Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Benefits of Longhand

I kept getting stuck in my current manuscript, but stuck in a different way than the usual. It wasn't that I didn't know what to write. My book is all outlined and broken down by scene. But stuck in the sense that I was writing and not feeling the connection to the page or the characters on it. In my head, these characters are vivid and alive, rich with back story and flaws and wants and needs. But when I would put it on the page, I simply wasn't feeling as though it was translating. Yet when I would reread the pages written, I was pleased with what I wrote and felt the connection again.

I'm not really sure what's causing this. The only thing I can chalk it up to is I simply don't know my characters as well as I knew Connor and Kate from The Outlaw Bride. Then again, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Connor and Kate for the better part of two years. Isabel and Devlin are fairly new acquaintances. And when I look at it that way, I realize I didn't really get to know Connor and Kate until the second draft, when their motivations became clearer, their personalities more revealed.

Still, knowing this wasn't helping the stuckedness I kept experiencing (that's a new medical term by the way). I would write a few pages and come to a dead halt. I wasn't feeling that surge of excitement about what was to happen next. I think part of it was fear of how I would make what was to happen next as exciting on the page as it was in my head.

So I turned to the old standby, the tried and true method that always seems to unplug my stopped up creative juices. It's like Drano for the muse. I switched to writing longhand. And as an aside, for those of you who like this method, might I suggest you pick up the legal sized Cambridge Jumbo Wirebound Office Pad. It has a thick cardboard back to it that makes writing on your lap a cinch. No more wobbly writing pad.

Anyway, me and my Cambridge Jumbo pad parked it on the couch yesterday morning and again today. Yesterday I spent rereading what I already had completed for chapter six. Good stuff, I thought, what's my problem? I liked what I had. Liked where the story was going. That eased my worry a bit. It's not the story that's the problem, it's just me. I got to work. I reviewed my outline and then wrote two legal pages. Then this morning I re-read yesterday's work and started in again with another 5 written pages. I could have kept going too, but I had hit the end of the chapter and I was almost out of time.

I don't know what it is about writing longhand that seems to free the muse. Maybe it's because I started writing longhand way back in junior high when my friend and I would spend countless hours after school scribbling stories with no end. Maybe because sometimes being at the computer makes it feel a little more like work than play. Maybe it's the flow of the pen that puts me in some kind of weird trance. I don't know. But whatever the reason, when I'm stuck, I always go back to the notepad and start scribbling. And inevitably it always seems to work.


Tess said...

Kelly - I know exactly what you mean about how writing longhand really frees up the muse. I have a notebook almost full of scenes from WTHR, scenes I wrote when I found that sitting at the computer just didn't work. Some of the best parts of that ms came from writing longhand.

Glad you find it's working for you too :-)

kacey said...

I like writing longhand, but it just kills my hands. I can write for hours at the keyboard, but not so long with a pen.

Is that notebook wired down the side, or across the top? I definately always look for a notebook with a strong cardboard on it.

Kelly said...

The legal one is across the top, but the smaller version is wired down the side and also has the strong back to it.

Peggy said...

I definitely feel more liberated with longhand. I think it's because I know I can make lots of mistakes. It's just my brain trying to catch all my thoughts on paper. The only problem then is my mind works faster than my hand so later when I go back, I have a hard time deciphering my notes!

Melissa Marsh said...

I used to write longhand all the time in junior high and high school. Now my carpel tunnel prevents it. But I still can't turn to that method because I feel like I write so much better on the computer. My pen can't keep up with my thoughts and that isn't an issue with the keyboard.

Still, I do like to keep a handwritten journal. There's something about a very cool pen and a neat notebook that inspires me.

Tess said...

It's funny about my CTS - sometimes switching back and forth b/w longhand and typing seems to help. I guess it's the variety. And the mousemitts have helped a lot.

Nikki said...

I write longhand when I need to think through problems in my plot ... but I'm with Kacey -- it kills me to do it!!! :)

Michelle said...

I'm on the fence about writing longhand. I can type galactically faster than I can handwrite, and when I type, my brain can just fly. When I handwrite, it forces me to slow down--not always a good thing. I'm still trying to figure out what works best for me. :)