Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Does Technology Affect Writing Style?

Lynn Viehl (aka Paperback Writer) had a really interesting post last week where she talked about how she was influenced by learning to write books on a typewriter.

She writes:

"It's not easy to backspace and rewrite on a typewriter; with the two I owned I had to use White-Out or correction tape, or rip out the page and start over. I also couldn't review and edit anything I wrote before I printed it out -- naturally using a typewriter = printing it out instantly. Add to that the fact that back then typing paper was expensive, and my mom had a fit if I wasted even a single page of it.

I never thought about it before, but I guess subconsciously I did teach myself to wait until I was clear in my head about what I wanted to put down on the paper because of the limitations of my equipment. When I typed, I wrote straight through the page while trying to make as few errors or mistakes as possible."

This got me to thinking. Do you think how you write affects what you write?

As in, if you're using pen and paper, typewriter, or a computer, how much (and how) does that impact your writing style?


Patrick Rodgers said...

I wrote a blog myself about this 2 weeks ago called Editing Sucks. I shake and spasm with fear at the mere thought of having to write a novel with a typewriter.

Word Processors and computers allow us so much more freedom and allow us the ability to make changes so much easier.

I really believe those who wrote manuscripts with a typewriter probably were much better first draft writers simply because you had to be.

And changing or rewriting a manuscript was probably a lot less heard of back then. Major revisions meant having to basically start from scratch.

Stephen King even mentions it in On Writing how he only does two drafts and a polish and he is the era of typewriters. I think modern day authors can do a dozen edits if they want and its not such a horrible thing.

Editing Sucks and editing on a typewriter manuscript is like the 7th layer of hell in my opinion.

RW said...

The most obvious thing is how the tool for revising and editing (word processor) is so near infinite tools for distraction (internet and email.) It makes my working process much choppier than I want. I don't if the result is different, but it certainly takes longer to get the result. For the next book, I'm seriously considering having a different workstation that doesn't connect to Nathan's blog or anything else on the internet.

I draft with pen and paper, old school, which minimizes the problem for that stage of the work.

Laura Martone said...

Well, I'm not so old that I don't remember having a typewriter in high school... and sometimes, I miss it. Mostly, it's the sound of the keys that I miss - it felt like I was really writing! Like Lynn, I also found myself being more careful about mistakes - and writing less than I do today.

During college, however, I made the transition to computers, and I grew to love the ability to edit before printing - I find that I'm more flexible now with my writing. I don't figure it all out ahead of time, and that has freed me to lose myself in the world I've created, write directly from my head/heart to my fingers, and rearrange scenes if necessary.

Sadly, I lost my old typewriter in Hurricane Katrina, but I have yet to replace it. I suppose I'd be much sadder if I lost my laptop. Ah, how dependent we've all become on technology!

lauren said...

My handwriting is big and loopy -- it hasn't evolved much since the seventh grade. I occasionally try to write scenes for my works-in-progress using pen and paper, but it doesn't work very well. Just the LOOK of my writing on the page makes my words seem somehow less mature. Plus, a paragraph that would be normal-sized in 12-pt. TNR looks gigantic on paper, so I tend to edit myself more when I'm drafting on paper.

Then I go to type up what I've written... and invariably find that the huge paragraph on paper turns out to be three lines of 12pt Times and severely lacking in detail.

Pen-and-paper writing really does hamper my style and my natural voice. It's odd.

Cat Moleski said...

I wrote my first book on a typewriter, the draft of my second book in long hand on a retreat with no computer, and edited both on a computer. I don't think the technology affected what I wrote just the speed with which I got the projects done. I'm a slow thinker and a slow writer sometimes, especially in rewrite, but having a computer does speed things along at least in the rough draft stage.

Laura Martone said...

Oh, and I have to agree with RW. I usually outline my stories (and write some scenes) with pen and paper first - away from the distractions of the computer. And, yes, since I discovered your helpful blog, Nathan, and oodles of others, my editing progress has slowed. Must... get... back... to... work.


P.S. My husband and I have recently decided to share the same wireless Internet card - so that neither of us can be on the Internet 24/7... which is a good thing, I think. We'll see how well it works! :-)

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

I started out on an IBM Selectric, and I have appreciated computers ever since. :)

Mira said...

One thing I've noticed is I access a different part of my brain depending on whether I'm writing with a pen or typing.

I get impatient writing with a pen, because it can't get up with my thoughts. But if I can get myself to do it, I can tap into a different part of my unconscious by writing with pen and paper. Often what comes out is more powerful and surprising.

Interesting question, Nathan.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

working on a computer gives me much more freedom. I can copy, edit, paste, cut, and save another draft and make a different edition.

All those stuck up old timers who are smug about writing novels with their hands and think they are better than us, make me sick. Not all of us were born before the Vietnam War.

Nicole Peeler said...

I was lucky enough to have both Saul Bellow and his wife, Janis, as professors at Boston University. In a weird twist of fate, I ended up living with them for a year. He wrote everything long hand, on legal paper. I would watch the care he took, each word chosen with thought, and each change made necessitating much scratching, extra scraps of paper, and fuss.

I have since become a writer of urban fantasy. The purpose of my fiction is not to delve into the human condition, and it is a far more disposable commodity (although I do have very strong feelings about the necessity and the purpose of genre fiction in pop culture). But I can also see a clear connection between the technology I use (the ease of cutting and pasting, deleting, adding, and the quick back and forth in emails between my editor and me, etc) and the spirit of my work.

I certainly don't believe "real" literature has to come on a legal pad, but I also think there's some sort of correlation between the ease of editing, nowadays, and the care that goes into rough drafts. Then again, perhaps technology has just made pulp fiction better?

Ed Pahule said...

As one who started on typewriters, I find that my whole editing style has changed dramatically. I used to type the document, sit down and red pencil it, then retype the entire thing again, sometimes even making edits as I typed, going off on tangents I hadn't thought of when I pencil edited. This often created whole new streams of thought and took the story in directions I hadn't thought of.

With computers? Everything seems set in stone. I don't have to do any retyping, therefore I've lost the whole stream of consciousness editing/typing I used to get with a typewriter.

In some regards I wonder if I wasn't better creatively on second, third, and fourth drafts than I am today. I'm seriously contemplating finding ribbons for my old Remington and going back old school.

Anonymous said...

I actually started off with a typewriter, which is probably part of the reason that I absolutely hate to edit on a computer. I will print everything out, scribble all over my work with multicolored pens, and then type my edits into the computer file.

That said, I love my computer, because I am a very fast - and very sloppy - typist. I will spell-check and fix typos on the computer, and it saves me a whole lot of headaches when I only have to fix one or two letters instead of a whole page!

Natalie said...

I'm young enough that I never used a typewriter except as a "toy" when my parents got their first computer.

While I think the typewriter would force me to be more careful about the words I type out, I think the word processor gives me to courage and freedom to change my writing and edit more.

I can trash full scenes without killing trees. I can tweak words to my heart's content. I can save my drafts in separate documents, all stored on one little hard drive.

I may have clung to my words in type, but now I don't have to. I can always try again and make things better. And if it fails, my earlier drafts are all there waiting for me.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I write differently with a pen and paper, than I do with a computer. Which I can write on better depends on how "in the scene" I am...whether the limitations of paper and knowing that I'll end up re-typing it anyway are a help, or a hindrance.

Ink said...

I think it's easier to over-write a first draft when using a computer (so easy to ramble on and on), but it's also far more efficient for revision (if you're willing to step up and do the work). I'm guessing a fair number of writers get lulled into the rambling and forget the revision. Write something new! So much more fun... (though, I admit, I generally like revision)

I do think the tactile differences are important, too. The ease of correction and the smoothness of a keyboard really allow the fingers to capture the flow of your thoughts, as the speed of typing (at least, if you can type well) allows you to keep up with the speed of your thoughts better (and the speed of the imagined story playing out within that picture show of the mind). I think it might also help with that unconscious absorption into the story.

Typewriters, pens... different tactile impressions. Slower, demanding a different cognitive pace as well. A little more consideration, perhaps, for the words, for the linguistic structures being built on the page (and more frustrations, too, with mistakes, editing and adding). And I do like the physical connection of a pen with the words. It seems more organic, more synchronous, to write by hand. Your movements shape the letters, the words, perhaps even the rhythms of the sentences, rather than encoding them digitally and making them magically appear on a screen as if with the wave of a tiny wand. I do like that connection, that sort of symbiosis, with the words when I write by hand, and miss it when writing on the computer. Poetry, for example, is still great by hand. It's generally short and easy to transcribe (writing by hand seems the hardest on the fingers, too).

But writing a novel? The mere thought of transcribing a handwritten novel (which I've done) gives me a headache. Never again, I think. And for a novel, where time is drawn out and momentum so valuable, I do appreciate the speed of a keyboard, that almost unconscious transference from the brain to the page.

And anyone who writes a novel on a phone is mad. Mad, I tell you! Surely masochistic, at the least.

My best, as always,

Maynard said...

This doesn't really match. At all. But...

I've been thinking about writing style lately - as a parent. My son is in 5th grade, a great year for writing since they are really smart and funny and just starting to turn into hormonal twerps. However, there's no room for angst or voice or creativity. They are not allowed to use the computers because they cant type fast enough, which is fine, but the big deal is this: they ONLY write 5 paragraph essays. Period. All year.

there's a writing test in spring which requires 5 para essay knowledge, so that's what they practice. My thought is...where's the 15 minutes of "hot topic" writing? Or the journal entry which will never be graded? Or the group chat and comment? Nowhere. Sit straight at your desk with your paper and pencil and plot out your new 5 paragraph essay with the intro sentence, the 3 descriptive sentences, and a closing sentence. fill in the formula correctly and you pass the essay! Wheeeee! Not.

My point is, a lot of writers are currently NOT emerging from this corner of the world and it's almost worse than being limited by a typewriter with expensive paper. It's limited by a wicked combo of testing pressure and (I know this isn't PC to say, but I'm a teacher too and I DON"T teach like this) teachers who use too many rules for writing.

Rick Daley said...

I used a typewriter to write gross short stories for my friends when I was in middle school, but all of my "mature" writing has been on a PC with a word processor.

My penmanship is horrible, so I save that for editing, where I just need to make indecipherable notes that indicate something was amiss (even if I can't tell WHAT was amiss in retrospect).

My biggest technology crutch is spellchecker. I love the Internet for quick research.

Matthew Buckley said...

You've asked half of the question. The other half is, "How does it affect the way we read?" Clive Thompson has a great article that compliments your post.

lauren said...

Even though I consider myself pretty useless with pen and paper these days, I do sometimes think about trying to draft a new novel on a typewriter. (I would have to BUY a typewriter first, or dig my old one out of my parents' basement and make sure you can still get ribbons for it...) The NaNoWriMo-style of drafting has really given me some bad habits, and these days I don't think twice about following a character arc or plot twist 20,000 words in the wrong direction. I don't plan ahead; I just GO. And I have in my head the excuse that anything I write can be deleted, moved around, pasted in elsewhere, etc. It makes it too easy to put off looking for the right word for the scene, or the right scene for the chapter. Saying "I'll fix it later" 80,000 times means that at the end of six months, I'll have a draft that has to be completely rewritten.

I keep doing that. I'm tired of 80,000-word studies in procrastination.

