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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Using My Notebook by Michele Zurlo

For the last month, I’ve been writing in a notebook. In the past, I’ve almost always defaulted to writing directly on my laptop. [Funny sidestory: I started writing because I won a laptop in a contest and it didn’t come with games. We didn’t have the internet at home in 2007 because I’m resistant to change, and so I started writing novels.]

My muse was flowing, but I my words rang hollow. I didn’t feel connected to my characters—characters I loved enough to launch a new series featuring them. One of my writer friends responded to a desperate FB post by recommending that I use a notebook. I’ve always had a writer’s notebook, but I used it for brainstorming, research, character descriptions, and plot notes. Once in a while, I would write out a page or two, but this was a sporadic effort, mostly due to lack of access to my laptop.

It’s well known to people who read research on the teaching of writing that our brains
function differently when we write on a computer versus a piece of paper. As one of those people, I shoved that knowledge to the back of my mind because it’s convenient to compose on a laptop. After all, I’m going to have to type it eventually, right? Why not skip right to that part?

I’ve realized a couple things this past month:
1.   Writing in a notebook is slower.
2.   Writing in a notebook is better.

I can type as fast as I think, but my writing is a tad bit slower—if I want to be able to read what I’ve written later. My handwriting gets worse the quicker I go. Being forced to slow down gives me time to really think about what I’m writing. It allows me time to connect with my characters and the words that create their story. The quality of my writing improves because I have more time to consider details, word choice, and phrasing. Each time I write, I go back a few paragraphs and make revisions. It’s somehow easier to find where I need a word or phrase to clarify and where I need to expand or deepen the level of detail.

Another thing writing in a notebook does is gets me through writer’s block. It takes me away from the distractions of the internet—the place where I look up an image of Mt. Rainier and find myself LOL-ing to the antics of a friend’s child on FB or getting bent out of shape because of an article that came up in my Twitter feed.

Maybe it won’t help me put out books faster—I may have to dial back my goal of putting out 3 this year to 2—but I’m hoping they’ll provide a satisfying reading experience.

Thanks for reading. Love, Michele


Cara Marsi said...

I use a notebook for character info, for notes about the story as I go along, sometimes for outlines. I wrote the first drafts of my first few books completely in longhand. I have Scivener and find it incredibly hard to use. I've used it for a few notes but I prefer my notebooks.

jean hart stewart said...

Can't imagine shifting to actual writing. I'd never be able to read it afterwards, for one thing. Computers will have to do for me, but I found your column very interesting.

Michele Zurlo said...

Hi Cara, I've never used Scivener. I guess I'm just old fashioned that way.

Hi Jean, thanks. I've been a computer gal for years, but I find nothing makes me take a good hard look at what I'm writing like seeing it in a notebook.

Melissa Keir said...

I use a notebook for the writer's block. I was writing in it for three months while I finished a story. It was fun trying to transcribe my writing at times though..."What was I saying?" but all in all, it is a good way to get the ideas down without the distractions!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction, blogger at Handbags, Books...Whatever said...

I have a friend who writes her first draft by long hand. I like to print out and review on paper, even reading aloud. Good stuff!

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