Friday, 11 March 2011

Writing Vs. Typing (Paper Vs. Computer)

When I decided to start writing the first draft of my new WIP, I had an interesting experience. I opened a new file in MS WORD. I typed: Chapter 1.

Then I sat there.

I look at the screen. Hovered my fingers above the keys. I knew what was supposed to happen in that scene. But I didn't know how to start. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to type anything. If I type something that doesn't seem like the right beginning, the words would be on the screen, staring at me, yelling to be deleted and replaced. So I gave it a few minutes. Then shut the file down, opened up a notepard, and started with - Chapter 1.

This time, there was no hesitation. If something didn't feel right, crossing it out with a pen, and moving on, seemed much easier and much less stressful than the wide screen glaring at me.

Once the words were there, I could type rest of the words directly on the computer.

But that led me to think about all the other times. Sometimes, I am clearly affected by my mood. Words would flow on paper, but they would not flow on screen. And at other times, they would flow on the screen, but not on paper.

However, when it comes to brainstorm or writing without thinking or especially new beginning, I definitely prefer to write on paper. It is strange, I agree. It is much much easier to delete words on computer than to cross out or throw away pieces of paper. Yet for me, writing on paper (regular notepads, not nice journals) gives me the freedom to treat it as a first draft, or a rough draft, or brainstorm.

For this particular novel, I am sometimes writing straight onto computers, but at other times on a notepad, and then transferring things later. The practice, while takes more time, is handy because that means I can sometimes get part of the writing done during my commute if I feel like it, and make some progress towards my daily goal. And again, it's about freedom. Even though I have a netbook, I would feel pretty silly opening it and writing 200 words and that's it. Whereas on a notepad, I can write a paragraph or two, close it, and still feel good about the progress.

What about you? Are you on one extreme between the choices of paper or computer? Are you completely flexible? Or bit random like me?


  1. I find paper is much better for brainstorming and thinking things through. But after the ideas are really flowing, I need to switch to my computer, because it's faster.

  2. Computer, anytime. No paper cuts!

    I think I like re-writing too much, so I would make a big mess, on paper. And I like my spell checker always on, my word count there in the corner... I remember typing on a actual typewriter when I was a kid and in my teens, so I’m all in for the benefits of technology. So much easier!
    That’s the practical side of things. But paper doesn’t work for my stories on the inspirational side either, because I write on paper only very rarely, only very personal stuff, only in Italian, and usually only if I’m very depressed! So whenever I feel like grabbing a pen and a notebook, I know it’s serious... ;)

    Of course need be, I would write on paper. Like you said, if a good idea hits you on the bus, why not? But it would be an exception. So far it has happened only with songs. Lots of lines written on the go.

    So, for me it seems to be typing (in English) for what it's supposed to be read (eventually), and handwriting (in my first language) for what I absolutely want to keep for myself. Interesting. I never thought about that... Hm.

  3. Well, to make it short, I've already answered that question on detail in the writing question No. 06: Writing Habits. Have a look!

  4. Thanks for your comments, everyone :-)

    It is always very interesting to learn about other people's preferences.

  5. I think I'd have to say that, like you, I'm a bit random. Most of my composing takes place on the computer, but I carry a notebook with me for those ideas that strike at unexpected moments. I also keep a pen and pad beside my bed. And most of my poetry is composed with pen and paper before I transfer it to the computer.

  6. Only typing for me. My writing is atrocious. I probably couldn't read it if I wanted to. LOL There's something about the instantness of typing that I love ;o)

  7. I'd read Garth Nix's writing process a while back and shook my head - he writes everything out longhand, then types it up when he's finished a chapter, editing as he goes.

    Then one day when I had an hour free and no machine I tried it, and realised his way works. It's not for everyone but I've found it's improved my writing immensely.

  8. Fran,

    Handwriting works for me too. The only problem is that I've more flexibility to type things in different places than write them, so I end up with disjointed drafts if I start handwriting. But I definitely value the process.

  9. Since I have a travel blog, I find writing on paper very useful though my handwriting is really awful. Typing is faster, but as much as I want to just put all the words in the computer, I really don't want to carry my laptop all the time when I travel. Then if I do bring it with me, I'd be worrying about losing battery charge, especially if I stay in remote islands.

    1. Lonesome,

      In that case, come and find my new home :-)