Even though I grew up on computers and actually hold the old MacWriteII as my favorite word processing program of all time (I still think Word is too complicated and not as simple and straightforward to understand!), there’s something to be said about writing a first draft by hand. I’ve always written Cinnimin by hand, over now 42 notebooks (some multi-subject and others with artificial breaks I created), since starting it in earnest on 3 September 1993. (I always write “Cinnimin continued” and then the start date on the upper right-hand corner of the first page, then write the finish date underneath, because I like to record dates like that.) Only the reconstructed Part I was typed on the computer and then printed out, but that too was originally handwritten back in late ’91. It was written in the same notebook I wrote Part II in, but my mother ripped it out, along with a number of other stories I’d had in notebooks originally used for school, claiming she was making “space,” in the summer of ’93. Yeah, thanks for throwing away my hard work and assuming it was trash!
I handwrote all of the first drafts of the WTCOAC series, the first (which will never see publication but for sections I reworked and put into other books which also covered those events) in a one-subject notebook with a fancy dark blue thick paper cover, six in two three-subject notebooks, and the final one in the first subject of a three-subject notebook which also holds the first drafts of The Very First and the beginning of The Very Next. On the back covers, I drew pictures of the characters at the ages they are during those respective years. And I still see them as looking like that in my mind’s eye so many years later, and when I’m going through their names, I call them to mind in the order I drew them.
I handwrote four of the first drafts of my Max’s House books—#1, #3, #7, and #8. All the rest I typed on the computer. I also began one of my hiatused soft sci-fi books by hand, and my hiatused alternative history where the Tsar was never murdered and Aleksey becomes Tsar in his twenties and goes on to become Russia’s most beloved ruler of all time.
I know it wears one’s hand out, but there’s something to be said for the old-fashionedness of writing a first draft by hand. You’ll certainly never risk losing it to a disk bug or system failure, which I’ve remained paranoid about over the years after experiencing that several times many years ago. I actually do a save every minute, or thereabouts, when I’m typing something, ever since. I don’t want to risk typing a lot and then losing it because there’s a system crash and I didn’t save it till I was done typing for that session. And when you’re writing in a notebook, even though you can’t count words or even really pages (something I didn’t even know a writer was supposed to be concerned about until relatively recently), you can have a good idea of how much space you’re going to be using, and plan accordingly. You can tell in advance when you’re approaching the end, and will know to start wrapping things up and thinking of a good ending passage. If you have to, you continue a bit longer on the inner back cover or stick in a handwritten page if you need a bit more space to finish. I suppose that’s why I’ve been able to keep my handwritten books so much shorter than the books I’ve written on the computer, because I know I don’t have unlimited space to create a story.
I also love seeing how my handwriting has changed over the years, and the kinds of ink I used at various points. It really tells a personal story that you can’t get from looking at words set in Palatino font on a computer screen. When I first began writing Cinnimin, and when I wrote the first drafts of the WTCOAC series, my writing was nicely spaced. But after the Hell I went through in eighth grade, you can see a distinct change to the words being squeezed very tightly together, a writing style that pretty much continues to this day. I’ve always believed the awful treatment I endured from peers in junior high was to blame for my writing becoming so closely squeezed together. Although since I’ve switched to writing with my left hand, my writing is a bit more openly spaced, for whatever reason.
I also love having so many different styles of notebook to look back at, with different materials for the covers—thick paper that’s almost cardboard, regular colored paper, dark colors, light colors, transparent plastic, plastic you can’t see through, animal motifs, a cute smiling kitten with a hairbrush and other vanity supplies (that’s Part IV of Cinnimin), artistic designs, patterns, you name it. Now that I’ve switched my writing hand, I hope I don’t have too much of a problem with the spirals for the ample supply of notebooks I stocked up on a few years ago digging into my arm!
I believe I have enough notebooks to last me through at least the mid-Aughts of Cinnimin, the future Saga VII. I honestly don’t know if I’ll decide to say enough is enough and continue the rest on the computer, but I feel sentimentally bound to finish (bar the finale, which is on the computer) the exact way I started, back before I pretty much had to write everything by hand unless I wanted to work in dribs and drabs when I had permission to use my parents’ computer. I know it’ll be a lot of hard work to transcribe everything (this is going to finish up as one book in twelve volumes!), esp. since the earliest parts were written when I wasn’t the most stellar writer yet, but it’s hard work for a purpose. And when I want to reread it, or just a particular section, all I have to do is pull out the notebooks instead of firing up the computer and staring at a screen.