MS Word has made it too easy for me to write 5 very, very bad drafts of a novel before I even start approaching a draft that's reviseable.

I don't know if using a typewriter will help me be more of a deliberate writer, or if it'll just make me feel stifled. But I might just try it and see.

Miriam S.Forster said...

I have a hard time creating on the computer because I always want to edit. Copy, paste, fool with the margins, the font. Not to metion the Internet...

Then I wrote a book entirely in longhand, and it was much smoother. The work came out more organically. But it was a very slow process because I can't hand write more than an hour or two at a time.

Now I use a Dana portable word processor by Alphasmart. It's a good compromise, the speed of typing with less distractions. We'll see how it turns out.

Patrick Rodgers said...

I don't like to outline my books at all, I like them to feel organic to me when I write. I know how the story ends and I know how it begins but I am not entirely sure what is going to happen in between.

I finished writing my first novel only two months ago and there were numerous chapters that just seemed to flow out of me from the context of the story and that was a wonderful feeling. I would hate to outline a book it would lose its organic feel to me.

I do like to jot down a paragraph or two on an idea that I have for a second or third or eight novel for that matter. It seems since I started writing in earnest of late I have a hundred ideas for novels and I don't want to lose those ideas so I will type out a paragraph or two of my idea.

And as I have been procrastinate editing oif late I have also found myself typing up 9 pages of one idea and 5 of another. I just had to get it out of me before I lost it.

Also without computers where did one get their research for their novels. I spent at least 30-40 hours doing research for my manuscript. It's based in New York and I am not from New York so I researched the heck out of the city and the state. I also researched numerous other topics that came up in my book like dye packs, bait money, GPS tracking devices, actuating signals, GPS blocking devices, rock climbing spots, distances from New York to Canadian Cities, motorcyles, Gun Clubs, and Glock's. It's about bank robberies if you couldn't tell.

I mean without the internet and computers I am at a loss to where I would get all the information. When I wanted to know how long it took to drive from New York City to Toronto that was a simple map quest search. When I was researching failed bank robberies that was a much longer Google Newsfeed search but it was all at my fingerprints. I could stop for 30 minutes to do some research then return to writing what I had discovered. Before that I guess you would have to go to a library spend hours looking up what you needed and return to your writing the next day.

Mari Adkins said...

I write so much better with pen and paper! While I don't go all Walter Mitty with it, I find that everything just flows better from my mind to the paper than when I try to write at the laptop. (and the laptop has so many distractions! i don't have those with my clipboard and pen!)

My favorite journalism instructor in college used to beat me over the head all the time over my difficulties with composing at the keyboard - "you've got to learn!" Twenty years later, I have more of a hang of it, but I still don't like it and tend not to do as well with it as I do with pen and paper.

Pen and paper takes time, though. I write, then I type. Then at the end, I run a printout that I mark absolutely to death - make notes on, add to, take away from...Then type up those revisions.

I just spent the last month typing a complete manuscript from scratch. I'd made so many revisions to the printed sheets that it was easier for me to scrap the Word document and start completely over from the print out and notes. But, in my opinion, I have a better story now than the one I started with.

Alan Orloff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ashleyludwig said...

Nathan - interesting question. I find technology seeping into my stories. My latest short had a chance meeting through FaceBook. Twitter and blogs give writers a snapshot on what agents and publishers are looking for. Plus, being able to use portable devices for editing, writing, and reading keeps everyone working, regardless of physical location.

Typewriters have a place in the heart of most authors, and mine, on a dusty shelf in my office.


Mama Squirrel said...

I type faster than I write with a pen and paper, so I'm able to get my thoughts down faster when I'm on the computer. For me, the worst problem with using a word processor over a typewriter or pen and paper is the temptation to over-edit. It's too easy to make changes when I doubt phrasing, and I think it can tend to make my writing too careful; it can leech the emotion out of it. That being said, I've learned to print out my drafts and edit them with pen instead of just editing in the word processor. I still think paper just reads better than a computer screen.

Dara said...

I'm thankful for computers and the ability to copy, cut, and paste. I'm fairly young and for the most part, writing on a computer is what I was brought up on, but I do remember a time pre-junior high when our family simply didn't have the money for a computer.

I wrote part of my first "novel" on a typewriter, although it was one of those that allowed you to see the lines in the small little screen before you actually typed them.

Being a ten year old, I often didn't pay attention to what was on that screen, so there was a lot of "editing" that needed done (editing being my kiddie handwritten notes in the margins).

I got tired of the typewriter eventually and thought it easier to actually handwrite since at that time, I was able to write that way faster than typing.

Of course that novel never got past the first draft, but that's how I used to write. The only time I handwrite anything now generally occurs when I'm writing little summary or character sketches in my notebook. I'm rather spoiled by this age of technology and cannot fathom what it would be like now going back to the "handwriting" days. :P

Kristi said...

When I was young(er) I typed out stories on a cursive typewriter. I would say that the writing was more pure - and far less perfect - as I didn't do one hundred edits on things the way I do now. Every major change I would make on the typewriter resulted in having to retype the entire story, so I often left it alone.

Now, I use a pen and paper for story ideas and agree with Mira that it taps into a different place in my brain. I then transfer the idea to computer but still wonder whether so many edits is a good idea. I might even be using editing as procrastination since I have yet to submit the things I've written recently - I even spent last night revising 3 picture books that I've already revised multiple times. Interesting topic.

CindaChima said...

In my case, if there were no computer, there would be no books. I will keyboard a three-line note to avoid hand-writing it. My writing process requires the freedom to write a crappy first draft.

Anonymous said...

When I write programs on paper rather than on the screen, the code is better, clearer, and there are no bugs.

Clifford Stoll has a chapter on this in "Silicon Snake Oil", partly written in on a screen, partly on a typewriter, and partly on paper. And yes, you can tell which is which.

Anonymous said...

I taught myself to touch type in the summer between 5th and 6th grades, on a Royal portable that had been my grandfather's (and using the learn-to-type book that accompanied it).

I survived CorrecTape, WhiteOut, the Selectric II (with built-in correction), word-processing typewriters with lift-off correction and about a 15-character memory, and on and on.

My earliest writing either was longhand or typewritten, and I simply crossed out or xxxxed out material and kept going.

If I had to write the old way now, I wouldn't, as I have have beaten up my hands to the point that writing longhand is something I do only in short bursts, and the calisthenic action of a manual typewriter would limit my use likewise. The soft, fast action of a computer keyboard actually doesn't hurt.

In short, I've always revised while I've written. The only difference now is in the medium, not the method. I still have the typewriters, but for nostalgic purposes. Though if the power went out for a long time, I suppose nostalgia might get repurposed.

RW said...

In the freshman comp classes I teach, I encourage freewriting--a kind of free association on paper as a way to "think through writing," accessing what's pinging around in their heads by having it come out in a mess of writing.

The funny thing is, they have trouble really getting into the spirit of it until we try it on modern technology. On desktop computers, I have them turn off the monitor so they can't see what they type. On laptops, I have them tilt the screen down. That's when they get the click, "Oh, you mean really don't think about the writing. Just write." On paper, since they can still see what they're writing, they have trouble turning off the internal editor.

BA Boucher said...

I can only write with a keyboard. My mind tends to shoot thoughts faster than my pen chicken-scratches the paper and I tend to derail the thought train halfway through sentences.

My WPM's tend to match up with what I'm thinking so I don't get off track that much as I type.

This comment notwithstanding.

Patrick Rodgers said...

Kristi I like that it shows everyone is different. I use writing to procrastinate editing its the other way around for you.

When I am done with my 2nd draft edit I am working on right now I am going to print the manuscript and let my wife go at it with a red pen. I think sometimes we get too close to our work and its hard to detangle ourselves from it.

While she is reading and helping with the editing I am going to completely remove myself from the project and type something else maybe more of the nine paged story I already started. That way when I come back to it in a month it will seem fresh and new again and I can do a last revision before sending out queries.

ella144 said...

I prefer the feel, and romance, of a typewriter over a computer. Also when writing my first draft on a computer, I tend to edit to the point that I barely increase my word count or kill all chance for my voice, or my characters' voices, to come out in the writing.

To combat this tendency, I use pen and paper for the first draft, entering it into the computer one chapter at a time. Once finished I print the whole MS, read it through, and then start editing.

Scott said...

In the good old days, I wrote everything out with pen and paper and then typed it all up. I sometimes miss those days of writing everything out by hand.


I can type faster than I can write things out by hand, so I'm - somewhat - able to keep up with my thoughts. The computer also allows for easier deletion of a word, sentence of paragraph. I'm also able to easily make notes in a number of documents and sort it in a coherent fashion using cut/paste.

Does any of this impact my particular writing style? No. I've adapted to the Age of Technology.


Lunatic said...

Very little change. I write it by hand on paper first, then go back and type it in. The only time it helps is in the polishing stage, which I do after it's been entered. Backspace and delete same some time, but it's a wash for the reason stated, that I don't linger on the thought quite as long.


Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

The computer allows me to take risks with my writing that I would not be willing to do if I was typing or writing out by hand because of the "finality" of the printed version or the time expended writing longhand.

Maya / מיה said...

I like the flexibility of a computer. Sometimes I need to change the look of a manuscript (make it look more like a book, or single-space instead of double space, or change the font) to give myself fresh eyes. Don't worry, Nathan, I'd never submit my crazily formatted versions, but I love the flexibility of computer formatting to allow me to change my perspective and renew my energy.

Alan Orloff said...

From a creative standpoint, I think it's "possible" to write a novel longhand. Laborious, but possible.

From a business standpoint, with all the editing and back-and-forth between agents and editors and writers, I think it's practically untenable to make a go at writing novels for a living without embracing technology.

(FWIW, I recently blogged about this at: A Million Blogging Monkeys)

lynnrush said...

Great question.

I actually tried writing a story out long hand once (I plead temporary insanity) really slowed my creative bug down.

I think too fast to write long hand. A computer allows me free reign (I'm a seat of the pants writer during the first couple drafts) on what I write. I know that I can go back and fix whatever--Cut and paste.

Heck, what I cut, I paste into a junk folder in case I want it back, (or parts of it).

I enjoyed reading the comments so far about how people used to type/write out their novels. WOW, is all I can say.

Great post today.

jonas wunderman said...

I used pencil and paper, always, before sitting down at the PC with my notes ... anyway last summer i got hold of an old typewriter and it revolutionized my writing! Clearly you must think much more, take your time ... but the main thing is the buzz that comes from listening to the sound it makes as you get into a flow.

I genuinely think my writing is better when I use the typewriter ... although ... who can tell???

Sarah said...

I write on a laptop, and it makes me more fearless with revisions.

If I'm playing with a big edit, I just copy the document, and go to town on the copy. It's far easier for me to make drastic changes if I know I haven't lost the original.

Marsha said...

I carry a planner with me and a small notebook in my purse. If I get an idea I can jot it down so I don't forget it. I cannot imagine not having my computer to write on, although I learned to type on a typewriter. I have become so dependent on technology! I also have to agree about the speed of researching with the internet. All that information at your fingertips gives your story endless possibilities.

Kristi said...

Patrick - That's a great idea. I'm going to try that after my second go-through on my current YA ms and just give it away to someone else. Also, I'm not going to touch the PB mss again - maybe I'll actually start submitting something! :)

Scott said...

