Ink or keys?

December 10, 2007 at 8:46 pm (Writing) (, , , )

So, do you write on paper or your computer?  Do you scribble away in fantastic notebooks or have a folder for each chapter on your desktop?  Do you find the two methods wholly incompatible or do you mix and match according to mood and circumstance?

For me, it depends not on my mood, location, or ink supply, but on the form.  Fiction flickers into life on my computer screen, while verse I write on any scrap of paper that’s to hand.  I cannot happen any other way.  I may jot down a few paragraphs in my notebook, but any sustained fiction has to be typed.  Similarly, I tend to type up poems once they’re done, but sit me in front of a blank word document and you won’t get a line of blank verse.  It’s terribly outmoded, but I, and my writing hand, still think that poetry should be a natural, spontaneous thing, an anathema to that technological box of tricks.  So, what about fiction?  Writerly types of the past wrote whole tomes using their pretty little hands – why shouldn’t I?  Ah, it’s the lure of the delete key – I just can’t resist.  I’m even doing it now.  Write a sentence, rub it out, write it again, write three more, scrub half out.  Modern paper isn’t exactly palimpsest quality, I don’t think it could cope with my zealous erasing.  My trusty delete key, however, holds up just fine.



  1. Elver said,

    The medium depends entirely on what’s most convenient for getting the job done.

    For plotting/planning, it’s oldschool pencil on sheets of paper, and an eraser. Nothing quite like being able to draw and write and erase however I please. This is mostly just to get a feel for the story. I just toss them somewhere in a pile and don’t even look at them once I move to the computer.

    Next it’s a series of 3×5 cards on the computer. Since I write for the screen, I use the Celtx screenwriting program. Once I’ve got a scene by scene outline done with virtual 3×5 cards (the important part is to get the beginning and end point of each scene down) then I can write the scenes in any order I wish. And that’s digital.

    When the script is done I do some revising digitally, then print it out, get some Earl Grey, and a pen. Revision time on paper. Then it’s back to keyboard for another draft. Repeat until happiness arrives.

    So, yeah. That’s me, then.

  2. JMH said,

    I write the same as you. Verse should have an organic element, and mind-to-fingers-to-screen can create clever things, but not poetry. However, if I can watch my hand holding the pen, making ink on paper, it gets my body, my glands involved.

    With fiction, I’m dealing with such a bulk of words, it hurts to write them out. Hand cramps. I think I write better stories longhand, but the only way I can make myself do it is to go to a dim bar where I know people will stare at me. Horrible people. I’d sit in the corner, but the only way to tolerate their stares would be to keep my head down and my pen moving.

  3. WritingMinion said,

    I always write poetry in a notebook– scribbling away as an idea comes to me. I rarely am able to just let words go along on a computer screen– it always feels forced.

    Fiction i have to write on a computer (with a lovely delete key). For some reason it doesn’t seem real on a notebook page to me. Although, I do hand write really difficult sections of a short story because sometimes taking a break from the computer screen helps. Sometimes I’ll also hand write notes if the plot/characters are getting out of hand and I need to remember what I’ve got planned.

    I always print things out and revise by hand– that way as I’m striking through a really bad sentence I feel a sense of accomplishment.

  4. Vanessa said,

    I seem to be against the grain on this one but I always write my poetry straight on the computer. For me, it’s the easiest way to articulate the form and see what it will look like and though I’ll write lines down with pen and paper at a push if inspiration strikes me somewhere funny, I’d always always prefer to be using my keyboard. I’d love to be someone with a gorgeous notebook full of poems but they end up full of brief ideas and shopping lists…

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