330. Writing Longhand

I’ve been drafting my stories longhand lately.

Or to be accurate: I’ve been going back to drafting my stories longhand lately. It was only when I got my laptop in 2009 that I started storing ideas electronically and typing them out digitally. Before that, the earliest stories – be it fanfiction for Red Alert 2 or short stories I wrote when I was 16 and 17 – were all written on foolscap paper, and then later transferred onto the screen to be edited.

(I don’t know why it’s called foolscap. I feel only slightly insulted every time someone calls it that, especially when I’m using the paper in question)

I don’t know why I fell out of the habit of doing it. Perhaps I was getting more environmentally-conscious and decided to save a couple of trees. Perhaps I was getting more used to drafting digitally because my fingers can type faster than they write, closing the gap between my speed of thought and my speed of transcription.

Or maybe it’s just harder to lose things that are stored electronically.

When I was 16, just beginning to write, I read The Lord of the Rings, I read the behind-the-scenes story of how he crafted a whole world for his languages to live in – and from the looks of the pages of Elvish poetry, he loved his languages a lot. Being the pretentious little writer that I was, I decided that I shall emulate this esteemed fellow and create a language or two on my own, basing my conlangs on a language Mr. Tolkien did not have the good fortune of knowing: Chinese.

Again, being the pretentious little writer that I was, I called my conlang “The Language of The Nova”, who, in my fantasy world, were a race of guardian angels who took their places in the skies as stars, communicating in runic characters and music.

I don’t care what you think. In my head, it’s still beautiful.

I was using this varicolored notebook at that time, but after a while, I filled the notebook up and it fell out of use. My notes and characters created for The Language of The Nova was kept in it, just inside the back cover. And I don’t know where it is anymore.

Now contrast that with random ideas that I got in 2009, which I can access in a grand total of 5 clicks.

But there’s just something about writing longhand that gets you in the flow. You write at about a quarter of your typing speed (I type up to 120wpm), but it’s the lag that allows your ideas and sentences to fully form before you even reach them, helping you to flow with the words, instead of building them as you get ideas, like Wile E. Coyote building tracks from the front of a moving train.

The first half of Dirty Fellow, my submission to the KL Noir: Yellow anthology, for example, was drafted longhand. It’s the most glorious 2,500 words I have ever committed to ink. Earlier today, I began writing another story in class, titled Paper Airplanes, and before the class ended I had about 2.5 written pages, which is about 1,200 words.

We’ll see where this goes.


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