Hand Writing vs. Typing

I am an extreme advocate of hand writing everything.   From my angst-ridden high school poetry, to my more recent short story drafts, to writing daily to-do lists on lined post-it notes, it was all penned down. Perhaps I’m biased to it because when I was 8 years old my dad used to make me hand write, repeatedly, the definitions of words I didn’t know to expand my vocabulary and to help improve my handwriting.  And in 5th grade, each week my teacher made us write a quote 10 times in cursive and in pen, and if we made one mistake we had start over on a new page of paper.  Yeah…my natural handwriting is equal parts cursive and print because of that.

However, now that I’ve started working on my first novel, I realized that I either needed to drastically change my notebook organizational skills, or start going digital with my drafts.  Considering the former would include a lot of tearing out, compiling, stapling, taping, labeling, and paperclipping, I decided to find a program that could do the majority of that for me.

Enter Scrivener.  I downloaded this program about a week ago.  Right now I’m on the 30 day free trial, but I wholly plan on purchasing it after the trial is up because it is actually fairly cheap as far as useful, professional programs go.  To avoid this becoming a program review, I’ll just say this:  If you’re interested in a new program to help organize your writing, try the free trial of Scrivener.  If you aren’t, then continue ahead with this post.

In a handful of days my plotting, drafting, and writing turned from this:

Scribbles and cross-outs included. Had I known this would go public I would've used my good handwriting!

To the likes of this: 

Note the lists, color coding, summaries, and labels.

There’s a clear difference between which one is more organized.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s better.   Scrivener has all these cool functions like color-coding virtual notecards to indicate scenes, chapters, character studies, and ideas.  There’s nifty split screen and full screen functions.  You can make a target word count that tracks your progress on how far you have to go with a color-coded bar.

All these cool features also means that the pressure is on when you write.  When everything is handed out to you, there’s no excuse not to get your writing done.  And the target word counts?  You can make them for each file, each chapter, and each novel/project, all a the same time.  Which means you will always be looking at how far behind you are.

This can be very intimidating, especially if you’re old school like me.  When I sit and write it’s just me, my pen, and the paper.  Put a notebook in front of me, and my mind is classically trained to just go.  Put me in front of a computer and all of a sudden I have five windows open, four of which have nothing to do with what I originally meant to do.

But, as you may recall from the beginning of this post, I’m still going to continue with Scrivener.  Hand writing works very well when doing short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.  It’s good for brainstorming, and doing character studies.  But for working on novel length works?  You’d better have plenty of notebooks, great organizational skills, and a lot of patience if you’re going to even attempt it by hand.

So what are your thoughts on writing by hand?  Do you prefer taking it the digital route, or is it easier to free write in a notebook first?

(Also, I apologize for being scarce this week.  As demonstrated, I’ve been busy transitioning and exploring new fronts with my writing.)


About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

28 Responses to Hand Writing vs. Typing

  1. Angelo says:

    I usually only handwrite quick thoughts that come to me. When I actually sit down for cohesive writing I must use a computer and Final Draft. My hand writing speed can’t keep up with my brain thinking speed ;-/

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Yeah, my handwriting generally turns to a mush of cursive when I get really excited about an idea! Thankfully it’s still neat enough to decipher. Usually I’ll hand write a draft, go through it and write thoughts and small edits. Then I’ll type it up and kind of edit as I go, and finally once it’s typed up I’ll do a thorough edit.

  2. staticsan says:

    My handwriting has always been terrible. So much so that my sixth-grade teacher even encouraged me to use a typewriter. Yes, I’m showing my age… When I went into the workforce, I became a programmer, which also involves lots of typing. So, I’ve been a typer pretty much ever since.

    I’ve never really gotten into Scrivener. And that’s because I don’t run Windows nor do I have a Mac. And the Linux builds rarely work quite right. I’m currently using a mix of notetaking software on my Android tablet which seems to work for me. The big value this has over a netbook is the instant on.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      My boyfriend’s handwriting is completely illegible, so he types everything as well. I used to be an admin for a play-by-post RPG forum, and for that I typed everything up. I definitely do type faster than I write, but I just hit a certain flow when I’m writing, that works really well for me.

      Yeah, I probably wouldn’t use Scrivener for Linux either. For quick notes I always go to my handy dandy notebook! I do have an Evernote app for my kindle fire and my ipod touch that I can use, but I always forget about those…

  3. Very interesting! I NEVER write longhand. Haven’t done so since, gosh, high school maybe? I do alllll my writing on my laptop. In fact, I don’t even know if I would know how to hold a pen! Ha. Kidding, of course.

    This program looks very cool except that I don’t usually take notes or jot down ideas outside of MS Word. That’s probably not something to brag about. I probably should be more organized and not just sit down and write whatever happens to float into my head in whatever order it happens to get in there. Definitely food for thought and I will look into it. Thanks!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      It’s just great for me to keep everything in one place, since I do write things down it tends to be very sporadically placed. I have probably 12 notebooks floating around my apartment, not including pads of paper and post-it-notes. It’s also a lot easier for me to organize things because, like you, I’m writing it in scenes that I’m not sure where half of them will be chronologically in the novel yet. I can organize as I go. 🙂 It’s worth checking the free trial out if you really are interested.