I've noticed how communicative writing such as forum commenting, emailing and blogging has slackened my prose, or at the very least, increased my internal dialogue because screen formats aren't very amenable to dialog breaks. In fact, when I "took down" my book from the blog entries I used to write it, it was far more experimental and slight on dialog. Rewriting it was a much bigger process than I thought it was going to be.

That said, I write far more than I used to and much faster. I can type, too, without realizing I can. I stop now and again, but rarely ever have to look down. That's entirely because computers have made writing far more easy to do. No printing necessary, and you're not shuffling pages around incessantly trying to get them in order.

I still do notes on pen and paper when I need to, but the vast majority of my work is computerized. And thank gods, too. I wouldn't have written half of what I have up to now and wouldn't be half the writer I am. But my spelling is worse cause the fix is easy. :-)

Great line by Picasso that I read recently, and I wonder if it shines a little light on this question in another way:

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."I wonder, have we changed the way we think, and therefore, create?

PurpleClover said...

I wrote my current wip with pen and paper in a short story narrative to myself with notes in the columns, questions, and sketches.

I think editing is better based on current technology. I can always go back and tweak details. I've even been known to add scenes and characters. I can change dates and times. Technology gives us more freedom to change and improve our work.

The fact that past author phenoms were able to produce the works they did with what they had just tells me they would still stand above the rest if they had the access to technology we do now.

Natalie N. said...

There is no way I could be a writer without computers. I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and holding a pen for any length of time kills my hand. I'm more of the go with the flow kind of writer - stream of consciousness if you will. I like to get all my thoughts out there on the page and then rework them as needed. I remember having to type out papers in high school and I hated it!

For my current novel, which is way too long, it's been much easier to delete out sections and move pieces around with Microsoft Word than it would have been on a typewriter. I can't imagine having to type out 300 pages of manuscript knowing that any errors would waste a whole page.

I love technology.

Ink said...

Hey, for any of you wanting to travel back in time and start writing with a typewriter, I have an old 1920 Royal. Only $200...



Tracy said...

I didn't use a typewriter much when I was younger, but I've always written in a journal. I think that has made me more efficient as far as first drafts go, but I often find that I have to shut off my internal editor just to get the story down in the first place.

BJ said...

I handwrite all my drafts with pencil and paper. I just feel more creative that way. Second draft is keying it into the computer -- I see things differently there, more objectively.

Christa said...

Interesting and diverse responses. I think people who prefer typewriter and/or pen and paper are probably also the ones that prefer the look and feel of books versus e-book readers and vice-versa.

Personally, I think they both have their usefulness. My penmanship is horrible (seriously, it is). I can make a physician's writing look elegant and easily read. Fortunately, I can decipher my own scribbles.

If I have a random thought on a character or scene, or I'm brainstorming on world building (I'm working on a fantasy novel), then I tend to use pen and paper. I do this because I spend most of the time staring out my window in contemplation and only occasionally jot something down once I have it firmly in mind. I'd rather do this with pen and paper as opposed to sitting in front of my desktop or having my laptop resting on my lap.

However, I NEVER write in pen and paper. As someone else mentioned earlier, I find that when I'm 'in a scene', I simply can't write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. When I try, even I can't decipher what I wrote later. Of course, as quick as I can type (which is quite fast) I still run into this issue typing as well, but it isn't nearly as much of a drag on my speed.

I'm old enough to say that I learned to type on typewriters in high school. In fact, we only had about 8 computers in the school and they were specifically for a computer class. Perhaps I'm simply not one prone to nostalgia, but I have never missed the sound or feel of a typewriter.

Someone else mentioned, or perhaps I interpreted from their comment, that writing on computers minimizes creativity. I would have to disagree with that statement. I find that my creativity has been broadened by using computers as opposed to typewriters for many reasons that have already been stated: focusing on not making mistakes, worried about how much paper is left to use, needing to keep a supply of white-out on hand, having to start over if I missed a mistake as I was typing, etc.

I find that by not having to worry about the mechanics of writing, I am able to let my imagination roam the scene, enter the different character's minds, try out various 'what if' scenarios to see which one I prefer.

As Patrick mentioned, I also do not outline -- at all. My mind prefers a wide open space to see what the characters do as they enter the scene and walk across the page. Several of my best scenes have been interactions that occurred as I was typing. The character decided they wanted to do something different and when they were done it was great!

I think that kind of flexibility is greatly prohibited by using a typewriter, at least for me.

Anonymous said...

It's a lot easier to write these days.

It's still hard to write well.

Bane of Anubis said...

Without computers, there'd definitely be far fewer "writers" (maybe 10 - 20%) - I'm w/ Cinda - w/o a computer I wouldn't be able to do this... I'm definitely a child of the ADD culture and can't suffer the sluggish nature of old-school editing.

Also, I've never noticed any difference between typed writing and handwritten writing (other than legibility).

heather jeanne said...

I used to hand write my stories and then type them out, and often, when I did that, I found that none of the paragraphs were quite as full as I thought they were. I think that the amount of physical space my writing took up on paper, as opposed to on my computer screen, made me feel as though I'd written more (more details, more description, more dialogue) than I really had.

On the other hand, my drafts tend to be a bit more crowded and messy now, since it is easier to change things on the computer.

Matilda McCloud said...

I wrote my short stories in college by hand and then sometimes re-typed them. Back in the "old days" when there weren't any computers, you often had to bribe a friend to type your papers because typing was hard and I never really mastered it.

I didn't write again after college until the computer age...and now I'm incapable of writing longhand, even though friends keep insisting on giving me blank journals as presents, which more or less remain blank.

I do, however, use only a red pencil and paper (proofs) at work. I highly recommend to those "born after the Vietnam War" as Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist puts it, to print out chunks of your ms and to go over it with a red pencil. It's so much easier to edit on paper and to see ways to improve your ms(and I'm not just talking about typos) than it is when looking at it on the computer screen.

Jason Crawford said...

If a writer has a clear sense of his/her voice, I can't see how the instrument would affect style. Because really, the writing takes place in your head and the instrument is the means by which we share it/remember it.

But I think someone else said that word processors sure help to make the editing process easier.

I would imagine the biggest impact would be with regard to time. I type so much faster than I write. Come to think of it, technology helps with time during every phase of the publishing process.

Jason Crawford said...

On a related note, I recall the other day trying to explain to my five year old daughter what a typewriter was. The look on her face was classic. She just didn't get it. It was like I was trying to explain how to use chisel and stone.

D. G. Hudson said...

I compose mostly on my laptop, but when I'm having trouble with a character or a scene, I tend to write with a pen in my Moleskine notebook. I get away from the writing place, and try to 'get in' the scene or character, or whatever is giving me the problem.

Using the pen and paper forces me to slow down my thinking and make words count, much as Lynn Viehl says she did using the typewriter.

I prefer composing on the laptop as opposed to manual writing but for editing and intense rework I usually use pen and paper. It fits my style, which is get it down, then refine.

Technology has improved our methods of writing, but it's only a tool.

Indigo said...

I learned to type on a typewriter in order to be able to type with ease on a computer.

Do I find computers make it easier? Yes, by leaps and bounds. The ability to edit, spell check leaves you to ponder how anyone could write terribly (unfortunately writers sometimes don't take advantage of what they have at their fingertips).

Yet...(there is always that isn't there) I still find myself struggling just to get what is in my head on the page before me. If I don't plow on mindlessly I would end up editing and rearranged plots until nothing was left of the original pretext. Having said that ease doesn't always equate easier. (Hugs)Indigo

karenranney said...

How funny - I Twittered about that this morning. Great minds, etc.

My first book was written on a typewriter. A little blue electric with a manual carriage return.

I had a devil of a time cutting and pasting, because I did the real thing with scissors and paste. Some of my pages were thick because of all the paragraphs added. I learned, however, to think about what I wanted to write before I wrote it.

Computers are SO much easier.

Laura Martone said...

What Purple Clover said about how old literary masters would still be on top today (even with new technology) made me think about the age-old question in sports... I've heard many fans put down modern record-holders (especially in baseball, golf, and tennis), saying that technology has improved people's games and that greats like Babe Ruth would still be on top if they'd had access to today's better equipment.

While art is ostensibly less competitive than sports - there are still agents to be wooed, contracts to be snagged, literary awards to be won... and I wonder how the work of Dickens, Hemingway, and other classic authors would have changed if they'd had access to word processors and computers. Hmmm...

Bane of Anubis said...

Laura - the horror! - Les Miserable would be twice as long, as would War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo...

And, as a counter point, I'm not so sure the masters of yesteryear would be the same (they may be near the top, but not at it)... to use your sports analogy - back in Babe Ruth's top, pretty much the only players allowed to play with a visible spotlight were whites (b/c if a guy like Josh Gibson played, he'd be pretty damn heralded) - never mind the amazing ability of Dominicans, etc.

And guys like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, though great, would not have been as dominant in today's era b/c of the increased numbers (i.e., writers of yesteryear had far less competition and many potentially great writers didn't have accessibility that is available to today).

Polenth said...

When I was writing with pen and paper, I never finished anything. I've always found holding a pen a bit awkward, so I'd get tired too quickly. I also write out of order, which is hellish if you're writing in a way where you can't easily reorder it later (I could cut the bits out and stick them back together in the right order, but that is more time-consuming).

And let's not get started on trying to spell-check with a dictionary, when you're dyslexic and don't know what the first three letters are supposed to be anyway. I have nightmares about those times in school.

All round, I'm not sure if I'd be writing without a computer. Other methods throw up a lot of barriers to writing, before I've even got to the stage of thinking about what to write.

Anonymous said...

This is a topic that is near and dear to me because I use to edit a newsletter that often discussed technology's use in education. One guy we followed was researcher Michael Russell, who did studies comparing how students did when taking tests via computer vs. hand writing. And it was so interesting what he found. Most of his studies involved essay question responses, and students who typed were proficient or above at typing.

Students who hand wrote their tests thought more about what they were going to write, were often more concise and to the point. They didn't cite as many examples. They really conserved the space and perhaps even tempered the amount of effort they'd have to expend physically writing down the answers.

Students who typed tended to write a lot more, give more examples, almost sort of throwing out everything they could, and would go back and edit later. But, it was never as tight as the kids who had to put pen to paper. Russell hypothesized kids actually thought differently when they were typing out their answers on computer than when they handwrite them.

So, his studies were really interesting. And I think they were on point. The mindset you are in when you have a computer, when you can put down any bad thought, go stream of conscious in your writing, is much different than when you don't. So I definitely say computers change writing.

Anonymous said...

In case anyone else found this type of research interesting, here is one of Russell's study's that shows the effect of handwriting vs. computer writing on open-ended esssay questions.

Laura Martone said...

Yahoo, Bane!

All good points re: the racial factor in sports (and in writing, for that matter). Besides, you made my day! After all, it's easier to sleep at night knowing that Hemingway didn't face the competition I do today. In fact, I was just thinking about that a few days ago... so, thanks for the reaffirmation. ;-)

Taylor K. said...

Something that seriously affects how I type is the way I type. I don't do so the traditional way, but instead with two fingers. I go at a surprisingly fast speed this way, but something about the way I have to move my hands makes my mind think over every word a little longer than it would otherwise. This has a major affect on what words I put down on the page just by slowing me down that little bit.

