Writer, poet and content creator based in the UK

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Published in History & Culture

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Published in History & Culture

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By AlexF

The Benefits Of Writing, Not Typing, Your First Draft

The Creative Benefits of Writing Your First Draft Writing the first draft of my novel longhand is something I’ve begun doing over the past month, and I’ve found it has a number of benefits. I began it because I had stopped writing my novel for a while (I had been reading a book about story structure instead) and wanted something ...

The Creative Benefits of Writing Your First Draft

Writing the first draft of my novel longhand is something I’ve begun doing over the past month, and I’ve found it has a number of benefits. I began it because I had stopped writing my novel for a while (I had been reading a book about story structure instead) and wanted something to get me started again.

Writing longhand is linked to journalling, a private occupation. You write only for yourself, and you write whatever you feel like writing. It encourages the link between thinking, creative brain and hand, a link which has been a part of us since we first learned to write as children. 

You may enjoy the process more. It’s a good way to tell the story to yourself. It has the advantage of making sure you focus on the story, not on its possible future readers. The first draft is for you alone. You are its writer and its reader.No-one else ever needs to see it. It’s an example of Stephen King’s often quoted advice abour writing the first draft ‘with the door closed’. 

The informality of writing by hand in a journal encouraged me to jump in and write the characters and scenes I felt like writing, rather than writing in a linear fashion as I had been doing. Having already lived with this story for a long time and written about half of it, I found this easy to do. I found I was spending more time in the minds of my point of view characters, and learned more about them, and their backstories, as a result. I enjoyed the writing, and my wordcount crept steadily upward. I didn’t write every day, but I haven’t missed many, and the progress that I’m  making is encouraging. 

There’s plenty of opportunity to discover new ideas in the writing. Though this kind of discovery writing can be especially effective if you know what you’re trying to achieve in a scene or chapter, i.e. if you’ve already written some kind of outline. That way if you have a new idea, you will know whether or not it will fit into your story, and often even exactly where it will go and how it will nudge the story in one direction or another. 

The quality of what you write doesn’t matter at all in this draft. It can be as messy as you like. (Though make sure you can read your own handwriting!) You don’t have to worry about finding the ‘right’ word or about the quality of your sentences. That means you can write faster, and get more words down. A draft written in this way will arguably have more cohesion than one that has taken a year to write.

There’s an editorial benefit too: you can do a little editing while typing it up. Though you can speak the words too, if your dictation software is good enough to make it worth your while. Not so much if you keep having to stop to correct errors manually.

Other Benefits of Writing, Not Typing

If ‘work’ to you means sitting at a screen, and writing fiction is not your job, why would you want to sit at another screen during your free time in order to write your novel? If you get yourself a notebook and pen you will be able to feel that you have taken a break and you will be in a more relaxed state of mind, whether you are sitting in a café or at home.

Your posture will be different (if not actually better; you will probably be hunched over the desk!)  And you won’t be adding to your risk of repetitive strain injury from keying (though we did use to talk about writer’s cramp.)

It felt at first like going back in time to when I wrote my fiction as a teenager, but as we all now spend so much time repetitively tapping on keyboards in front of screens, it seems like a good idea to change our posture now and again, and who knows, maybe change the way our minds work as a result.

You can keep your handwritten novel in one notebook (or a series of them). It’s lighter to carry around than a laptop, and easier to open. (You don’t need a password. No batteries either.)

There are even smart reusable notebooks, The best smart notebooks for 2022 | Digital Trends you can buy from which you can upload pages and save them digitally. 

If you have not created anything for a while, or even at all, and would like to, I would recommend reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way Home | The Artist's Way (theartistswaybook.com)  and its sequel, to get you started. It contains inspiration and exercises to get your creative spirit moving again. It has been translated into many languages, and sold millions of copies, inspiring people all over the world.

So, have you considered writing a draft of your novel longhand? Or do you prefer the benefits of your keyboard?

Join us in celebrating the power of #storytelling

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