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How do you draft?

I’m reading John Irving’s new novel for our next DGLM book club, and I noticed this piece about it in last week’s NY Times. What struck me was his admission that he does all his drafting longhand! He doesn’t read electronically and he doesn’t write electronically. I found this factoid pretty interesting. In a culture that is so reliant on technology, it’s refreshing if surprising to hear about one of our most important authors using this very old-fashioned and slow-paced approach to the writing process.

I take notes on my phone and find it very useful when I’m on the go (and when I remember to go back to them), but I still have my spiral notebook that serves as my lifeline to manage my personal and professional life. My best days are the ones when I get to go through my line items and cross off everything on the list! Obviously I’m not talking about creative writing, but it is a process just the same and a way of organizing thoughts and ideas.

It got me to wondering how our readers draft their manuscripts. What’s your most effective and productive writing style? Has it changed over time? Do you prefer digital or longhand? Let us know how you choose to draft your master works.

4 Responses to How do you draft?

  1. Charl Dee says:

    Do you believe him? He’s one of the best liars. Ever.

  2. D. C. DaCosta says:

    I’m amazed at how many writers claim to prefer working in longhand. I’ll do it when lunching alone and a red-hot idea hits, but the time necessary to transcribe seems wasted. And it’s always so disappointing to find that five pages of passionate excitement only add up to 700 words when typed!

    I prefer the laptop, with the wireless turned OFF.

    That said, I, too, always carry a small memorandum book, and sometimes a voice recorder. This last has the advantage of being more discreet in public places, since it resembles a cell phone. It’s also safer and more convenient when driving. (Inspiration seems to strike most often when I’m behind the wheel.) Again, transcription is annoying, but I find that once an idea is spoken, my brain is “emptied” and ready to receive and process the next one.

  3. I almost always draft on a computer, simply because using a keyboard is the only hope I have for my fingers keeping up with my brain. Sometimes I will outline longhand, but given how extensive my outlines tend to get, it becomes a bit of a time-sink to then type that information into the corresponding Word doc (as D.C. DaCosta above me pointed out).

    I’m usually surrounded by a small army of Post-Its on which I scramble new ideas, changes, and revision ideas, though.

    I occasionally use a voice recorder, too; it is useful in the car and can help me remember lines I want to put in, but have to worry about slipping from my mind if I’m typing out a long section. This is especially useful when writing a scene where two characters are arguing, and helps the dialogue sound more believable. I don’t do this often, either, because it also requires twice as much time.

    Oddly enough, for all my digital proclivities, I do like printing out the first draft for my first round of revisions. It makes it easier for me to check continuity, see where I am duplicating information, and so on. I print two pages per sheet, though, and use the back side for the next novel, because I feel guilty wasting paper.

  4. Amy Lewis says:

    I write longhand, certainly for the first draft. I don’t see the transcribing as “wasted”, as it is a built in second draft. I find that with longhand, I’m better compelled to continue moving forward through the draft, rather than rewriting the last 5 pages over and over (which might be cut anyway). Also, according to neurologists, longhand stimulates both hemispheres of the brain. Typing, only the logical side.

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