Heidi the Hick said...

I failed typing twice in high school. No wonder I crushed down my writing dreams in my teen years eh?

I wrote stories on actual paper with an actual pen for years. In the mid 90s my husband sat me down and said, "Look, it's just a computer, and it doesn't bite or explode." Eventually I got over the typos and forced myself to do this word-processing thing.

Now I can't imagine writing without. I tend to jump around a lot in the chronology of a story. I'll cut and paste huge blocks of text. I can't imagine having to write from the beginning to the end anymore.

I still keep a workbook and pen handy, for those times when I just can't deal with looking at a screen. It happens. But eventually some of that handwritten stuff will end up in the computer, and it'll likely get stuck in the middle somewhere.

So how does technology affect my writing style? It doesn't affect it so much as it ALLOWS it.

MitMoi said...

I stand next to Polenth and this,

"And let's not get started on trying to spell-check with a dictionary, when you're dyslexic and don't know what the first three letters are supposed to be anyway. I have nightmares about those times in school.Even now I have long cursing sessions with spell check because it cannot figure out what word I've written and I cannot think of any more ways to spell it. ( to the rescue!)

I also remember NEVER EVER being able to type ONE SINGLE page correctly in college. And trying to figure out bottom margins and footnotes? It's amazing I graduated.

I also agree about research. I'm writing about California the 1850s. I live in North Carolina. Do you know how little access there is to the documentation I need? Thank God for Google search and the Google Digitized Library.

Kimber An said...

Mini Laptops were created specifically for mommies, I swear. With my mini laptop I can write anytime anywhere.

Joel Q said...

My spelling is not as good as it needs to be, because I don't "have to" know, thanks to spell check.

reader said...

There's no way I could've written a book without a computer. Writing is rewriting and having to rewrite seven drafts of something from the beginning would just be too damn hard.

I make mistakes, lots of them. Spelling errors, using wrong word choices, overwriting, having to move half of one chapter to a different chapter. Putting in backstory, taking it back out.

Thank god for computers.

mabbilin said...

Since the computer has been developing as long as I have, I find it hard to distinguish which changes were due to writing method and which were due to growing up.

csmith said...

Hmm, interesting one Nathan.

I carry around a moleskine book where I write thoughts and randomly outline and re-outline stuff and a sketch book so I can draw what comes into my head, buildings etc. (I am completely anal retentive about building orientation and lighting - nothing throws me fast from a story than describing the position of a building and having light coming in from the wrong window)

I can't type cohesively for the life of me on MSWord or any other program which has pretty functions or spell checking. I use something called etherpad ( I then copy my output into a word doc and spellcheck it. This allows me to go back to my typing writing roots - normally asking one of my close circle of friends to whip me when I'm not producing words.

I guess I could write longhand, but I have such elaborate handwriting (either copperplate, cursive, or architectural printing) that while it may look gorgeous, it will take me forever.

However, and there is no doubt about this, I MUST edit longhand on hardcopy. And that goes for anything, writing, drawing, plans. I just see more in the hardcopy, can feel the cadence and flow of it better.

So I guess I am a mish-mash. I just figure I'll use whatever technology suits the task I'm trying to accomplish!


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I already knew my brain was wired strangely, but when I started on my novel I discovered that I needed to write the first draft with pen and paper. With shorter works, I have no problem sitting down and entering it right into the computer. Maybe it's something about having to juggle more plot points, characters, the order of scenes, all those details involved in a longer work.

But as for the editing capabilities of a word processor vs. a typewriter---no comparison! I still remember typing a whole page, only to discover there was a typo in a spot that didn't lend itself to correction. And those fumes from the White-Out . . . which brings me full circle to why my brain isn't entirely functional, perhaps.

Michael Pickett said...

A lot. The way I write is just to write the first thing that comes to mind until something better comes to mind. As I follow my train of thoughts, deeping the characters and story every time, I've come up with some pretty good stories. There would be no way for me to write this way if I wasn't writing on a computer. I don't know what I'd do otherwise.

Wendy Withers said...

I think for a while I was actually stuck in the typewriter mindset. I sat pulling words out of my head like they were really teeth, and I never finished anything, from short stories to novels.

Lately, I've learned to plow through my writing until it's done, leaving spelling errors and typos peppering the pages. Thanks to my new "get it done before you judge it" philosophy, I had my first short story published at the age of 26 and am almost halfway through writing the first draft of my first serious novel.

I'd say technology has saved me, because it's so simple to go back to revise and rewrite.

K. A. Cartlidge said...

In the old days I used a typewriter. Now, I use a laptop.

My main issue for a long while though was the same as many others, in that with a computer it's far too easy to edit. Rather than getting the first draft done and then revising, I found I would manage a page or so then have to revise it there and then. Unfortunately that leads to slow progress through the entire work, the latest page being at first draft stage and everything prior to it being at second or third.

This had two bad side-effects for me. The first was that I erroneously treated grammar corrections or sentence/paragraph edits as creating a newer draft whereas, when a first draft is finished before revising begins, the revision ideally operates at a much wider scope and picks up larger issues concerning how what has been written relates to the rest of the text. The second side-effect was that I revised text so much it became clinically excellent but emotionally lifeless as the spontaneity of it was sucked out.

My solution was simple, but not possible for most. I'm a software developer by trade so I spent a few weeks creating my own novel writing software. Sounds overkill, but it gives me one feature I have never seen anywhere else which is something I call Fresh Mode. Basically, when I'm writing I can switch on Fresh Mode and it tries to make me concentrate on entering new (fresh) text rather than revising, by the simple expedient of making everything apart from the last few paragraphs of the document read-only. I cannot get distracted revising previous pages because it won't let me!

Of course I can switch Fresh Mode off but the fact that I have to make a conscious decision to do so tends to make me think twice about why I put the limit in there in the first place.

Before I wrote the software, I did a similar thing by only keeping the latest page or so in my text editor, whilst keeping a seperate document that had newer text continually removed from my work-in-progress file and appended to it. The ever-expanding separate book document grew faster as psychologically it was like filing away the text as if it was done and dealt with.

Hope that helps somebody out there.

Danielle Yockman said...

I am just old enough to remember hand writing out my term papers in junior/high school and then typing them on first the electric typewriter at my mom's office and then my dad's computer at work. Of course, the handwritten pages never added up to enough and I had no typing skills what so ever! Even with the back correction key it was still painful and more than once I can remember correcting enough times to put a hole in the paper.

I love the computer! But there are times when a pen and paper feel good...they get the creative juices flowing in a way a blank glowing screen with that taunting cursor flashing at you can't.

Teri said...

Technology has certainly speeded up the writing process.
Sometimes I just let my mind wander and try to record my thoughts, but
It’s difficult for the fingers to keep up with a racing mind.
But, yes, technology gives us the freedom to try different things and still be able to
“undo” the words/thoughts.
And, I always write on an “unconnected” pc. That way, I won’t be tempted by Nathan’s blog.

Marilyn Peake said...

I enjoyed reading Lynn Viehl’s post. I wrote my Master’s Thesis longhand, then typed the first drafts to show my professor and the final approved draft on a typewriter. I did background research for it in the "stacks" section of the library, paying 5 to 10 cents per page for every article I needed to copy, spending hours in photocopying alone. Even though my Masters Thesis only needed to be about 50 pages in length, I became so absorbed in the topic, it ended up being over 100 pages long. At one point, my professor suggested moving an entire section into another place in the manuscript, so I had to retype everything from the first page where the change occurred. For the final copy, white out wasn’t allowed, so I had to pull out the page I was typing on the typewriter and start over if I made a typo.

When I started writing fiction, I wrote it out longhand, then typed it into the computer because I was used to writing first drafts in that way. I quickly learned that I could save a lot of time and energy by training myself to write the first draft on the computer. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I eventually became conditioned to the new technology, and now write much more creatively on the computer.

I realized something for the first time in reading Lynn’s insight into why she doesn’t do so much "backtracking, editing and rewriting". I write the same way – I keep unfolding the story in my mind before committing it to paper, editing as I go – and possibly that’s due to early training on typewriters.

I also think new technology accounts for the huge increase in writers seeking publication. It’s so much easier today than ever before to create, edit, and research a manuscript, and to send it out to agents.

Kristin Tubb said...

In grad school, I wrote on a Brother word processor. The screen was about 2 inches high, black and green, and showed about 4 lines of text. When I printed something out, the keys clacked forward and typed out the document letter by letter, like a speedy typewriter. The only practical way to edit was to print out the document and do it by hand. I still edit this way from first to second draft. I never thought about *why* until now! Thanks for that trip (way) back, Nathan! :-)

Mira said...

Wait a minute. Nathan, did you just win an award???

Is that new? It had today's date on it.

I noticed that you are at the very top, and it's NOT alphabetical.

Nathan, if it's new, I'm so happy for you. You deserve it! You work really hard - Yea, Nathan! Whoo hooo!

Oh the other hand, if it's old hat, well then, I'm still happy for you and you still deserve it and you still get a whoo hooo!


jimnduncan said...

My first writing efforts were on an electric typewriter. I've written chunks of my work with pen and paper, and there is definitely a difference.

For one, the pace is far slower. You consider more about what you're writing. You want the writing to be as 'done' as possible if you're putting it in manually. With a computer you can be lazy. It can be fixed later. The danger in that of course is that you don't put the same consideration into it and it doesn't get fixed so your writing is all the poorer for it.

However, there is something to be said for the speed with which you can write on the puter. Can't tell you how many times, when writing on paper, that some thought would get forgotten because it took too long to get there. Writing on paper though has a very different creative feel to me. I would probably write on paper far more often if it weren't for the transcribing aspect. It's awful.

I think though that computers have made writing too easy. At least as far as literature goes. It alters the creative process (not necessarily bad). If you could clone yourself and sit down to write the same story, one on puter and another on paper, I'd bet money you would come out with different stories, and there's better than 50/50 the paper one would be better.

Jen P said...

I'm about to start a new project and this has given me good fodder for thought. I write faster on the screen. I write more creatively, with a better choice of words in paper and (!) pencil. I think on screen it looks "finished" and too perfect, when it's not. Typos happen which I read over, due to errors in typing speed and computer logic (from / form) and I tend not to do that longhand.

I am in a quandary as to whether to write the next novel longhand on paper, but I think I will. Periodically I'll need to type it up on screen, which will make me grind my teeth thinking of it as double time spent, but I hope it will be worth it.

In fact I also just interviewed author Patrick Gale and he also felt longhand allowed him to be more creative and organic.

Anonymous said...

Say what you want about technology, but at least my typewriter never crashed.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I loved that post. It was interesting to read everyone's responses.

I prefer a word processor because I often don't think in a linear mode. Even if I'm writing through a book chronologically, a random line that would be perfect a few scenes later will pop in my head, and I appreciate the convenience of being able to skip down a few lines, getting it down before it flees my head, and returning to what I was doing. I could do the same with scrap paper if I were writing by hand or with a typewriter, but sometimes those perfect lines make their exit too quickly!

I do sometimes outline or write small scenes by hand. They're usually in shorthand, though, in an effort to keep up with my brain.

One advantage to producing a physical manuscript as you go, though, is the ability to flip back a few pages or chapters and check something. You can scroll around in a word document, of course, but you can't remain on the current page while you go back to the beginning to check something you wrote there.

