Write, type, read

An important part of the writing process for me is firstly to write longhand, using pen and paper. I find this way to be more inspiring than writing on a computer. It is more personal; less faceless. My handwriting is my own, but words on a screen could have been written by anyone. But I do type my work, once I have written that first draft – to me, writing by hand first of all is also an important part of the editing process.

A very small selection of my notebooks

I know this method won’t be suited to everyone but here are my tips for first draft editing:

  1. Planning: It seems obvious, but I always find it’s important to get a plan for the story, from start to finish, written down as quickly as possible. This will probably change several times, but there’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a story and finding you have no idea where it might go next. Another method I quite like is to make a timeline, if the story is quite complex, with different characters discovering things at different times.
  2. Writing by hand: As I said, it feels more personal. It helps me identify more with the characters that I have created. It takes longer to write by hand, making me think a little more about the words I am using. And if I make a mistake and end up with a page covered in crossings out, it just means that when I go back over it, I can see the creative process and understand better how my ideas have evolved. Yes, it might look messy sometimes. But it’s also interesting to me to see where parts of the story have clearly flowed freely, while others have been more difficult to articulate.
  3. First edit: Typing up the text I have written by hand is my favourite way of reviewing what I have written. I really have to actively engage with every word as I transfer it from notebook to screen, and I think this engagement is important for a first edit. If I simply read the words, I find I don’t absorb them (or the story they are trying to tell) as effectively.
  4. Second edit: At this point I feel like I can be more of a traditional reader. I print out what I have typed and arm myself with a highlighter. I usually do this in stages – points where there is a natural break in the story. Any notes from this edit can then go directly onto the screen before I start on the next section. Sometimes, if the story has evolved and changed, I will go back to the plan, read when I originally wrote, and then perhaps write an updated version for the next part of the story.

This method has just evolved over time until I’ve got to a point where I‘m comfortable with the most effective way, for me, to write. I think everyone needs to find their own way. If you’re a little stuck and this method sounds helpful, please give it a try.

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