Taking The Longhanded Way



As a spec fic writer, the first question I get is “How do you do it?” Usually in reference to how I get my ideas.

But as a writer in general I also get “How do you do it?” As in how do I make the words go from my head into a digital screen.

My answer has always been “Anywhere, anytime, on anything.”

Everyone has their methods. Some can only write on laptops. Some can only write by the light of the full moon. Others can only write when they make an animal sacrifice. Well. Maybe not.

Me? I do longhand. Yes. Gasp. That thing where you hold a thing called a “pen” and you make marks called “letters” on that stuff called “paper.” What deviltry is this?

Truth is, I type a crapton slower than I write longhand. It’s taken me 30 minutes to write 146 words. In 30 minutes when writing by hand, I’d have at least 800 easy. I also type only with three fingers. My index, middle, and thumbs. I touch-type on muscle memory.

I find when I write out entire chapters by hand, I know exactly where I’m going when it comes time to transcribe. It used to be I’d write down any old thing, knowing I’d have to tweak it. It helped uncorking the brain and getting the words flowing. Now, I’m very specific about it. I’m also okay with if a sentence isn’t working, cross it out and start again.

For Bayou Fairy Tale, save a couple of chapters here and there, I wrote the entire book by hand. The book is 94,000 words. I filled one entire Moleskine notebook with it and a third of another. You’re wondering where I got the time aren’t you? The answer is anywhere I could.

For the last three months I’ve been buried in doctors appointments and the Bayou deadline was closing in fast. To the point that I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Between going this way and that way to this appointment and that appointment, Bayou wasn’t getting done any faster. I carry a Moleskine in my bag at all times, because it’s small, light, and durable.

So in between appointments, I’d either sit in my car and write or if I had a little longer, take a chill at Starbucks. Or if I was done with appointments for the day I’d go camp at a Starbucks or get a meal somewhere and write before heading home. The latter had the rule of I couldn’t leave until I finished the chapter. And that’s how I wrote an average of 20 pages a day in longhand.

I also learned when I head home from an appointment somewhere, it takes me hours to get in the zone to sit at the keys. I’m of the opinion that if I can escape my laptop I will. My phone is another story. I love Twitter way too much than is healthy. And when I get home, I am ready to rock. Or not. Because I know the chapter is well in hand and I can transcribe it the next day.

One of my favorite writers of all time is Warren Ellis. And often he’d talk about his “Writing Kit.” His kit was made of the writing gear he’d carry with him in a messenger bag everywhere.

Mine is as follows:

  • Moleskine
  • Handful of pens (because one or another is always running out)
  • Earbuds (I actually finally sprang for some nice comfortable ones called Yurbuds. You can find them here.)
  • iPod (Mine is a dinosaur of a First Gen Nano)
  • Phone (Galaxy Note 4 with all my writing apps. Like OneNote and Write-O-Meter.)
  • Baseball Cap
  • Hoodie
  • Fingerless Gloves

The last three as odd they are, are absolutely essential. I put my hood over my ball cap and my vision is blocked from the front and the sides. You know blinders on a horse? Same deal. I can only focus on my paper in front of me. I cannot look up or around me without some effort. Also the hoodie comes in handy because I get cold easily and fingerless gloves because my hands get stiff.

And yes. I live in the Florida Panhandle. And I carry this stuff year round. Sometimes I’ll even bring socks.

2 thoughts on “Taking The Longhanded Way

  1. Kelly Jensen says:

    I’ve written chapters long hand, but never a whole book. It’s a different exercise, isn’t it? And I think it has to do with the pace of putting words down. Sometimes when I sit down to write, I have a scene in my head, but it takes me longer to write/type than I can think, so the scene sort of morphs as I go–I get caught up in a moment and have to explore it, or a character suddenly rebels, or the scene just takes on a different feel. I actually find that this happens LESS when I write by hand. Weird, huh?

    1. Lex says:

      I’ve always written the majority of books long before I was published by hand first. Mostly out of necessity because I couldn’t be at a laptop 24/7 and was out in the world at college classes, or in restaurants, movie theaters waiting for people to show up. Basically anywhere.

      There’s been several scientific studies that the act of typing uses your frontal lobe and you can’t harness your creativity at all, or as easily because your brain is using all of it’s power for motor skills. However, longhand such as journaling you have access to more of your creative thoughts because your frontal lobe is less engaged. That’s why doctors suggest journaling as a way to heal or work through issues. That’s why handwritten letters come off as a thoughtful treasure and not like an email that seems somewhat “cold.”

      For me, instead of going down rabbit holes when handwriting, I find I get to the point of my chapters a LOT faster. I’ve discovered about myself I have a tendency to overwrite my stories. So handwriting helps me condense it a bit. Also with chapters that take me three days a pop on average to finish because they range from 3k to 5k I really don’t have that kind of time to go too far “off script.” Like… ask me about the 20k of the Chasing Sunrise sequel I can’t use but kept in a spare file. That was fun. As in no. No it wasn’t. D:

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