Mira said...

On the other hand, why didn't I win an award? I like awards. I wouldn't mind winning an award. I'm sure on some level, I truly deserve an award.

I know I deserve something.

Okay. Anyone who is handing out awards, please know that I'm available to be given an award.

Totally wide open on the award front. Yep. Award away.

Malanie said...

When I write on the computer I am able to unleash my inner voice without worrying over all the techincal junk.

I can let the creativity juices flow, and it flows fast! I have noticed when I try to write by hand I cannot write as fast as it is coming and then it becomes distracting.

Lunatic said...

On a related note, I wonder how authors have been affected by things like agents' blogs.

As time conscious as agents are, it only makes sense that they want to pick up a story and get right to the meat of the conflict. I think a lot of authors see that, and they are starting their first scene with the man getting mauled by the lion, instead of introducing the man, and showing him shove off on his safari first and then mauling him on page 5, A thousand words later.

As an author, I can write it either way, but as a reader, I'd like to get to know the man just a bit before I'm asked to feel sorry for him.

I certainly don't want stories starting too early, and maybe it's just me, but I'm feeling rushed as a reader these days, even in the books I end up liking eventually.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I cannot plan with out notebook and pen.
Yet, all my characters have computer files kept on them for cross referencing.
I only write with Windows on laptop or computer (being driven totally nuts by one having 2003 and the other 2007)
Gotta dash Man Utd obviously need me back!

Audrianna said...

Most of the time, I end up typing my stories straight from my brain. However, I find that if I'm stuck, I can write it out on paper and it will come to me more easily. Don't ask me why because I really don't know. I did get my start writing in a notebook, which is kind of interesting to look at now because the writing is way below where I am now (or at least I think so!).

I haven't ever used a typewriter to write stories, but during my senior year in high school, I had an intern with the city court, which still uses typewriters for bunches of things. I got really, really good at typing on a typewriter. Now this has me thinking that I should try it out!

As for the editing aspect - I am so super grateful that I do have my computer, where I can change stuff before I print. Lord, what a mess it would be if I didn't. I swear, I must change and add and delete scenes a gazillion times before printing out a first draft, let alone the second draft or the polished draft. The world is a much better place without the stuff I edit half way through my first draft.

Jil said...

I wrote my first novels by hand and I would flow through the whole story without looking back. I loved that. Then I would type, filling in until it became full length. But I'm not a good typist so the typewriter was awful, redoing page after page before I got a presentable manuscript. Ugh!
Now, on my computer I don't sail straight through the whole thing, Instead I mull over each chapter, editing as I go, even my first time through. When I reach the end I, Of course, go through it again, and again and that's when the computer is priceless.

I tried writing my last novel's first draft by hand but gave up when I couldn't read my writing!
By the way, my "writing" computer is far away from this Internet one , thank goodness! (But I'm still here!)

W. B. Schmidt said...

@Kristin Laughtin

"One advantage to producing a physical manuscript as you go, though, is the ability to flip back a few pages or chapters and check something. You can scroll around in a word document, of course, but you can't remain on the current page while you go back to the beginning to check something you wrote there."

If you use Microsoft Word, you have an option to view two sections of your document simultaneously. Click the Window menu then Split menu item. This will give you a new cursor, allowing you to set your split screen. I typically use the bottom section to find the area of the document I want to reference and the top section to write / edit accordingly. To remove the split, go to the Window menu again and click Remove Split.

KayKayBe said...

I had a very difficult time reading my 'voice' on a screen at first. I think that's why so many people want to use purple ink, and 'Monotype Cursivo' and all of that. There is this connection that you feel with your own handwriting. You can get over it, as I did. I'm embarrassed now- but I actually studied shorthand to see if I could avoid the sterile Times New Roman. I'm glad I didn't waste too much time on that.

PS- Does anyone else wonder if the 'dropped subject' plague is a result of facebook habits?

Anna said...

I write quickly, a C from 8th grade still indicative of my typing skills. I rely on WORD to hold onto all I spill, then regurgitating usually with little pain on my part exactly what in the world I've splayed out...

a typewriter would not be so forgiving, I believe... thank goodness for my laptop!

as for the plotting and scheming, it's all long hand, scattily set down on various pieces of paper, no order, only as it comes.

how this relates, well, messily is the best way to put it. then magically it all seems to come together after a time.

sort of like life, not in a manner you might expect...

(one tiny, embarrassing factoid I'll admit... when I started, I was still using the space bar, not the tab key... I still put two spaces after a period; some habits you can break, but not all...)

Laurel said...


Agent blogs and online advice on the craft of writing must affect things some. I hope it doesn't drive everything too far in one direction.

I think the other thing that bleeds over is screenwriting. A lot of the drive to eliminate exposition between dialogue and tell the story through action and dialogue MUST be done in a movie. Otherwise there would be constant narration. That is the biggest reason I like books better than movies.

I miss adverbs, adjectives, explanations of what the characters are thinking. There must be a happy medium between Faulkner and Hemingway and clearly there's a market for both.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Writing longhand (often with inkpen) slows down your thought process and it's always the way I go with first drafts. There's something about the mind/body connection that makes the words work. Typewriters are another step removed (think of Kerouac with his continuous roll of paper), and computers pure stream of consciousness. Great for blogs and second or third draft editing but not for the real thing.

Yamile said...

I wrote several short stories for an assignment, and I did it old fashioned way, with pen and paper. When it was time to transfer it to my computer, I did the edits (very minute all of them) automatically. At the end of the assignment I was VERY pleased with the end product.
I agree with Laurel than Nanowrimo has left me with too many bad habits. I'm editing my Nanowrimo novel right now, and even though it's very easy to cut and paste, I also wonder what would have been different if I didn't have the luxury of cutting and pasting.
I'm writing an YA fantasy right now, and I write on a legal pad during the day, and transfer to the computer at night. When I do this I have the advantage of writing outside while my kids play, I don't feel I'm neglecting them, and I don't have distractions, such as your blog.
If I have to research something, I also do it at night. I've been trying to get a typewriter, but my husband thinks they're so outdated they don't serve any specific purpose. I disagree completely with that, and the first decent one I find on ebay, I'm gonna get it.
Thanks Nathan for the post, and everyone for the wonderful discussion.

Dawn Maria said...

I learned to type on my grandparents' old Smith-Corona and got C's on English essays because of typos. I'm not sure if my words less deliberate on my Mac, but I can't imagine writing without word processing. For editing, I mark up my hard copy with red pen because I like seeing and feeling the MS.

Laurel said...

Heads up to any of you from yesterday's post wondering what to ask an agent. I found the blog about it and posted the link on yesterday's comments.


Mira said...


I checked my in-box. No awards yet. Shoot.

So, I'm almost done with my query for you, Nathan. I wanted something really special, so I decided to chisel it on stone tablets, and then tie those tablets to the backs of elephants.

So, I'm now in a unique position to weigh in on stone/chisel technology.

Overall, I'd have to say I'm leaning against.

The benefit to stone/chisel technology is, of course, the incredible release of frustration provided by pounding a chisel into massive stone granite.

The downside to stone/chisel technology is, and I found this out the hard way, is the incredible frustration caused by the lack of spell-check capabilities. So the frustration quotient was pretty much a wash. Now, I did find out that I can hurl massive stone tablets several times my own height, but I'm not sure the resulting lawsuits were worth it.

So, overall, I'd recommend not going with the stone/chisel method, unless you are a really good speller.

Um, do you think there's an award for stone-chiseling? I'd totally be up for that one.

Lupina said...

I wanted to write when I was younger, but I could not stand making all those typewriter corrections. I had to wait for the word processor to be invented. So I kept writing longhand for fun and did other things career-wise, and finally those first WP's allowed me to do my thing pain-free. I would still not be a writer if I'd been born earlier, and I think about all those greats of literature who went before us with only quills and parchment and swoon at their awesomeness.

Paley said...

I too learned to write on a typewriter before the computer age. I used it only when required and only for the final draft. I have always found writing things out by longhand a more creative process and resisted using my computer at all. However, the paper piles up and is hard to keep track of, so I now rely on it more than I used to.

There is an obvious difference in the way I write. If I feel blocked, I put my computer away and reach for my unlined creme colored paper and black LePen (I am very specific about what I write on and with). I am less distracted by typos and what is or is not proper. I also feel less inhibited about the creative process of allowing my subconscious to reign in the moment. It is always interesting to go back over past work that I wrote longhand. Without reading it, I can immediately spot where my best work will be by my handwriting which loosens considerably when I feel uninhibited.

Patrick Rodgers said...

Go away for a few hours and you have like 15 minutes of reading to do to catch up.

Kristi I think as writers we become to close to our work, too involved and sometimes its hard to see the errors. That's why I am letting my wife go at it with a red pen because it will help with editing as well as give me a break from the work. I am too wrapped up in it right now and I need to walk away for a bit.

I have already had a few people read the work to give honest feedback and a little critique but none of that was to help with the editing but instead to get a sense of flow, pacing and whether it was good and they liked it.

I have gotten mostly positive responses back with the occasional suggestion of a tweak here and there. My wife will likely get the same opportunity but she also gets to go after it in an editing way as well.

I think if forced to I could write with a typewriter but I would hate it. Once I shut my office door I am in a zone and I can write for hours on end as I am so focused when I am writing I don't get distracted. It makes little difference that the internet is at my fingertips I feel no urge nor desire to distract myself, I am focused and am I trying to get the ideas out of my head as fast as possible.

Now editing is a different matter, I get easily distracted when I am editing and I have to force myself to focus (I should be editing right now instead of posting). But the beauty of computers is when I am writing I don't have to worry about clean copy, I can just get the ideas out of my head an onto paper or a word document and I can worry later about editing and polishing my work.

Computers allow me to let all the ideas out of my head at a fast pace and not have to worry about wasting countless reams of paper and money in the process.

B.T. Irwin said...

I write using fountain pen and paper. After decades of writing legal briefs on typewriters, then word processors, and now computers, if I sit at a keyboard, my brain goes into technical, logical writing. But if I uncap my fountain pen, load a lovely ink color, and pull out some smooth paper, it triggers the creative side of me.

Additionally, it seems having my hand move at the speed of the pen slows me down sufficiently to experience the surroundings in my story and "hear" the dialogue in my head. Once I'm in the flow, I rarely do strike throughs or editing.

The first round of editing/rewrites comes when I type what I've written into the machine

justine_hedman said...

Great question Nathan. Really, I agree with Mira. My brain works in a completely different way when I have a computer in front of me verses a pen in hand.

I started on a new short story and was writing it on my compture. I just couldn't get the base stroy line where I wanted it and I was getting so mad. I put the computer away, but my brain went into over drive and I couldn't think of anything other than my story.

By the time I decided to get back to it my husband was on the compture, so I reverted back to my pen and paper. What came out of me that night was awesome and I loved it. I got so excited!

I've got it in my computer now, and am working on the details and editing, but I'm sure that this awesome story wouldn't have evolved if I'd picked up my compture and started working on that orginal copy that was frustrating me so.

But I have to give it to the 'typewriter' writers. I wouldn't want to have to do an edit and retype it every time. I can remember when I was young my brothers would always hog our computer and I wanted to write. A guy my father knew was getting rid of an old typewriter so he brought it home.

