Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pen and paper? Or digital?

One of the questions I get asked quite frequently is whether I write my books by hand or directly on a computer. These questions obviously come from those people who don't know that I'm a complete stationery addict. In fact, I've had another blog for years on stationery: http://paperpensink.blogspot.co.uk/ (not updated as often as I'd like these days...).

I do a bit of both to be honest. Most of my planning - character notes, plotting, initial ideas about scenes are done on paper, usually in an A4 Clairefontaine notebook, using a fountain pen. I use a fountain pen because I have arthritis in my hands and with a fountain pen, you don't need to press hard to make the ink flow and therefore you don't need to grip the pen tightly either, making writing an altogether more fun experience than using a biro. Clairefontaine paper is glorious to write on and A4 gives me plenty of space to write, draw diagrams and mind-maps, paste in pictures of buildings, people, rooms, furniture etc. These A4 books end up as a bit of a scrap book for each book and I love looking back through them.

Once I have an idea of the plot, I make up scene cards on index cards - larger ones (5" x 7") for major plot points and smaller (4" x 6") cards for individual scenes between the major plot points. This lets me see where the holes are and get the balance right.

At this point, I generally transfer the information to Scrivener, so that the skeleton of the plot is there.

The other little bit of kit I love using is my Polaroid PoGo printer. I think these have been superseded by things like the HP Sprocket Photo Printer but the principle is the same - a mini printer that prints on to self-adhesive 2" x 3" photo sheets. I use these when I'm creating my character dossiers. Much of my initial character planning goes on in the notebook, but when I'm fairly happy with them, I fill in a character dossier. I designed these dossiers years ago. They print out to A5 size and I keep them all in an A5 filofax, tagged with which book the character is in. These dossiers run to several pages and ask all sorts of questions about the character. When I designed them, I put a 2" x 3" box in the top right-hand corner, so I could stick a picture there. Most of the time, I have an actor in mind as a physical base for a character and so I find a good picture of them, print it out on the mini printer and stick it on the dossier. These dossiers have been invaluable when I've been editing, especially as I have come back to editing a book having written another one (or two) in the interim and I need a good aide memoire to help me get back into the character.

Once all my plot notes and character notes are done, I tend to start writing scenes. I may do more notes for these in the notebook or I may start writing straight on the computer, on Scrivener. If I'm going anywhere by train, I write in a notebook and type up later.

Maybe it's old-fashioned of me to write things by hand, but I find it stimulates my creativity and soothes my soul - that smooth flow of ink over beautiful paper does so much more for me than merely tapping away on a keyboard.

What about others? What do you prefer? Paper and ink? Or straight into the digital realm?