Friday, August 27, 2010

Handwriting versus Keyboarding

Hey -- sorry for such the long delay in making any posts. Things have been busy.

Today, I am going to throw to the table the classic argument of which is better: Handwriting versus Keyboarding. By Keyboarding, I mean typing your story directly to the computer.

This is not as easy of a subject as it sounds. There are lots of arguments for both. In fact, there is no one right way to do it. This is completely subjective.

This level of subjectiveness is what makes this a *fun* topic of discussion. What do *you* do?

I do both. It depends what mood I am in when I start a project. This is the key point: What mood I am in when I *start* a project. I think a very costly mistake is trying to do both at once. I write completely differently on notebook paper when I do to the computer. I don't know what it is about notebook paper, but I write to the plot, plot bunnies abound, and I usually tell an entertaining, if not horribly written story.

That said, once I go to the computer, I often end up with a better product at the end of the day. I lose the tendency to edit while I am writing, so every word I add is being directly productive.

This is just me, of course.

Here is a very small list of pros and cons for handwriting -- specific to me:

Inability to edit
Inability to see word count
Pure story-telling

Inability to see word count
Aching Wrists and Hands
Need paper + Pen. Lots of pens, and lots of paper.

I really like pens. No, seriously. I love pens. You want a friend for life? Give me a pen. Costco sells pens in bulk. My husband tries very hard to avoid that section of the store.

There is one benefit to handwriting that is hard to list as a con or pro. It is the primary reason I still use what many view as an archaic form of writing. When I transfer the handwritten work to the computer, I am able to 'see' the story better. I can fix many of the plot holes, add in the descriptions I need, and track the correct character appearances. (As an aside, my characters change their looks 10 or so times each when I handwrite. Absolutely zero attempts at consistency. I will pick their 'true' appearances when I copy the writing to the computer.)

On the other hand, when I try to type directly onto the computer, I tend to develop some bad, lazy habits. This is great for projects like NanoWrimo, where the entire purpose is to write for fun and solely for fun and word count. I find I take a few steps backwards from over analyzing when I write draft onto the computer.

I think the primary source of this is my contract work as a professional writer/editor. When I see text in a word processor, my mind begins to go into editing mode.

After much thought, I realized the only way to solve it for my situation was to cease the word processor.

That said, I have not used many 'writing programs'. I consider trying them, but either they are extremely expensive or I am too lazy to follow their suggested method of doing things. I have always done things in the way that suit me best. For a more coherent example of the differences in the type styles, I will cover my thoughts on my own writing, first on handwriting and then on keyboarding.

Writing Quality - First Draft - Handwriting

Poor quality. I spend little time on spelling, while i make efforts to use somewhat proper grammar, this is secondary to getting the story told. I focus on elements that drive the story. If a description is important, I have a tendency to over-describe it. There is a lot of focus on dialog and basic character actions and interactions.

Writing Quality - First Draft - Keyboarding

Higher quality. I bog down with grammar fixes, spelling and word choice and general flow. I have a secondary focus on description, and I am less likely to include any frivolous conversations between characters. There are less plot-bunnies, but often less plot in the first draft.

Writing Quality - Second Draft - Handwriting

At this point I am copying the draft to the computer via Keyboarding. Draft quality is significantly higher. I refine what is there, kill off the bunnies and groom the ones I wish to keep.

Writing Quality - Second Draft - Keyboarding

Lower quality compared to handwriting. I am just polishing first quality draft. I end up with 'less work' because it is already on the computer, but sacrifice quality in the sense that I did not play as much outside of the box when I originally drafted.

Word Choice - Handwriting

More natural word choices. I am less likely to hit a thesaurus and more likely to just use the first appropriate word that comes to mind.

Word Choice - Keyboarding

Much more likely to use higher level vocabulary since a thesaurus is a click away.

Grammar - Handwriting

First draft grammar is laughable at best. If there is a rule for something, I have likely broken it. However, the benefit to this is learning through experimentation. Since I know sentence structure will likely not remain the same, I feel free to try new things since I know they will be corrected upon transfer to the computer.

Grammar - Keyboarding

Those green squiggles sometimes make me go back, often, and think of better ways to write a sentence. I tend to refine my grammar on the first draft. This is slower to write, but somewhat educational. That said, I don't totally trust those green squiggles. Humans are better at grammar.


*snort* There is no point in this entry. Keyboarding wins.

Editing - Handwriting

I have half pages chunks scribbled out. If I have made a 'this must be gone error', it is immortalized in big scribble marks. This is good for reference later.

Editing - Keyboarding

I do not track my edits on a novel to keep file size down and prevent more sources of potential crashes. I sometimes miss seeing the horrible sections I removed. If I removed a section while handwriting, it was just *that* bad.

Time - Handwriting

Counter to initial thought, I write faster when handwriting in many cases. I won't win a straight word count battle versus my keyboarding skills, but I do not stop and go. I just keep a constant stream of fairly quick writing going on. Because I am not saddled to my computers, I can write in more places conveniently.

Time - Keyboarding

If I am on a roll, I can whip out thousands of words an hour. IF I do not edit, IF I know exactly what I want to do, and IF I can ignore facebook and twitter. That is not often the case.

In a way, it takes longer to deal with handwriting because of the fact I have to copy it to the computer after. However, when I am copying, I am not using facebook, twitter and other distracting websites.

All in all, handwriting wins for when I want to write something seriously. Sigh. Now if only I could convince my husband that yes, I really need the hundreds upon hundreds of pens I want and that he refuses to buy for me...