Man, I use to love sitting at my desk typing on it. The clicking, the humming, even the smell; I often think back to when I wrote on it and miss it. (Not enough to write a whole mss on it- but maybe a short story.)


Merrie Destefano said...

I am one of those few who remembers writing a novel on a typewriter. (Arrgghh!) However, it wasn't the first draft that made it onto the typed page. The first draft, and the second, were done in longhand.

Anonymous said...


I write by hand, then transcribe everything.

But transcribe is not entirely accurate: I am rewriting as I'm writing.

Something that's been lost in "writing" on the computer is the sense of writing as drawing. We are, someone once said (or, I read, more likely), actually drawing as we put down letters / shapes on the paper.

Lisa said...

I always write longhand and type it up (with revisions) later. My laptop has an effective battery life of half an hour (45 minutes on a good day) and I write everywhere at all hours ... usually all I have with me is paper and pen (or, sometimes, a napkin or a placemat).

I wrote this past year's NaNoWriMo on a typewriter and did not like it as much, typing it up seemed like simple retyping rather than revision. I've been writing by hand for decades, perhaps it is simply a habit -- but I prefer it.

Anonymous said...

to @ deaf muslim ... after reading your comment, I couldn't help but wonder, how many writers do you read / admire who write their novels prior to the Vietnam War and/or the emergence of computer technology?

you seem very bright so I'm also curious, given your very obvious distain for anyone over thirty (twenty?), how do you square your statement with the technology of the Guttenberg press?

all ***true*** punk culture ie., pre-79, as I'm sure you're aware, utilized cut and paste (literally, scissors and paste) and mimegraph machines.

Laura Martone said...

I'm just curious... have any of you ever read WONDER BOYS (or seen the movie, for that matter)? If you're anything like me, you make a point of reading/watching stories about writers and the writing process. And all I can say is... when Grady's entire novel (incidentally, produced on a typewriter) is swallowed by the river, my heart jolts for a second and I thank the gods of publishing for my laptop and back-up jump drives!

Marjorie said...

During the interviews, I write in a spiral notebook with a ballpoint pen. Then, I transfer the interview notes to my blog. You can read my interviews at:

Please remember to click on earlier months to read all of the interviews included at the blog.

I have an interview with Edie Beale's: Jerry, The Marble Faun, and Robert Siegel, the writer of "The Wrestler" and most recently Mary Engel, the daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin.

Deb said...

Reading all these comments are really cutting into my word count ... but ... can't ... stop!

Patrick Rodgers said...

Is anyone else paranoid like me about losing their date and constantly back up their work on not one but two memory sticks.

I had a hard drive crash in 2002 or 2003 and I lost everything all my college papers and my political articles I use to write for a newspaper, it crushed me.

Now I not only save on my hard drive but two memory sticks almost every day. Paranoia they are coming to get me.

Andi said...

I switched to writing my first drafts longhand a couple of years ago, and it's made a huge difference. I write more, and I write faster. With a computer, it's too easy to get caught in an endless cycle of revising the same sentence or paragraph or scene, which often led to my internal editor getting the best of me and convincing me to give up. With pen and paper, I've only got so much space on the page so eventually I just have to move on -- and keep moving on until I get to the end. My first drafts are very rough, but that's okay. First drafts don't have to be perfect; they just have to be written. And having to type the draft into the computer later gives me a chance to do my first round of revisions. In many ways, it's like setting the piece aside for a while and coming back to it with fresh eyes. Typing what I'd handwritten, things that don't quite work jump out at me, and I can fix 'em on the fly.

Tim said...

Absolutely makes a big difference. I find my work in long hand is much more creative/loose and free flowing than the typed stuff. So, I generally write out scenes on pen and paper before I transcribe them on the computer.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have a pathological need to have perfectly clean pages, so the word processor was a godsend to me. Besides that, I had carpal tunnel in the early 90s and cannot write by hand for very long, so it's either type (which doesn't bother me) or dictate (which drives me crazy because of the mistakes that show up on screen.)

But I'm weird.

Jen C said...

For me it makes it a much faster process. We didn't have a computer most of the time I was growing up, so I did all my early writing by hand (and I used to hate putting in dialogue because the quotation marks were just more things I had to write!).

At school we learned to type on typewriters, and at home we had an electric typewriter for a while. We did get a computer in my last couple of years at high school, but I didn't like writing on it because it was shared. I did write one story on it and I password protected it and then forgot the password... oops!

These days I can't imagine writing any other way than right onto the computer. With my last project I wrote a lot by hand, but I realised I was just making more work for myself since I had to transfer it all onto the computer anyway. Plus I'm a fast typer (I think I've just passed 80wpm) so I can type way faster than I can handwrite.

I think word processing gives me freedom as a writer. I can try out a sentence or a paragraph, just to see how it looks, and delete it or move it around. There's so much more opportunity for experimentation.

Jen C said...

Patrick Rodgers said...
Is anyone else paranoid like me about losing their date and constantly back up their work on not one but two memory sticks.

I back up onto two memory sticks, and I use a remote online backup service too. I see your paranoia and raise you an uber-paranoia.

Word Veri: flunto. I feel like I should be offended, but I'm not sure why.

Robert said...

Pencil and Paper for the whole of my first novel here!

I have small but sloppy handwriting that while I can read it, others have a hard time with. But the upside is that on a sheet of legal paper, I can get about 350-400 words depending on what I am writing (scene or dialog). So on a single notebook of 50 pages, I can get like 17,500-20,000 words.

I have found that my typing is kind of slow and when I make mistakes I feel compelled to fix them if I am working on a computer, which in turn does not allow for the prose to flow. Doing it by hand lets me just write the damn thing...editing will come later.

I do not know if I will do it this way again - I am hoping to improve upon my typing, and the closer to completion I come the more nervous I become that something will happen to my many notepads and I will be left with only my tears...

Anonymous said...

Strangely enough, I find myself writing like the typewriter-era writers do. I'm young enough that I I saw a typewriter once, but it's been computers all my life. Or writing by hand when I don't have a computer. My first drafts are beautiful in comparison to most other people's that I've seen. Not that it says anything about my comparison of final drafts, haha.

Jeff said...

I'm with Laura...there's something tactile and irrestible with a typewriter. Maybe it's the sound...who knows?
I do write with a word processor now because, well, you gotta get it done!

Anonymous said...

When I first started writing seriously, which wasn't too long ago, I actually wrote most of my stories longhand. I only had a big, clunky desktop, so not only was I stuck with paper when I traveled, (which was often) but I preferred to write with a pen at home because the keys stuck and the chair hurt my back. I hated the actual typing, and I have three or four never-to-be-finished manuscripts because I'll never type up all those changes.

And then I got the laptop. I can bring it anywhere, editing is a breeze with "track changes," and writing has gotten so much easier. However, I still use the notebook from time to time. I don't like relying too heavily on one way. I've even been known to take "cut and paste" literally, although I actually just use scotch tape.

I think I would have eventually found a way to write more effectively, even without the laptop. It's something I have to do no matter what, and it's only a matter of adapting. If I ever go blind, I'll learn to dictate my stories and pay a cute male nurse to type them for me. Including the dirty scenes.

Bee Hylinski said...

I never wouldhave written a novel if I had to do it on a typewriter. A computer is the only way. Makes editing much easier. I am old enough to remember writing legal briefs on a typewriter. Groan!

Anonymous said...

I mostly write long hand, pencil, pen and paper lots of paper. Now I do find myself wasting trees because my writing is well not very neat on my best of days and I can scratch out tear up pages of paper that I'm not happy with.

I am not old enough to have used or have seen a type writer that is not an electric one (where you can fix errors before its printed on the page. It's been computers my whole life but I do like typewriters I myself have an electric one but I dont find myself using it much.

Instead I end up typing up my hand written notes into WP or some other program of the sort and editing it while I go through retyping it.

Scott said...

I can be sloppy in my first draft, insert notes to myself, and skip around. If a scene is not working, I can summarize it and move on to the next one, or a scene that might not show up until much later, but that appeals to me on that day. I don't have to be linear, even within a single scene.

I can use the pesky words that I know I reuse, I can throw in adjectives and adverbs that I know I'll take out. I can experiment with description or other elements.

If a character has a long name (or, as in my WIP, a name with accented letters), I can create a shortcut for that name and have the software automatically put the name in wherever I type my shortcut.

I can do pretty much whatever I need to do to get that first draft done from start to finish, then go back and insert all the stuff I left out or summarized or wrote poorly.

I can keep separate notes and have them pop up automatically when I open my document.

I can automatically back up my work to multiple places without even doing anything.

That's why I love writing on a computer. Some of those things can be done if I wrote in a notebook, but I'd have trouble figuring out what I wrote by the time I slopped it up real good. Almost none of it could be done on the old typewriter I used to use.

ryan field said...

I had some of my earliest short stories pubbed through hard copy I'd submitted that had been written on an electric typewriter. I had white out, correct-type, all of it. I was lucky in the sense that I typed fast and fairly well.

Then I upgraded to a word processor for a while (Brother), until I finally decided that computers weren't going to disappear.

The only thing I've never done is write in long hand...I'm left handed and it's messy.

But I don't think technology has affected my style in any way other than speed and convenience. The old mantra used to be re-write, re-write, and re-write. Now it's edit, edit, and edit. And if I had to go back to using a typewriter tomorrow, it wouldn't be a problem.

Mimm Patterson said...

Best class I ever took in high school? Touch typing with Mr. Yeanish. I loved my Royal, and, thirty five years later, haven't lost my 'touch', even though the Royal is gone - replaced by my MacBook.

I think, I type, and there it is - to be heavily edited later.

Access to research on the web affects writing style, doesn't it?

Kristi said...

Patrick - I also use 2 back up memory sticks and yet still had a heart attack 3 nights ago when my 2-year-old managed to break one of them into four pieces. I thought "oh my gosh, now I only have the original and one copy." I love Jen's idea of the online backup system, but don't know much about it. I'm really going to go write now.

Gilbert J. Avila said...

I like typewriters. There's something about resting your fingers on the keys while composing a thought---try that with a computer and see what happens. I like the clack of the keys hitting the platen and the tactile sensations--I'm a key pounder.

But best of all I like the way the keys are a typewriter are on different levels and well separated, because when you have fingers like kielbasas you don't dare look up from the computer keyboard
to glance at the screen because you'll hit two or three keys at the same time!!!

Pete Miller said...

I was horrible at writing papers in high school, but in college my roomate had an Apple II and I discovered that I could write on that.

My trouble is that I am a nonlinear thinker but the computer lets me write how I think.

Computers all the way for me.

Mira said...

Re. backing up, I experimented with googledocs and others, but I've found the easiest way to back up your work is simple. E-mail your work to yourself.

I like hotmail for this, because it allows you to create folders and organize your work.

Scott said...

Backing up doesn't require any effort at all, beyond a quick install.

I sometimes write on my desktop, and sometimes on my laptop. A free app called Syncplicity automatically syncs my files between both, plus it securely stores a copy on a Web server, where I can access it from work--I mean--from any computer I happen to be using. Once it's installed, I don't have to do anything. The sync is automatic and, after the first time, almost instantaneous. If you, like me, tend to forget to back up your work, Syncplicity is probably your answer. You get two GB free storage synced between two computers, plus the Web access.

