Since I’m somewhat addicted to writing how-to stuff like books, workshops, articles, etc., I occasionally run into some advice that strikes me as a bit odd.
For instance, a few weeks ago, I saw a workshop in which the speaker said it was better to write your first draft in longhand than to type it on a computer. She had some reasons that made sense. For one thing, there are fewer distractions. You can’t check e-mail, Facebook or Instagram (though that depends on where your computer or phone are while you’re writing longhand). You can’t delete stuff you don’t like. You can only scratch through it, so it’s still there, and that means if you change your mind you can retrieve it. There was also something about how the act of writing longhand engages differently with your brain than typing does.
I’m afraid I’d never get a book written if I had to write it longhand. I do my brainstorming and outlining longhand, but when it comes to actual composition, it goes straight from my brain to my fingers. A lot of the time, I’m not even conscious of the words. They just flow as I type, and I type quickly. Writing longhand would seriously slow my productivity. I also have terrible handwriting. I had a teacher once who found it odd that such a good student had such bad handwriting, and he watched me as I was writing in class, then told me he’d thought I was just being lazy and sloppy, but he could see that I really was trying. He figured that I don’t have good fine motor control in my hands. I don’t have a lot of grip strength, and that may have something to do with it. The more tired I get, the less control I have over my writing, so by the time I got to the end of a writing session, I’d be in pain and I’d have absolutely no idea what I’d written.
Which would tie to the next weird bit of writing advice I’ve heard. At a conference I went to about twenty years ago, a speaker said the way to do a second draft was to finish your first draft, put it aside without looking at it, and write the book again. Supposedly, you’d remember the important parts, but since you knew how the book went, there would be less meandering and rambling. You’d remember the stuff you liked, forget the boring parts, and would have a better draft than you’d get just rearranging the words from the first draft.
I know a lot of authors who write longhand drafts, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who did a second draft by just rewriting the book. If I wrote a longhand draft, the second draft when I transcribed it into the computer would essentially be writing from scratch because I wouldn’t be able to read what I wrote in the first place, so maybe combining the two might work, though it would seriously slow me down.
I have started fresh with a difficult scene when I’ve realized that the way I’m doing it isn’t working and I can’t break away from what I’ve written if I just try to edit, but I’m not writing the same scene over again. I’m writing something entirely different. I am working on a project in which I’m rewriting instead of editing, but I’m writing a whole new book using the same basic premise, not writing the same book over again.
I’m considering giving longhand writing a try. After the terrible summer we’ve had, in which I’ve basically been trapped inside the house, I’m planning to spend as much time as possible outdoors once it gets cool enough, so I may take a notebook with me and go sit in the woods or by the lake to write. It won’t be a whole draft by hand, but I may write scenes that way. We’ll see what happens and how it works. I’m willing to give just about any bit of writing advice a try because I never know how it will end up working for me, but it has to be drastically better for me to change my entire process.