, I have boxes of bic-style pens in my study (my husband gets them for me from work) and it must be black ink and a cheap A4 ruled refill pad from Tesco. It may not be glamorous but it works. For now at least. Perhaps in future I will use some of the many pretty notebooks I have hoarded over the years, I'm quite partial to a moleskin notebook!

And, writing with pen and paper doesn't cut me off from technology even though I have my laptop switched off. With my friend 'The iPad' by my side I have access to the web if I need to research something, dictionary apps if I can't find the right word, email and word processing apps if I want to refer back to my WIP and, most important of all, Twitter so I needn't miss out on the virtual-socialising with other writers out there.

Perhaps one day I'll go back to writing straight to screen, but for now I'm sticking to this as it seems to help.

There are lots of writers who still use longhand - Jackie Collins for one, who always writes with a yellow legal pad and a black felt pen. Cecelia Ahern is another. Or how about J.K Rowling... All of these authors are doing something right! Not that I ever expect to be anywhere near as brilliant as those three, but I'm just saying.

In a world where we use technology for nearly every facet of our lives, perhaps sitting back and doing things the old fashioned way gives us a chance to reinvigorate our creative juices. Or perhaps, this is just the latest attempt of mine to actually find a style of writing that fits...

What's your writing style - longhand or straight-to-screen, or perhaps a bit of both? And, what are your own writing rituals?



  1. I get an awful lot of my first scruffy draft down longhand, usually in the afternoon, and type it up the next morning. There's definitely more of a flow for me longhand, although I can (and do) also put some of it straight into the laptop. Longhand is great if you want flexibility - you can do some in the car, garden, anywhere. I just mix it up. And with 3k a day (green with envy) it sounds like it works for you!

    1. oh that was a one day fluke! I average around 1500 which is still pretty good.
      Thanks for your comment, I'm glad there is another one of us out there that does a bit of both too.