Other free software can automatically back up your work to an external hard drive or other location.

And you can use free software like Mozy Home to automatically store encrypted backups at a data center. The files can't be accessed as easily as with syncplicity, but they are safe and secure, and easily retrievable if your hard disk crashes.

Jen C said...

Kristi said...
I love Jen's idea of the online backup system, but don't know much about it. I'm really going to go write now.

I use, which you download to your computer and you can choose certain folders or files for it to back up automatically. I back up all of my writing with it at the end of every day. I've lost too much writing before - I'm not going to take any chances! If anyone wants to join let me know, I have referral discounts.

But I'm weird like that... I have two alarm clocks too, just in case one stops working overnight and doesn't go off!

Laura Martone said...

Jen C. -

I'm curious about How would I partake of your referral discounts?


- Laura, the poor, struggling writer (

Liana Brooks said...

Interesting... I actually used a typewriter in high school because my printer broke and I couldn't buy a new one. And, like Paperback Writer, I plotted out reports and essays beforehand.

But, when I saw the title of the post, my first reaction was that technology has a huge influence. Maybe not on my writing style, but on the subject matter. I write sci-fi, and I try to incorporate actual technologies and science into what my characters have available.

Part of my research includes hunting down the latest and greatest theories and technologies to manipulate for the sake of fiction.

And I love my computer because I can save all that research in one handy file without ever killing a tree.

Anonymous said...

requesting topic"

The Amazon ranking system, amazon author pages, how to work the system.

More reviews = higher sales, regardless of good or bad...

let's talk Amazon!

CAN the system be gamed?! is it gamed>?!

Jill Lynn said...

I'm the opposite of a lot of the posters. My thoughts are much clearer when I write directly to the PC. My handwriting's bad, and the effort to write neatly so I can read what I've written interrupts my creativity. I can type much faster than I can write, too. I don't even handwrite my grocery list anymore.

Patrick Rodgers said...

My Internet provider offers a free online backup system as well I have just never used it.

I figure 2 memory sticks and my hard drive should be enough. If I wanted to get real crazy we have 5 mp3 players in our house (yes its just me and my wife don't ask). I could store copies of all my work on those 5 players (4 ipods and 1 mp3 player) and then I would have 7 places to back my work up and then I could back it up online making 8.

I haven't gotten that paranoid yet, yet being the operative word.

Kristi said...

Scott and Jen C. - thanks for the backup info. I'm going to look into that - it definitely seems 2-year-old proof!

Scott said...

Great, Kristi. Let us know how it works out.

I'd recommend a combination of Mozy (either 2GB of storage for free, or unlimited for 4.95 a month or more, depending on the version you use) and Syncplicity.

Mozy gives you a secure backup automatically, that you can restore to your disk in case of disaster.

Syncplicity gives you a secure backup that you can access and use from any computer with an Internet connection, and can sync 2GB between two computers (more if you pay, plus you can get more storage by referring friends). You can even share your files with a collaborator.

The best thing is that, with both, you set it up and forget about it and your backups are done automatically. You don't have to remember to copy the files to your backup drive. And since both store your files away from your home, you're files are still protected if something terrible happens to your house.

Laura Martone said...

While I still stand by my earlier statement that using a computer has allowed me to unleash my creativity in ways that typewriters (no matter how nostalgic) didn't, I should add that I still rely on a pen and notebook for everyday observations, story outlines, and snippets of articles/chapters. In fact, I have innumerable notebooks filled with my scribbles - in tiny, cramped handwriting that has, in recent years, concerned my husband, who believes I'm a serial killer in the making (similar to John Doe in SEVEN).


Jen C said...

Yeah, I started using an online backup because I thought, what if something happened like my house burning down and my laptop and USB keys were all inside? Safer to have one that's completely off site as well.

historyweaver said...

I wrote 3/4 of my first novel by hand on lined white notebook paper. Then my dad gave me his old computer with dark screen and orange font. I thought I had arrived in heaven because I was a lousy typer. (I paid someone to type my thesis) I honestly hadn't thought through how I would put the manuscript into proper format without a typewriter or computer, but glad my father solved that problem. I had to learn how to use it and nearly lost five chapters when I hit the wrong button, but I survived.

I love the ability to rewrite and come out with a neat manuscript, but I still like to write by hand, printing off the last page I'm working on to carry with me.

Central Content Publisher said...

With computers, more gets done between the moment I start something and the moment I abandon it. Digital tools also tend to suggest that I write less linearly. I'll often have two or three version of the same sentence, or question marks where a name I haven't thought of yet will go. I'll jump from place to place resigned to pasting it together later and so on. The exact method changes all the time, far outstripping the flexibility of paper and pencil - even after the advent of stickies. This slightly more assembled method, I find, concentrates more attention on the middle rather than at the end. Stories tend to look more like castles pyramiding toward a central spire, rather than trails winding through forests toward a destination. Not so much better or worse, but I tend to Don DeLillo my way through digital and Hemmingway through analog. The later does create better endings. The former, well, you know...

Amy said...

Not to get off topic, but this article cracked me up (as I think it did the person who wrote it as well):

"Proud non-reader" Kanye West turns author

I think we may have reached capitulation (a term day-traders use to signify an end of a trend when everyone jumps in on the same thing) with celebrity books. What the...?

His book has BLANK pages? He despises books but decided to write one?

This actually makes me feel better, maybe this signifies the end of celebrity books.

BLANK PAGES!!!!?????

lotusgirl said...

I noticed the difference the first time I ever typed anything out on a typewriter. My voice is a lot breezier when I type. There's more humor and flippancy. This is even more true now that I type on a computer. When I write out longhand, I'm a lot more introspective, and I tend to craft the language more. I like writing both ways, and sometimes when I'm stuck on the computer, I pull out a pen and paper and it helps get things flowing.

Jen C said...

Laura Martone,

I'll email you re: Mozy when I get home and can access my account properly. It's not working on the work comp.

Xiexie said...

I've been writing with a computer more often recently; however, even though I'm a "young person" growing up in the years of the computer (for me from the Commodore to well PC/Macs), I much prefer to write longhand, and my print is tiny tiny tiny so what I write on paper usually equals what's 10pt Times New Roman.

I'm a big revisioner so pen and paper or typing from the get-go don't really change my habits. I will say that a computer makes it easier to change from one edit to another and make changes, but I always print out and read out loud, marking with pens and highlighters what was written on the computer.

therese said...

Absolutely! How has a lot to do with what! Since I also started on a typewriter, if I typed something wrong, I'd study the word and consider how to use it, or if it was just a letter, what other word would fit that used that letter.

Computers are great for me, I can type almost as fast as I think. Cut and paste edits are easier. I've basically been unleashed to write fast, which does mean, there's lots of editing. I recent years I've learned more about storyboarding and plotting through the layers. It slows down the initial zip, but creates a better story in the end.

Andrew said...

I think I'd commit hari-kari if I had to use pen and paper. I cannot STAND to type things up. Hell, I start to weep if somehow I lose a page and I have to rewrite. I have to be in the moment or I stutter to a procrastinating halt; even planning hinders me somewhat in that regard.

To answer the question, with a typewriter I think I'd write the same except with a greater polarisation between what I think is good and bad. That loathing to rewrite in large chunks (two whole pages?!?!) without applying the creative part of my brain would mean I'd either have to convince myself it was brilliant and not change it, convince myself it was utter tripe and write a whole new chapter, or quit.

word verification: Coluc - Golum's forgotten twin brother

Leigh Lyons said...

technology makes it possible to write for me. I have rhumitoid arthritis in my hands from doing massage therapy and can't write more than a page and a half single spaced with a pan. I can, however, type endlessly on the computer.

The computer also makes getting ideas out without worrying about the order or spelling way easier.

Jen C said...

Laura, I just sent you a referral email with discount code for Mozy.

Jada said...

I don't think I've ever used a typewriter. My family got a computer when I was in primary school, so I've always written assignments, etc., on a computer. This post was really interesting because it got me thinking about how my experience with technology affected the way I write.

I just get the first draft onto the computer screen as quickly as possible. It was interesting to read that some people felt writing on the screen impeded them, as they were able to edit their work so easily. I just type and try to edit minimally in the first draft. I like the computer in this respect because I can type a lot faster than I can write, so I can get my thoughts out and move on.

Having said that, I do print my work to edit it. I find it much easier that way, being able to mark it in pen and flip back through the pages more easily.

Eva Ulian said...

As my handwriting was so bad and no one could read it including myself, I learned to type at the age of 15 at night school in 1963 and bought a second hand "huge" Olivetti for 50 shillings. Then I got a proper portable, then an electric, another electric, then a black and white computer, then a colour one and now one with a big flat screen and also a laptop.

So thanks to bad handwriting I went along with the technological age all the way. However, there are times you simply have to use handwriting, for example I would never type a letter of condolences.

SozinTara said...

I find that while typing on a computer, I am more confident in my writing, and in the immediate production of my work. It's like having someone over me watching my spelling and grammar, and I can easily find words with the Find/Replace icon.

There was a time when I enjoyed writing in notebooks, but I took long to transfer it to computer then on a disk and soon, would forget about it. So I say, technology makes it slightly easier than before for writers to write.

Author Guy said...

For one thing it blurs the line between revisions, since a writer can just go back and change page X to support page Y, or even a whole new subplot if it jumps up, grabs you by the throat and says "Write me!" I only write one version of my story, if we go by how many times I write 'The End', but in the course of writing that one version I go back all the time and change a phrase here, or add a subplot there, as they occur to me. The only time I wrote two versions of one story was my first novel, which started on a typewriter and was really really bad. Fortunately the computer I finished it on crashed and the whole travesty lost forever. I wrote the first version based on the text I still had from the typewriter and did it better. Now my son is threatening to blackmail me with the typewritten first half.

Thermocline said...

Talking into my mini-recorder has more of an impact on my writing than this question of using a keyboard (computer or typewriter) or a pen. I find the ideas flow when I’m speaking the words in a way they don’t when I’m writing them.

This is particularly true with dialog. Some of my more honest scenes were created by just dictating the dialog. I went back later and added the details to ground the setting and actions. I don’t know if the dogs mind my murmurings, but they love the regular walks.

JStantonChandler said...

I grew up using a typewriter as well. I collect old typewriters and have been known, on occasion, to go back to hunting and pecking. Nostalgia prevails and I love the sharp, ominous clacking those large key provide.

I prefer to write my drafts with good old fashioned paper and pen. I like the tactile pleasure of the way the ink flows across the paper. I think it has something to do with being an artist; I think through my hands.

Once the draft is complete, it's on to the computer where I can transfer my ROUGH draft into something that resembles more a novel than a pile of consonants and vowels. I'm free to edit and add, cut and polish on the computer, but for me, the initial act must be performed on paper.

Ulysses said...

I've noticed I tend to write shorter sentences and paragraphs when writing longhand.

No doubt, many would find this a good thing.

I had a typewriter back in the 80's, and although I used it, it was a source of frustration. The knowledge that one accident of uncoordinated fingers would force me to blot or discard an entire page did more to contribute to writer's block than any amount of creative difficulty.

I find myself at home and relaxed in front of a keyboard, and the knowledge that so much can be altered so quickly has made it easier for me to produce early drafts that are massive and relaxed, and therefore more likely to contain the seeds of quality.

