I’ll mention now that I know the title sounds rather like a fantasy location of family-line, but what I refer to is the fact that for a lot of what I write, I write it in longhand in notebooks before I type it up and make line-edits as I go.
Yes, it takes a while. I like to think that I’m being thorough.
But why? (You may ask) What advantages are there to spending hours looking from notebook to screen, trying to decipher the squiggles of electric handwriting? Certainly, it has taken me longer to come to have completed Word document manuscripts, but I would vouch that it is a method that, for me, works well.
To start with, I’m not going to agree that it has taken me longer to finish a story simply because I have been writing it in a notebook and copying out. The reason it generally does take longer is that I allow myself to do something else; I have the draft and information written down, so I know I don’t need to jump onto the next available computer to type type type. At the next free opportunity when I am not concentrating on a different piece of work, I can come back to the notebook and resume what I know. Unfortunately…those opportunities aren’t so common.
I’ll use my NaNo Novel as an example: I may not have completed NaNo, but I did not have permanent and recurrent access to a computer that month (or any month regardless), so getting the first draft out of my brain by hand came as an extremely useful tool, especially when I was hit by inspiration during lessons. The reason I copied out most nights what I had written during the day was so I could keep a track of it – after all, I was looking to see the wordcount at some stages. And then, after November was over, I could continue.
That brings me to the second point of argument against writing in a notebook, though whether this happens to me purely because I have written using notebooks, I don’t know. That forgetting of stories. Not the plots, but the existence of the stories themselves. Often, when I have been writing in my notebook, I have used the space to write several different things at once – whatever popped into my mind – and to copy them out in bulk at, say, a weekend. And it’s true: I don’t always follow one train of thought at the same time.
Do I forget to continue stories because they are in a notebook? I’d say no. The reason I forget – or more often, abandon – a story is because I have chosen to put it second priority to another. It may just so happen that this process involves leaving the handwriting in the notebook until I am done (which does, inevitably, leave a bit of a blank space in my mind), and occasionally not returning. I do so try to keep up with an idea if I really like it, though.
Lastly, there is that argument of not keeping track of what one has done, that is: both in wordcount sense and plot sense. I’m sure there are many different ways longhand writers deal with this potential problem, but I myself combat it by writing in black ink (this helps the writing not to fade over time) and by using bookmarks if I decide to jump around when I am writing (that is: to write the end first, which I have done before). For my more important stories or those which I would very much like to finish, I break into different notebooks – or I write from the back, something which has become a habit from my beginning writer days when the only ‘notebooks’ I had were the reverse sides of my school rough books!
I like what I do because of the creativity. Using a notebook enables me to more easily jot down points in the margins and sides, to underline and colour freely the moment I get an idea and without having to wait until I reach a computer.
Just to prove that my method works: I recently finished copying out my novel, ‘Of Moscow Mysteries’, which I wrote last summer and finished the longhand draft a while ago. Moreover, the story is 70,000 words, which I take as proof that nothing is lost in the use of longhand for novel writing.