Updated: May 18
In this blog, I will look at the actual process of writing and what tools you can use and help you think about perhaps what you should use. Everything listed below is still in use by authors depending on individual preferences.
Let’s start with the original and perhaps the most obvious. Many people prefer to draft their ideas or all the story on paper. It is after all the most traditional and time-honoured practice and there are reasons why people still choose to do this.
In the same way that you may play a musical instrument and that becomes part of you, you will develop a relationship with pen and paper. They are tactile aspects of the art of writing and evoke thoughts of past practices. For instance, monks scribing or Shakespeare (or whoever you believe, wrote Shakespeare!), creating some of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces. There is a sense of tradition about it. And whether the reason is scientific or supernatural, it may offer that much more inspiration.
There is no doubt that there is something cathartic about scribbling out unwanted words or throwing paper into a bin. I don’t think you get that degree of emotional expression with a laptop.
If you are handwriting, you are more likely to start over again rather than continuously copy and paste tired and rejected paragraphs. It slows the process down a little, and for me, that has always been an important element of writing. I find that word processing doesn’t, and I can sometimes get a little ahead of myself.
And you can do it anywhere, and this should be important, depending on what genre you are writing in. I write historical novels and my books have been written in Chester, Liverpool, and York cathedrals. Universities, dozens of libraries, Bolton Abbey, cafés etc. I really enjoyed the experience of working in disparate environments and I would like to think it has added something to the finished work.
Only two weeks ago, I was reading about the uses of the typewriter and saw a quote that said ‘Old people may do this’. Thankfully I laughed, wondering at what age exactly I became an old person. The reality is probably quite some time ago, but no, it is not just old people who use typewriters.
Utilising a typewriter is a preference for many authors, and some of the reasons for that are like handwriting. You not only have a relationship with the paper but also with an incredible machine and this also evokes memories of the past. I have a typewriter (I don’t use it for writing I should add – just in case you thought I had lugged it around the country!) and it is identical to one my mother would have used in the latter years of the war (yes, I am that old), it would have been used for all the documents during the Berlin airlift as she was the PA to the Air Commodore, and when I have used my typewriter, it takes me back to that period. But I also harbour conscious thoughts and inspiration from all those great novels from the past.
Let’s face it, they are also quite cool, and you'd be a fool not to use yours in promos and posts. Some people say that it’s also the best medium for writer’s block and even better, you can’t hide from it or put it away for an hour or two.
As you sit down to write at the typewriter you also avoid any unnecessary Internet distractions.
If you work on a PC, then you have the advantage of having created your own writing workstation (presuming we are not talking about a laptop). And this can be extended to the ‘desk’ or the ‘room’ where inspirational writing takes place. In this way, it loses a bit of the flexibility of some of the other media, but it also focuses your work. You may well timetable your writing. After all, discipline for writing is possibly one of the most important things, especially for those who suffer from writer’s block.
For almost all my books this was the tool of choice. It has been portable, and efficient and I loved typing via the screen. It appears that so much of this has to do with the correlation between the speed of your creative thoughts and your word processing speed.
I’m not good. Embarrassingly, even after a lifetime of working with adaptive tech, I am a poor word processor. But I have found my iPad ideal.
At this point, it is worth discussing dictation. For some, it is an ideal solution and makes the process that much easier but for me the ideas just do not flow in the same way as word processing does. However, if you have not tried it, it is worth a go.
This must be the writer’s favourite in the 2020s. It is portable, has a ‘proper’ easy to use keyboard and you can access all your files and basic research (and of course MTA) as you work.
I believe that people do also develop a working relationship with their laptop, and it becomes an extension of the author. And you don’t need the latest state-of-the-art machines to write. Those of us old enough will remember that amongst the early functions of personal computers was word processing so a very basic or old laptop (not only for old people) would suffice.
I had a student who wrote books on her phone.
I expect that this isn’t as much of a shock to our younger members, but I would regard it as torture. Two thumbs were seemingly all she needed for a masterpiece, and she was clearly quite comfortable. It has the advantage of all the above tech and is unquestionably that much more portable.
This strategy teaches us that it is important for every writer to establish what equipment is of the greatest use to them.
Perhaps through the forums, we will one day run a survey of who uses what and the results might well be fascinating although the golden rule must be: use whatever works best for you.