Las Vegas Dale said...

I spent 20 years plus writing on a typewriter, using paper and pencil before that. If it was going to be something compliicated and as I hated strikeovers and White Out, I'd often write my thoughts down on paper first, then type it.

Now that I have a word processor, I tend to get lazy and type as I think, knowing I can easily edit and fix later. I've also become lazy as I no longer have to search through a hardbound dictionary or thesarsus.

However, on the other hand, I now have endless reference material available to me so I can feel some degree of certainty that what I write is accuate and doesn't plagarize.

Lani Longshore said...

I learned to write on a typewriter when I joined my high school newspaper. We made notes long-hand, wrote the copy, then justified it. Before computers, you actually had to tell the typesetter how many blank characters needed to go in the line. Since we already had to type the copy twice, we all learned the art of revision-as-you-go. This made life easier in college, particularly with the professor who drilled into us that the best writers are always re-writers. I still write long-hand when I'm on the road, and I wouldn't trade a real book for a Kindle if my soul depended on it, but I can't imagine a writer's life without a fast computer and up-to-date word processing software.

Stace said...

I'm just old enough to have learned typing at school on a typewriter - they were replaced with computers before I graduated.

The typewriters were a real pain - I was already wishing our teacher would let us use the computer lab! If we were disobedient we had to use the REALLY old ones from, like, 1940, which required Arnold Schwarznegger fingers to operate!

But I'm glad of those classes now, because we learned to type correctly. I was so scared of my teacher that I am now a touch typist - I was way too scared to peek at my keys!

Now that I work entirely on computer, I'm so glad I can touch type. Otherwise, the technology itself can stand in between writers and their work. It really is worth learning, if you don't already do it.

I also recommend turning the wireless internet thingee off until you've done your daily quota of words!

Joy D. Wilson said...

This is totally off topic but has anyone heard about Google Wave? I think it will just totally do wonders for people in this industry. If you don't know what I'm talking about just google it! :)

Joy D. Wilson said...

alright so maybe google wave isn't so off topic as I thought.

I'm only 24 so I have never had to learn to type on a typewriter. I have seen them in person though, I will give you that. I was taught to type in grade school on a computer, those old apple kind. I like being able to edit as I go because I am a terrible speller and I would be know where with out spell check. I can't stand to see those red lines under my words though, which is distracting but at least I know my words are going to be spelled right.

As for writing on paper, it never seems to sound good enough for me. Maybe its my handwriting, but I just don't like it. I feel like I sound so much smarter when I type it out rather then write it out. Not to mention I can type way faster then I can write. There, that's my two cents.

Victoria Blake said...

I never had to use a typewriter. In school I learned how to type on a computer and have loved it ever since. Editing is easier to deal with, the words flow out of me, my heart is content in knowing I can change anything in an instant. My heart quickens in fear at the thought of using a typewriter because first drafts are not my best work. It is when I go back and edit that I start to shine. I can't even imagine the hell that writers had to go through before Word Processors, but it probably made them better at getting drafts right the first time.

I love writing in a notebook with a pen too. It allows me to brainstorm, to play. I tap into some wondeful ideas this way because my muse doesn't feel stressed or tense. With paper the magic returns.

I'm not sure how much Technology has affected writing style, but it has done wonders for me.

Joseph L. Selby said...

I've handwritten, typed, and computed and the quality is never better in one than the other (for awhile I deluded myself into thinking my handwritten work was better because I can't print as fast as I type, but looking back at what I wrote, I know that's not true). Now my best writing comes from when I write in one format and convert to another because I revise as I go.

Eric said...

Hi Nathan,

Random question--will you be at BEA this weekend?



R.J. Self said...

I learned how to type on an old Brother typewritter my grandmother used in college and even to this day it influnences my writing and editing style. I write everything, and I mean everything on loose leaf first then edit the loose leaf then I'll type it up. I try to be very careful with typing because I HATE it. I would rather write for 12 hours with a pen before I boot up my laptop. A bit weird, but I have finished one book this way and it works for me. There is no distraction of the ever intresting youtube or sales at amazon to lure me away. And when I do type it up I do not turn on my WLAN, I simply ingore it.

I do not hate editing, it's a step that allows me to enjoy my work for a bit longer before I send it off to be judged by agents. I coddle my work to an extent.

Jeff Kirvin said...

Oy. I started with pen and paper when I was in grade school (seriously, that's when I made my first attempt at a novel), learned to type on a manual typewriter, then switched to digital word processing as soon as it was possible (talking 8086 processors and dot matrix printers here).

I wrote my first finished novel almost entirely in longhand in a paper dayplanner while outprocessing the USAF, typing in second drafts to the PC later. This led me to a decade plus obsession with using mobile technology for writing, from Palm Pilots to netbooks to my iPhone.

I can say without a doubt that the medium with which you write has a huge impact on writing style. Writing on a small screen (Palm Pilot size) made my writing very choppy, since I'd get paranoid about paragraph length as soon as I could no longer see the last paragraph break. My writing on netbooks or larger computers is far more flowing.

But the most interesting thing I've noticed is that because I've gone out of my way to ensure that I can write anytime, anywhere, and have that writing instantly accessible from any other device I use to pick up where I left off, I write very little. The problem is that I can always justify doing it later, because I know I'll always have the opportunity. There's always something more pressing to do in the moment. I might write more if I were limited to a specific time and place.

Anonymous said...

I can write my heart out on spiral notebooks, but the moment I sit down at the computer to transfer everything to a digital copy, I totally freeze with fear.

Paper and pens rock. Keyboards are the spawn of Satan!

T.R. Editor said...

I write my best rough ideas with pen and paper--there's just something about scribbling things out and squeezing a new thought into the margin that is so satisfying. But when it comes to fine-tuning ideas, the word processor is my friend. It's still possible to do multiple drafts while using a computer, and also to take time to think about what you write. It's more about self discipline than anything else. But that's easier said than done, right? :)

Venus Vaughn said...

I'm only on my second book. I hand-wrote both of them because, to me, the computer isn't a tool of creation. It's a machine that I use for informational purposes.

There's an entire mindset shift that I have to effect before I'll be able to feel words and ideas flow through the keys like I feel them move through my pen.

Typing and editing bite the big one when you write with a pen and paper, but I try to be philosophical about it and see the entry into a word doc as my first editing pass.

Blogging has helped me unlock the creative potential of the keyboard. Maybe by book number 3 I'll be ready to create with a screen instead of paper in front of me, but I don't know if I trust it yet.

J.T. Oldfield said...

I'm reminded of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (can't think of which book just now, but I think it's the titular first one of the series) where Adams shares the anecdote of the white out manufacturer's who went back in time and gave white out to the universe's most famous poet. As a consequence he wrote even better poems, which made him rich, which enticed his girlfriend not to break up with him, which made him happy, which made him unable to write his best poems.

2KoP said...

Though I used a typewriter in HS and college, I was thrilled to get to work on the very first IBM DisplayWrite and have never looked back. I have had to train myself, however, to differentiate between first draft creative writing and the temptation to skip ahead to rewriting and editing.

I love my Macs and think they facilitate every aspect of my writing. Plus, I can barely read my own handwriting.

Joe VanCleave said...

I don't see typewriters and pens as "old" technology; rather, they each have peculiarities and unique attributes that can enhance a certain stage of one's writing process.

For instance, the technology of word processing is ideally suited to editing. That's what distinguishes it from the serial recording of text on paper. So one would expect the work processor to best be used in the editing phase. Although I must agree with a previous post that redlining printed text on paper is also a good method.

For my style of writing the speed of thought is slower than even handwriting using pen on paper; it is for this reason that the initial draft of a work be done either by hand (fountain pens are great for this, as they reduce hand fatigue) or manual typewriter. This serial recording of text purposely hampers editing at this early stage of the process, which is why it works so well up front.

So word processing, manual typing and handwriting are all applicable and relevant technologies in the writing process, but each one works best at certain stages of the writing process.

Remember Kerouak's famous scroll of "On the Road"? That was his method of capturing stream-of-consciousness writing unhampered by the mechanics of reloading individual sheets into a typewriter. But his editor immediately required him to retype the whole thing onto regular sheets of paper. And it went through many revisions before it was finally published years later. The point is that what works for stream-of-consciousness, or the up-front process of initial draft writing, may not work for the editing process. Hence we should be careful to choose our tools and methods carefully. And not rule out the possibility that the "old" methods, like handwriting and manual typing, may in fact be useful techniques during specific stages of the writing process.


Diane said...

I have a corporate day job where I sit behind a desk 6 hours a day and go to a few meetings if I'm lucky. I realized all that computer time was killing my desire to sit down and write my creative stuff that way. Now I have about 6 Moleskine notebooks (one per project/idea) and I write out sections in that first then I go back and type it up, editing a bit as I go, so I'm generally happier with it when I finally print it out to read it. The notebooks are also super portable, so sometimes I'm writing sitting out on my deck, or at my favorite coffee house. Still haven't solved the procrastination/perfectionism problem.

Venus Vaughn said...

Q: is there something different about a Moleskin notebook that a regular notebook doesn't have?

I've noticed a number of people mentioning them by name, but not in a way that I would mention by Mead notebook (college ruled).

LCS249 said...


Blessings upon you.

Thank you for posting this "all-in-one-place" checklist.

I tend to be an interior thoughts writer, so I've had the conflict criticism winged at me. And, as it happens, Enduring Love is one of my favorite (and toughest to read) books.

By the way, what do you think about the humorous side trip there, when Joe decides he needs a gun?


Rachel Ventura said...

I know this is bumping quite a bit after 2009, but I felt the need to add my $.02. I use two separate computers: one for "regular use," i.e. internet, music, Photoshop, etc., and a low-powered netbook just for writing. On the netbook I use a program called Q10, which is a "full-screen text editor" aka distraction-free writing.

It's not the same as a word-processor per se, but it doesn't have any of the bells and whistles of rich-text formatters like Word/WordPerfect/OpenOffice. But for the interest of nostalgia, it comes complete with sound effects reminiscent of the old click-click-ding of the typewriter. And the documents it produces are nothing more than standard no-frills text files, easily readable by any word processing program and even Notepad/Text Edit.

I agree with some of the commenters here that first drafts on a typewriter were probably better than computer drafts are now, simply due to the scarcity of resources (paper and ribbons/ink) that basically compelled you to "get it right" or at least as close to it as you possibly could the first time. But my goal with my current WIP is to print out the draft and mark it up on paper, and then go back and make edits to the text files. I can't imagine editing from within a program like Word, even with the Track Changes feature. A novel is just too comprehensive a work to examine in the limited space of a 13" screen. (This is the same reason I will never read an e-book, nor will I publish to e-books if I ever get to that level.)

Word doesn't even work well with large documents. The program itself is a memory hog and the more pages you've got, the greater the chance that Word will crash or lock up. For this I have a program called Scrivener (just released for Windows) in which I intend to merge the text files into one large document and print from there. (I tried writing in Scrivener itself but found the simultaneous write/outline format too distracting.)

My system as of now therefore involves a few tools, a hybrid of "online" (i.e. computer) and "offline" (i.e. printed paper). The full-screen text editor, Scrivener, a printer, and the good old fashioned markup pencil :) None of these other bells and whistles do it for me.

Related Posts with Thumbnails