Friday, 8 April 2011


Tea, coffee, ginger beer (lashing of), shortbread. Help yourself.

Last night, in bed, surrounded by pads, notebooks, scraps of paper, a clipboard and pad, pencil in hand, scribbling away and arranging, I wondered how others work.

I embraced computers (metaphorically, you understand) back in 1987 when I first started work in museums. Not long after, I bought my own – also an Amstrad PCW.

Much as I loved my first computer (and still remember it with great fondness – my first published book was written on my 9512), my writing habits had long been set and I still feel comfortable with them.

My ideas, notes, rough drafts, all go into notebooks (A5, wire-bound, with perforated pages). As books fill up and ideas develop and merge, I tear out relevant pages and clip them together and keep them in folders or boxes. I also go through my notebooks on a regular basis to see if there is other material I have forgotten about which now has a home.

From there, I generally start my first draft by hand, transferring it the computer on a daily basis (I write mostly at night and type in the day). Once I have a draft on the computer, I print it up and work from the typescript using a fountain pen with red ink.

Each draft has a new file on the computer, but I have to print up. I simply cannot create on screen. So, apart from using Word for storing and making edits, I don’t use the computer much for writing.

So, how about you – are you a dyed-in-the-wool scribble it down and type it up sort like me, or do you like to use the computer and all the latest software?


sheepish said...

I am definitely a scribble it down in whatever notebook I have to hand then end up with notes all over the place!!! And as i write whatever comes into my head Ihave to sort it all out after I have typed it up and printed it off. Not very logical. However since getting Dragon atleast typing up is no longer such a chore. I do wish I was more computer literate though as I am sure I could get better use from my laptop.

Cathy said...

I write novel notes, character details, timelines, plots etc in spiral notebooks - I have one for each novel. I also record submissions in the back of those books. I have other notebooks for shorter projects/random thoughts. I keep the specific novel notebooks on my desk upstairs and have others downstairs and in my bag for those sudden flashes of inspiration.

I actually write and do the initial editing on the computer, but always do at least one paper edit, usually more, and then print again for a final proofread.

Karen said...

I do scribble things down occasionally but generally perfer using my PC or netbook as I can't write fast enough to keep up with my brain. (I trained as a typist back in the day, maybe that's a factor.)

I've fiddled about with software in the past until I realised I was just prevaricating and now don't bother!

Debs Carr said...

Like Karen I trained as a typist and therefore type far quicker than I write. I make notes in notepads, but generally like to work straight onto the laptop.

I edit my drafts on the laptop and then, when I can't see how to improve it further, I print it out and go through each page, typing up any errors - usually several on each page!

andewallscametumblindown said...

I love shortbread. We used to buy it regularly, but lately it hasn't been available :(

I've always worked with computers - since (dare I say?) 1974. Perhaps that's one reason why I create fiction using a notebook - so that it doesn't feel like work. Also, I write better away from the computer, which is constantly tempting me to take a break and read emails, FB, Twitter, etc. When it's warm enough (which it often is) I write in the garden.

Afterwards, I type it up, editing as I go. At a later stage, I work on a printed version.

Leatherdykeuk said...

I generally only write on the PC, though if I'm having trouble with a plot I will resort to post-it notes.

I can't write without a PC these days. I even take a netbook to my weekly amateur writers group.

I can't type but it's faster than writing longhand. I've got Dragon installed but really can't get it to work properly.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I did try a voice recognition software, but it didn't seem to be able to understand me and I spent more time correcting than composing.

I wonder if and when it becomes more widespread (I always think of Asimov's first Foundation book) it will alter the general style of prose so that we go back to those very early types of tale told by bards.

Denise said...

I love writing by hand, but after previously typing up a whole novel I try to write straight onto my laptop now. Thinking about this has made me realise I never use the laptop for anything but actual story. All my plotting, planning and character work is done in notebooks, dozens of them...

I got dragged along to typing classes when I was 16 and really appreciate them now. Being able to type at thinking speed is great. I do still scribble on paper in coffee shops, but if I know I'm intending to write in one will usually take the laptop with me.

Right, time for some ginger beer!

Annieye said...

I am also a trained typist and use spreadsheets, mindmaps and even project planning software.

I do use notebooks, though, just to jot down ideas or phrases and have a small box with a lid that I just pop these scraps of paper into.

I usually use post-it notes and timelines when I am actively writing a novel.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, almost a week late. Oh well.

I seem to be on a mission to try every method and every writing tool on the planet, software or otherwise. One day I might even write a review article or two about it all. For now, here's a quick summary.

Planning: Notebooks, scraps of paper, FreeMind.
Time lines: Paper scraps, spreadsheets *.
Plotting: Paper, index cards, FreeMind, Visio.
Writing & editing: Word processor *.
Printing & submissions: Umm, what?
Revision control: Subversion.
Backups & archiving: WinRAR.

* For general "office" software I use OpenOffice.

I've yet to find a single piece (or suite) of software that encompasses all of the disciplines, but I'm still on the hunt. Packages I've tried or intend to try are:

* yWriter.
* Scivener.
* Writer's Café.
* WiteItNow!

As you can see, I'm mostly software-driven but I do use some paper based methods.