I think it’s important, from time to time, to re-examine the workflow you’re using and question whether it’s optimal. As I think I’ve recounted before, my first workflow when I first started writing so many aeons ago was to write by hand, in a marble notebook, then transfer it to computer when I got home. That workflow was born from necessity more than anything else – who could afford a laptop just for writing in 1997, especially when making about $16k a year?
As time moved on my budget increased, such that by the time I came back around to writing again, I could afford a somewhat more mobile piece of technology. And isn’t that the dream of most writers at some point, to be able to write anywhere with the knowledge that their words can’t be lost?
As the years moved on, though, I’ve found that although I have greater means of recording words than ever before, I record less of them and with weaker effect. So a few weeks ago, I decided to do a little experiment. With my trusty and relatively cheap disposable fountain pen in hand, and a yellow legal pad of decent paper quality in the other, I set out to do some writing.
The rules for writing have been simple. I spend a day more on paper, writing out a scene, or if the flow overwhelms me, a chapter. Then when I am at a comfortable stopping point, or I feel like I need a little inspiration, I take what I’ve written so far and type it up. During my typing, I also do some spot editing, changing words, fixing flows, etc. I have found in the last two weeks that by alternating between the two, I am able to keep tabs on the pulse of the story.
What I’m not doing is frantically tracking my word count. That works for a lot of people, and internally I have a running track as I’m writing. I know that a page of written text, in this particular notepad, with this particular pen nib, is typically between 200 and 250 words. So I know if I’ve written four pages today, I’ve written between 800 and 1000 words. Maybe less, not likely too much more, but that’s good enough for a day to day. At some point, I will probably try and strive to write X number of pages a day. For now, i’m just trying to write until either my hand cramps too much or I’ve run out of words for the day. Last night, to act as a bridge between the carefree, just pen it all down, and the gotta save it all to disk mentality, I snapshot (literally) my writing into Evernote for safe keeping. It’s not a perfect capture, but in the event of a water glass spilling on my notebook and ruining a page, at least I’d have enough to work on. (The water glass scenario isn’t as far fetched as you’d think.)
And if you are interested in tracking your word count? Well, my original plan, and what I hope to work towards at some point, is to spend the first part of my writing time each day transcribing/editing the day before’s scribbles, lightly editing and getting back into the right frame of mind, and then to spend the second half of it writing by hand. With first the pinched nerve, and then my other aches this week (I know I haven’t posted about those, but I figured folks don’t come for the health report) I’ve pretty much fallen into doing one or the other and not both.
Even if writing your whole story by hand doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I’d still encourage you to try doing a little handwriting occasionally. It’s more than the workout for the hand; there’s something liberating about penning your words. Of course, the most important thing, when everything is said and done, is that you are doing what you enjoy in whatever manner works best for you. The only critic you ever have to appease is yourself.