A month ago, I wrote a post entitled Handwriting Versus Typing on the Kill Zone Blog. That post spurred a lot of comment, and BK Jackson suggested we conduct our own internal TKZ experiment to see what we might learn. (Thank you, BK!)
Seven intrepid experimenters hopped aboard the TKZ Handwriting research train: Priscilla Bettis, Patricia Bradley, Debbie Burke, Becky Friedrichs, Brenda (BK) Jackson, Robert Luedeman, and Kay DiBianca. We each agreed to do some or all of our writing in longhand over a seven-day period.
Each one sent the results of their efforts to the group. For the sake of brevity, I’ve excerpted part of their feedback below. I hope they will all add to their experiences in the comments.
Surprisingly, even without editing as I wrote, the first draft didn’t turn out as cringe-worthy as I expected. Writing slower gave my brain extra time to reword a sentence before it actually made it down my arm and through the pen to the paper.
Overall, I think writing by hand took a little more time (the drafting plus having to type it all in afterwards), but in the long run it has no doubt saved me an entire editing pass.
In my WIP, the MC is a poet. Each chapter has a poetic epigraph. Writing poems longhand produced much better results.
Will I keep it up? Oh, I hope so! I dread it a little because it takes more concentration to write by hand, but the result is better.
I wrote for about an hour a day on my iPad using my iPen and the software Nebo, mostly brainstorming. I don’t seem to be able to write a scene yet longhand. Using the iPen and iPad I didn’t have to then type it in but it didn’t totally transcribe it the way I wrote it. I blame that on my terrible penmanship. It probably would’ve been the same way if I’d had to transcribe it myself. Ha!
I will keep writing longhand for about an hour before I start working on the WIP since it seemed to give me good ideas and direction.
My experiment with handwriting was a mixed success. I wrote out a list of scenes in my WIP, trying to figure out the best order. That helped b/c I rearranged some scenes. It also showed me that there were too many very short scenes from different POVs that felt jerky.
Drafting by hand didn’t work at all for me b/c I edit as I draft. Soon there were so many scratched-out lines, words inserted above or below, and circled phrases with arrows pointing in different directions, it was unreadable.
My plan was to start a brand new story so I could go into it without any preconceived ideas from books I’d already started. I wasn’t going to try to get each sentence, each word, exactly right, but just get the story down.
On day one, it took me exactly two hours to write 1203 words, which was discouraging. I once wrote a book of 85,000+ words in ten days, so this seemed terribly slow. On the positive side, the story unspooled as I saw it in my mind, and I completed 7,223 words in the seven days.
I think I have a different perspective on writing now. I no longer believe I must be sitting at my desk in my office and typing on either a desktop or laptop, with the door closed and no noise.
Brenda (BK) Jackson
I wrote 4,659 words during that 7 day period. That was 6.09 hours spent handwriting, plus it took another 2.2 hours to transcribe.
- I found the time transcribing gave me time to add comments and thoughts about things I might want to revise later, ideas to add, etc.
- I definitely felt freer creatively to write longhand–there’s just something about pen/paper contact that breaks through mental blocks. I’m not saying I solved all my story problems as I wrote, but I got scenes down, instead of just staring at my computer screen & having nothing to show for it.
- It took a little over 8 hours to write/transcribe 4,659 words. That’s about 582 words/hour. However, while sometimes I can produce far more than that in an hour, there are plenty of times sitting at a keyboard where I can’t even produce that much.
I tried it this week and it didn’t work for me at all. What I found was that using pen and paper slowed down the free flow of ideas, and I can try out different things at a better pace on the keyboard. Also, if I need to research a point about something I can open up another window and get right to it.
I still use pen and paper to jot down snippets of things I want to save for future reference.
I wrote during six days of the past week, and only part of that was in longhand. Although I didn’t keep very careful note of word count, I’m guessing I managed between 1,500 to 3,000 words. The handwriting didn’t take as long as I thought it would. The problem was just having to type it in afterwards, but that gave me a chance to edit, so it wasn’t a total time waste.
I do believe the handwriting flowed a little better, though I can’t quite put my hand on why that was. It was just a different, and possibly more pleasurable, experience.
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So there you have it. Empirical data from trusted sources.
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So TKZers: What do you think of our handwriting experiment? Will you do part of your future writing with pen and paper? Any thoughts or suggestions?