Writers' Tools: The Notepad

When you've been using a computer to type up your manuscript for weeks, months or years, you can get desensitised to the power. You can make it look all pretty and professional, double spacing, page number, novel name and surname at the top right, 1-inch margins. Or maybe you feel like you can write better if what you have in front of you looks like a book. You change the page size and narrow the line-spacing to back to one. You add an italicised title to the top of the page and page numbers to the bottom, change the centring to "justified", format the chapter headings and add acknowledgements, a map, a quote, a copyright page, a title page and a contents page to the front, and an author bio at the back.

I've done most of these things.

But generally I stick to the manuscript style, which I'm sure will come in handy when it comes time for me to enter revisions.

However, all this computerness can become a bit much. There's a little too much power in the works, and you don't get slapped for going back and changing something – and you should get slapped, especially if it means you're working on a single sentence for more than two minutes.

I strongly feel that writing and editing should be kept separate. When you're writing, you should get into a flow and let the scene unfold at your fingertips. Stopping to edit each sentence will stop this flow. Now, this probably isn't a problem for everyone, but if you're a pedant like me, and want to get the sentence just right before moving on – then you need help. I'm going to refer you to Dr. Wicked. For more on his program, see my post here.

Enter the notepad.

The point of this nifty little thing is to get you away from all that unnecessary power. With great power comes great responsibility. I know I'm not responsible enough to stop myself from going back to edit sentences and paragraphs when I should be getting into the flow. That's not so easy when you can't just backspace and write it again. It actually takes physical effort to cross something out, and that means when you do go back and edit something on your notepad, you probably actually need to. And of course, the point here isn't to be neat and prettyful. You want to get into a flow, and you can help yourself to do that by taking out a notepad and getting rid of those obstacles and the resposibility that comes with power. Save the colours for when you type out what you wrote.

Also, notepads make you feel all writerly!

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Lindz Pagel said...

I'm definitely a typer, and yes my rough draft is fully formatted with header, page numbers and even a little symbol I drew that appears at the start of every chapter.

That said, I can't be sitting at my computer all the time, so when inspiration strikes I keep a little notepad on me at all times. I notice when I scribble in my near illegible hand-writing that what gets to the page often feels way more organic than when I'm sitting at my laptop.

I can't open up facebook, or fiddle with the type of font, I just write... Sometimes the power my computer has over me is a little terrifying. There's something to be said about the power of a blank page and a pen.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am completely opposite. I only write at the computer. 25 years as a programmer has blessed me with a fairly good typing speed. If I try to write longhand that fast, my wrist cramps within a page or two.

I don't edit as I type, other than to fix misspellings or the like. When it comes time to edit, I print out a single scene, double spaced, with wide margins. That hits the clipboard and I use my colored pencils (don't judge! I like colored pencils!) to mark it up. Doing that longhand forces me to spend more time thinking about what I am doing and what I want to say.

Markups then go back into the computer. I don't have any pretty formatting though. I use a single chapter in each file, 12 point Verdana zoomed in until it fills the screen.


Ryan Sullivan said...

Lindz: Ah! That was the other thing that using a notepad really helps me for: It keeps me away from the internet, that master of procrastination.

J.Andrew:If only I were blessed with your power! My typed pages are double-spaced and all that jazz, and I'm going to keep it that way until it's time to publish. It's so useful for line-edits, which I sometimes do at the end of a chapter. (But of course, this is all WELL before I do my revision passes. They aren't my final drafts.)

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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