  4. I like drafting by hand in a notebook. Second drafts are typed. I never take up long writing projects, but if I did I would type them, skipping the notebook step.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Definitely that mirrors what I do. I hand write my first drafts in a notebook, then go through and edit/make notes in the margins. After that I type them up and kind of edit/rearrange as I go. Once I have it all typed out then I thoroughly go through and edit again, referring back to notes in my notebook as well. I tried to go the notebook route for this long process of novel writing, but you’re right, it was just too much!

  5. Sara Flower says:

    I find that I write at the computer because I type faster than I hand write, plus I find the story actually flows better when I am staring at a computer screen. I like the idea of handwriting ideas and short stories, though.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      haha, I definitely type much faster than I write, but I’m the opposite! I find my stride much faster when I’m handwriting as opposed to typing. I don’t pause as much, and I definitely don’t get distracted as much!

  6. Stephanie says:

    I love handwriting, as well, and I’ve heard only good things about Scrivener. I may have to finally make a purchase!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Well, the free trial is for 30 actual days of use, so that should be enough time to decide if you like it or not. They don’t take any information when you sign up so they can’t accidentally charge you. It’s worth testing out at least. 🙂

  7. Eric Storch says:

    I used to hand write everything. When I got my first computer in the early 90’s, I started writing first drafts using one of the basic word processors of the time. My projects tend to be a bunch of handwritten notes strewn about many notebooks with a digital draft being created from them. Needless to say, some cool ideas tend to get left out due to poor organization.

    I’m going to give Scrivener a try. I just started a new project and I’m only three chapters in so I shouldn’t have too much of a problem transferring it to Scrivener, right?

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I was able to transfer files over rather easily, and so far it’s been very user-friendly.

      I definitely know how it is with losing ideas into the abyss of infinite notebooks! Every time I unearth an old notebook I’ll go through it and be amazed at how many writing projects I brainstormed about, but never pursued.

  8. This program is pretty cool but I’m an idiot when it comes to techy stuff like that. Haha. 🙂 I must agree though, the computer is much faster but at the moment, I’m taking my chances on Microsoft Word. 🙂

    • Aly Hughes says:

      haha, I used to hand write, then type things up onto MS Word. I was definitely going out on a limb trying this out, and there are so many features that I’ll probably never even use. Oh well, though, if it helps me stay organized then I can’t complain! 😉

  9. Mary says:

    I adore Scrivener. I wrote a review on it not too long ago, actually. One of the best writing tools out there.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’m still getting used to Scrivener, so there are a lot of tools I’ve yet to take advantage of. I’ll have to check out your review. 🙂

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  11. Hi. Just popped over from Jo’s blog.
    I’m like you — put paper in front of me and a pen in my hand and I’m going. My first drafts are always on paper.

    In my case, it’s definitely early trainng, since I started writing when computers weren’t an option. 🙂

    My handwriting is sloppy, but nobody needs to read it but me.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      When I’m sitting with a blank piece of paper I feel like it’s so full of possibilities just waiting for me to explore. When it’s a blank document with the blinking cursor, it’s like the pressure is on while it taunts me to write!

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  13. Hey you know what? After what we’d been discussing on your most recent post, I was thinking of recommending Scrivener to you (I was actually planning a post on it in the next few days). Obviously after reading some of your other posts I can see you found it. Superb software, very generous trial, good online tutorials, good for chapters, redrafts, all kind of stuff. Best Novel / General writing software, and I trialed a few.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      That is pretty funny! Scrivener has effectively stopped my writing-in-a-notebook era, although I have returned to the notebook every once in a while. This is actually the first writing software that I’ve tested, so I’m really glad to hear that it’s the best you’ve tried because I don’t think I’m going to explore others after this.

      • I originally picked it up about 15 months ago when it was Mac only and had just gone into a version 2 which I believe was a significant upgrade (although I never had V1 so I’m just going on others advice here). It wasn’t as well known then so it took a while to find it. Whilst I’m mostly not into promoting software, this one finding a bigger audience makes me happy for the developer who started it. He did it because there wasn’t something to manage his writing projects the way he wanted to.

  14. katherinemartinko says:

    I have to brainstorm everything on paper with a pen in hand. I do not come up with ideas easily in front of the computer. But when it comes time to write everything out, my pen can’t keep up anymore! Never heard of Scrivener before, but sounds very cool. I’ll check it out!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Oh, I didn’t even think to mention about brainstorming. I’m definitely with you on that one, all of my brainstorming/lists/bubbles/diagrams are all on paper. It would take too long to do that stuff on the computer! I never really considered it before, but I suppose I’m lucky that I’m both a fast writer and a fast typist. Although admittedly, whenever I get exceptionally excited my handwriting can turn into this mangled cursive that only I can decipher. But hey, nobody else really has to be able to read it, right?

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  15. amhudlow says:

    My handwriting is worse than chicken scratch and my cursive can’t even be considered a language, but I still hand write everything and then transfer it to the computer when I’m done. Something about writing everything out by hand makes it feel real if that makes sense. Typing just doesn’t feel right to me.

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