Sunday, November 20, 2011

Notebooks, pens and NaNoWriMo

I am late to this.

The above could well be a comment on many things in my life, but let's just go with Scribbles Blog Hop, Noland edition on Tony Noland's Landless site.

Earlier this month, some eight days or so ago, a group got together to blog about their use of pen and paper, notebooks and journals, in their writing process.

Pictures and discussions ensued. And I'm late to the party.

So be it.

I've mentioned on this blog, and in comments on others, that I use a notebook and one of several fountain pens when writing anything larger than flash fiction (and sometimes even then). There are several reasons, chief among them being I get distracted easily. With the entire Internet (or an appreciable part thereof) but a click away, I need to go "old school" to give me a chance to concentrate.

It works.

In addition, I enjoy writing by hand and I get to use those functional works of art, my fountain pens, for their purpose: the capturing of thought.

Battered - Unbowed
My main notebook is a leather notebook case into which I usually slot a 50-page Levenger ruled pad. It has good dense paper, which takes ink well.

On the left of the pages is a wide margin allowing for notes and ideas as they hit me while writing something else.

I was given the beautifully soft leather cover over 10 years ago, and it has aged with use. Exposure to California sun has caused fading. Its surface has recorded the hard knocks that life deals out. Character marks one could call them.

I like them because they show that I'm making use of the gift that was given and, while I do try to take care of my things, daily use leaves its mark on all of us, in one way or another.

Small Notebook
I have a second notebook that I generally carry with me. It's smaller, more suited to capturing the random thought (of which I have many) as it goes by. I recall when at a doctor's surgery a couple of years ago, awaiting the results of an outpatient procedure, I wrote a flash fiction story in the notebook.

I found it useful to divert my attention from what had just occurred, and what might subsequently. The story was published - and nothing untoward occurred resulting from the above-mentioned procedure. Everybody wins!
NaNo in progress
Right now I'm in the middle of my fourth NaNoWriMo effort. As in previous years, I am writing the fifty thousand words by hand. While tackling NaNoWriMo by hand has its virtues, it's not without its challenges. Writer's cramp (not to be confused with "block") is one of them. The issue of getting the first draft computerized is a second.

For that I use Dragon Dictate to get my words into files - adjusting the text along the way. A form of editing that doesn't feel like editing. It's an easy way to get a second draft that cleans up some of the nonsense that spilled out during the thirty days of November.

I am behind in my word count for NaNo 2011, but not egregiously so. Onward.


  1. Such a different process for you. Thanks to nerve imbalances, I can't write for long by hand and so put all my ideas down in extreme short hand that I've honed to be interpretable for myself later. When I type up stories, they tend to triple in size, and I relish those events.

  2. Loved (like i always do) taking a peek into your notebooks, pens and NaNo world of right now :) Such fun process.
    Break a leg on NaNo! :)

    I found that I write much slower than I type, so I do my best to have flashes and poems typed. Ideas go into a small notebook I carry around with me when I'm away from home and are handwritten since I don't have access to my laptop then.

  3. @John - it's a process thats evolved over the past {unknown number of} years. Nearly twenty years ago I recall writing poetry in a notebook and then typing them - on a typewriter! At the time I couldn't afford a computer. I like the idea of you writing in a compressed/de-hydrated form and then seeing the stories grow as you type them. The image appeals.

    @Estrella - Thanks for the good wishes on NaNo. I'm glad my notebooks got a little exposure - they've been through a lot with me. I write along at a fairly good clip, when things are flowing. I'm sure I could do the same while typing, but I do enjoy the feel of my pen moving over paper, inscribing thought.

  4. I also write by hand, which some days is barely legible. I've never heard of Dragon Dictate. Will have to look it up.
    Onward with your NaNo! :)

  5. Wow doing Nano by hand is quite an achievement kudos to you! I hardly write by hand at all these days, love the look of your leather notebook. I have a leather journal given to me this year on my 60th birthday - yes I'm that old - to journal events from my 60th year and I have been doing this. In a way it's a pleasure to write short remembrances of moments of my life.

    Loved reading your process.

  6. @Laura - Dragon Dictate works on the Mac, but I believe they have similar software for the PC. I get the "legible" part - going back to read my scribblings has its challenges.

    @Helen - It's possible I'd do better at NaNo if I used a computer, but unlikely. And I've now grown to love writing by hand. Enjoy your journal. I like that you find the writing in it a pleasure. ANd, at 60, you're not so far ahead of me. :-}

  7. Or me, Helen. :) Kevin and I are the same age.

  8. Ah well that's good to know that I'm not the only oldy ^__^ not that I think of myself as old, or any of you for that fact ;)