Rough Draft collage by Diana Zahuranec

Why I Handwrite First Drafts (and why you might consider it)

When was the last time you wrote something by hand? Was it a grocery list, a reminder sticky-note, an entire first draft of an essay?

There’s a lot of discussion among writers around handwriting vs typing. I write my first drafts, beginning to end and all the brainstorming and research notes in between, by hand. I’ve always written by hand first, except for the few times I didn’t, which happened to be when I wrote a book or story. From the age of eight, when I typed my ghost-ship pirate story on an old-fashioned typewriter (blissfully unaware there was such a thing as “editing”—I thought writers typed up a story and that was that, badabing-badaboom…if only it were so easy!), through my teens when I typed a fantasy novel on the computer, to the last novel right before this one that I wrote beginning to end—all of my Big, Serious Writing got the computer treatment.

“Rough Draft” hand-cut collage by Diana Zahuranec. See more collages and acrylic I do at @dianaz48_art

But whenever I got stuck, I turned to handwriting, as though the physical act of running the pen across the page would coax the words out of me. I do my best thinking by hand. Plus, I’m a very fast typer, so as soon as I’ve formed a thought, down it goes—which can make for lots of wordy paragraphs and unformed ideas. Yet, once they’re on the typed paged they seem “official,” making the editing process even more abstruse. Handwriting gives me just the right beat of time to rethink the word or idea and write it a little bit better, a little more succinctly, the first time. 

So this time around, I decided to handwrite my novel, telling myself if it proved ineffective or slow, I’d go back to typing and no harm done. It turned out I preferred it so much, I stuck with it to the end.

This is why I prefer handwriting the first draft…

Read the rest of this post on my Substack newsletter: Follow that story.

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