Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paper vs. Plastic

Well, it feels as if the entire writing world has gone to Los Angeles, California for the RomanticTimes convention. I know it’s not the entire writing world, but it is the majority of my writing friends that is there. I chose to stay home this year as I have an extremely busy writing schedule for 2011, so I am remaining locked to my computer in hopes of getting some work done. For those following the Dark Days series, Burn the Night (the final book in the series) will be out on June 28 and I have begun work on a new series. Unfortunately, I can’t give any more details just yet, but stay tuned for more news when I’m finally free to speak.

In the meantime, I thought I would ramble today about an anomaly I noticed while I was working on my current book: the battle between paper and plastic (as in the plastic keys of my keyboard). You see, I spend the vast majority of my writing day sitting behind my desktop in my office. I have a nice big monitor, a comfortable chair, a view of the subdivision, and quiet to work. I’m a relatively fast typist after years of practice and I can get through a few thousand words in just a couple hours. When my mind is locked in the world of my creation, the keyboard is just an extension of my fingers and I don’t think about the typing. There’s just the magic of watching the words appear on the screen.

However, when I come to a scene that is just stuck in my head and my fingers stop moving, I find myself attracted to my yellow legal pad and lovely collection of pens. It’s something of a homecoming to work on paper again. I started my path to being an author sitting on my bed with a battered notebook in my lap, writing out my stories longhand – this was long before the days when computers were found in every household. I have stacks of old notebooks and legal pads filled with idle daydreams and fantasies that have yet and may never turn into books.

There are times I prefer paper as it seems like my mind is finally forced to slow down and choose each word more deliberately. Writing on paper has always had a knack of getting me through rough sections of a book when I’m less sure of where I’m headed or how a scene needs to be handled. In my mind, it’s as if being on paper allows it to be only practice where the computer takes on a feeling of permanence, particularly since I wrote so many practice scenes on paper.

I know the feeling of permanence comes from lugging my parents’ old typewriter around the house. Clunky and heavy, the typewriter was a monstrosity with sticky, hard keys. When I fell in love with a particular story that I had written, I stole my parents’ typewriter away to my room and slowly typed out the story so I could see it in the beautiful, neat and tidy, typed print. There were no quick changes to paragraphs once they were typed. There was no going back. Once a word was typed, there were no changes that could be made. But, as a kid, this was as close as I could get to having my own books printed and it was glorious.

Fast forward more years than I care to admit and I now find myself attached to a keyboard, pouring out scenes for my publisher and readers. And yet, I don’t think I will ever shake my love for writing out my stories longhand. Sometimes, I just need to get back to basics and nothing reminds me faster why I started writing than having a pen in hand and a stack of blank pages before me.

For other writers, I would love to know if you write strictly on the computer or do you write out scenes longhand as well? For readers, are you still in love with printed books or has your heart been lost to your electronic readers?

8 comments:

Midnyte Reader said...

That's interesting. I find that when I'm editing something or proofreading it is easier for me to print it out on paper.

Sharon S. said...

I agree with you on the paper thing. If I need to brainstorm, paper is the only way to go. I make a list, then circle some things, cross out other, rewrite the list, circle..repeat till problem solved.

I can read faster with an e-reader. But I miss those beautiful artistic covers that are coming out. I guess that is why I am finding cover flats a cool thing to collect. They don't take up much space, but I can still show them to people to talk about a book.

Look forward to hearing about your WIP!

Jessica said...

I tend to go both ways as an aspiring writer. I like to keep a notebook with me or paper and pen so I can jot down the notes to scene ideas as they hit me. I have a ton of them floating around that are filled with notes for multiple stories. Sometimes I write the whole scene out if I can see it all, other times I can't remember everything so I do shorthand notes to help remind me of the general idea.

But mostly all my writing in the story is done on my laptop. I did use to start handwriting them when I was younger, but now I use my notebook for the notes and then do the typing later.

As a reader I'm still too addicted to the paperbacks! I love holding the book, smelling the aroma of crisp new pages of a book waiting to be read!

Plus it's great to have when I can meet my fave authors and have them signed!!

Sooo looking forward to Burn the Night Jocelynn!! I still recall what you were thinking about doing with this book, that you mentioned at RT last year when I had lunch with you, Devon, and Jenna! Haven't told anyone like you said! Can't wait to see if you were able to go along with that idea!

Helen Lowe said...

I'm like you, Jocelynn--I mainly write on the computer, but for new ideas, inspiration, and tricky patches with character or plot, I often go to the pen and paper. I'm also still in love with the book as object, even though I understand--intellectually!--that they're still the same stories inside the e-reader. And I'm with Sharon on covers, too, although the 'total package' of "book" is still more what it's all about for me.

Cylver said...

I finally broke down and ordered a Kindle. It hasn't arrived yet, but I know I won't stop buying paper books altogether. I'll use the Kindle to try out new authors, to purchase books that are only available on Kindle, and to make sure I always have something to read. But for me, there is just something comforting about being surrounded by actual books. I must be old school!

Nicole Murphy said...

Hi Jocelynn

Sorry you couldn't make to to RT (it's fabulous!) but the words are the most important thing.

Like you, when the book's flowing I can bang stuff out really quickly on the computer. But when I get stuck, the paper and pens come out.

For me, the paper and pens afford more freedom. If I want to draw diagrams, or charts, or write stream-of-thought, or go back over notes it's much easier on paper. Frees me up.

Ashleigh said...

I am both writer and reader so I can answer both parts of your question.

I am absolutely a child of the Digital Age (maybe slightly earlier digital age, like just at the invention of Facebook but still). I do pretty much all of my writing on my laptop, using pen and paper only when I'm off somewhere and don't have my computer with me.

That being said, I have an irrational dislike of e-books (also GPSs, although we've come to a grudging middle ground in that fight). I understand the practicality and know that many e-readers are kind of cool. But for some reason I can't get on board. I just love the weight of a book in my hand, the cramp your thumb gets from holding over a paperback with one hand for too long. I'll never change over to e-readers.

Jocelynn said...

I have to admit that I haven't jumped on the e-reader bandwagon yet. I,too, love the feel and weight of a book in my hand. I have a special love affair with the beauty of hardbacks especially. However, I'm starting to see a use for e-readers. There are a number of books that I would love to go back and re-read on occasion, but I don't have any longer because I just don't have the room. There are some books I want on hand for collection purposes and others I just want to dip into on that rare occassion and then pack away.