Pen or Keyboard? You choose by Wendy H. Jones

As a writer I have been thinking about the different ways in which we write. Readers often think that writers fall into two camps, those who use a keyboard and those who write by hand. Indeed many writers would, themselves, say they are one or the other. Is this in fact true, and if true, is it always the best way?

I am knee deep in editing at the moment and this entails sitting at a computer and going through the entire novel. I am sure most writers will agree, that it can be long and tiring work. Still, it is one of the most crucial aspects of writing a book. However, editing can, and should, be done in different ways. Once I have finished the edits on my computer, I will print the book out and will then go through it on paper. I will move to a completely different area of the house. Using another medium, and in a new place, can bring a fresh approach to the editing process. I will be wielding my pen and highlighting any areas which need to be changed or culled. 

One of the other ways in which I edit, is to read the book out loud. This will be done from the paper version whilst wandering about the house. Not exactly Hamlet, but I will project as though I am on the stage in Stratford. Many anomalies can be brought up during this part of the process. I also  read sections of my book aloud from my phone. This focusses the mind on a small section of the work and, again, throws up anomalies. 

The same holds true for writing. I usually write using a keyboard. I am an early adopter of all things technological. Therefore, a computer, and keyboard, will always be my preferred option. However, there are many variations on this. I use my main computer, my macbook and my iPad to write. Yes, I agree these are all keyboards, but different ones, so you are writing in a different way. 

A month ago I was at a writing group, with no laptop. I am the group leader and set an exercise for everyone, including myself. I had no electronics on which to write, so was forced to use a pen and paper. I was surprised at how much I got written despite the unfamiliar feel to it all. I was quite pleased with the result and will develop the story into a longer one. I think the different way of writing forced my mind to go in new directions. 

As a writer I often jot notes down whilst I am out and about. Again, I do this in different ways. I usually have a notebook with me wherever I go. However, if I think of something whilst I am using an electronic device, I use either Moleskine (the digital version) or Evernote to jot them down. So even my note taking is performed in different ways. 

My challenge to you, as a writer, is to try new ways of writing. If you feel that you can only write using a keyboard, or vice versa, give the other medium a go. See what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised. 

If you have any more hints and tips about the writing process please add them below. This could be a great resource to help writers everywhere. 

About the Author

Wendy lives, and writes, in Dundee Scotland. Her first book, Killer's Countdown, was published in November, 2014. The second book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Killer's Craft, will be released on 20th July, 2015. You can find out more on her Amazon Author Page 



Umberto Tosi said…
i Admire your patience. I know the roads you travel, with pen and pad, and sometimes a stiff neck. Good luck with your next opus.
Very good points. In principle, I think I do all of the above apart from reading on my phone. I always get to a point where I have to print out a version of the book and edit with pen in hand. I'm a notebook junkie and do some longhand writing but I can't write fast enough for first drafts - I have to do that on my PC and I wear out keyboards! I also find, now, that I send a Word document to my Kindle Paperwhite and read it on there - surprising how many typos leap out at you that you would never see on the PC screen. Having started out as a playwright, I always read things aloud. Perhaps not the whole novel, but lots of it, and especially dialogue. In fact whenever people ask me about writing dialogue - which is a very hard thing to teach! - I advise them to say it aloud, act it out, preferably in private!
Susan Price said…
I'm editing my third Sterkarm book at the moment, and I'm doing it all on the computer - because there I have navigation pane, and comments. All my editor's comments are in Word's mark-up pane.

But writing longhand with a loose, free-flowing scribbly pen is a pleasure, and I often take a notepad to a pub and write like that.

We should embrace and try out all the ways available to us, I think, and go with the one that suits us at the moment, for that story or book.
AliB said…
I agree it's really good to have a change of writing 'medium'. I'm pretty much of a laptop writer but often send things to Kindle to get a fresh view. I was thinking recently that the 'art' of handwriting - or just the ability to do it at all might be deserting me completely. (I sometimes have trouble just signing my name - !)Then over Christmas I got so sick of looking at a screen (with uni deadline to meet) that I did some original writing by hand and realised that on a computer the edit-as-you-go option really can get in the way of the story-telling impulse. I wouldn't want to write by hand all the time, but it was good to go back there for a while. and it seems I can still write by hand if I need to :/
Mari Biella said…
I've found out for myself the value of reading work out loud; it enables you to see it in an entirely different light, and with a greater appreciation of the rhythm and cadence of the language. In general, I find that sometimes just picking up my notebook or laptop and going to a different place than usual to write allows me to see a story differently, or think of an angle on it that eluded me before. For editing purposes, I agree with Catherine that reading your manuscript on a Kindle or similar device can be valuable - I'm constantly amazed by how many errors and oddities I pick up that way. Good post!
Wendy H. Jones said…
Thank you Umberto
Lydia Bennet said…
I've moved further and further over to typing my work - I used to write first drafts of poems by hand then type them up in Word but now it's usually all on the imac/laptop. I've been re-doing The Artist's Way though and a main part of that is writing three pages by hand each morning, writing anything, and that's been interesting, though my writing is almost illegible as I'm going so fast!
Fran B said…
One of my favourite ways to get myself (and others)into writing mode is what I call 'Word Splat'. Take a blank piece of A4 and a pen. Close your eyes and let your brain freewheel. WITHOUT OPENING YOUR EYES, take one minute to write any word or phrase that comes into your mind. Sure there will be words that cross over on the page but, when you open your eyes, you will be able to read most of what you have written. Use the 'splat', to write a poem/short piece of prose/character study/monologue/memoir/whatever. The results can be surprising!
Chuck said…
Very Interesting and well presented. I like the fact you vocalize your writing.
Audio has been very instumental for me over the years in creatibn]ng and providing contnet for others. I have difficulty writing and typin, but today with technologty I can speak much of my content
glitter noir said…
Fine post, Wendy. Though I prefer drafting my books in long hand, I'm with you 100% about using a print out for the second draft. I'm comfortable enough on computers now to do subsequent work on my laptop. But I doubt I'll ever sacrifice the pleasures of these first two steps.

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