Rituals of Writing

Every writer has rituals about how they write.

The rituals often change over time; for instance, when I was first writing, I used to write either directly into email, which went to a group of my friends, or on paper with a pencil, later switching to pen. Eventually, I moved on to writing by hand, editing as I went, then editing on the fly as I typed the story on a typewriter. Every once in a while, when writing by hand, if the page got too messy, I would recopy the whole thing by hand, incorporating my changes.

These days, I still occasionally write by hand, but more often I write on a word processor. I edit as I’m writing, but I’m not sure how much; the process has become nearly unconscious. I’m not sure how much I compose in my head and how much on the screen. I do know that when I start writing, I generally go back over at least some of the previous day’s work, and often make some edits then.

When at last the manuscript has reached a point of near doneness (lightly browned? firm to the touch?), I print it out, and read it on paper. That’s a different experience for me from reading on the screen. The manuscript looks different, more real. Mistakes are more glaring in black letters on white paper.

However, I’ve just begun working more in email again. When responding to the near-final version of my last novel, I did so first by writing comments onto a printout in red ink, then by typing those changes to email to my editor. I didn’t actually need to print out the PDF manuscript, except that I felt more comfortable doing so. I wonder what future changes technology will bring to my process?

Related posts:

Writing Elsewhere.

The Daily Grind.

The Obligatory Writing-Music Post.

Zero drafting.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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5 Responses to Rituals of Writing

  1. Anonymous says:

    In the beginning, I wrote on anything available, shopping receipts, napkins, scrap paper and longhand. As time went along, I purchased a word processor and that really sped things up, now I input everything into the computer, tho, I admit there are still some longhand moments. Isn't it fun to witness all the changes that have taken place over the years. Give you a healthy respect for how far you've come.

  2. Meladean (Pauline Allan) says:

    I started out with composite notebooks. Those ugly hardcover journals were my foundation. For some ungodly reason…for years I thought it was bad luck to put anything into a computer before it had been hashed out on paper. Now…my luck isn't so bad and I only outline on paper, character brainstorm and build and research on paper. My tales go directly to Word and my writing has increased in volume and content.

  3. Kate Pearce says:

    I've had carpal tunnel in my right wrist for a long time so my writing sucks and I was glad to get a computer! I usually edit a couple of times on the screen and then when its done I like to print the whole thing off and mark it up-I like to see it on paper and see the 'whole thing' I find it much easier to work with.

  4. Victoria Janssen says:

    I love looking back at my old notebooks every once in a while – gives me an idea of how far I've come as a writer, and also of things I'd like to be reminded of.

    These days, I almost always use Moleskine notebooks because they have slender ones with "college ruled" pages, and they can be folded flat. You can get them discounted at the Strand in NYC.

  5. Savanna Kougar says:

    I have tons written in longhand and a lot of stories typed up the old-fashioned way.
    However, now, given my health, it's easier to use the computer.
    For editing I find if I change the font, color the screen and narrow the margins, it works well, especially for ebooks.

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