Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Longhand Thing

The author, Dane F. Baylis
So, a couple of days until Thanksgiving. Looking forward to family and food and avoiding anything to do with Black Friday. Actually, because of the nature of my regular job I have a few days off and more than enough to do to fill them. Right at the top of the list is write. That involves a rewrite of an existing short story that's been laying in my files gathering dust and waiting for me to unclutter my mind, then there's the one I mentioned in an earlier post that just came out of rough draft into first typed draft and, finally, finding a conclusion for one that is still being put down in longhand.

I mentioned that I write my rough drafts in longhand before, remarking on how it was a method that slowed me down and made me listen to my characters speaking in their own dialect and syntax. It is also helpful for those messy moments when I'm just not sure which way a plot or character should evolve. Taking the time to commit to pen and ink means that I also have the space to try out different approaches and themes without worrying about sending something into digital limbo or just plain mislabeling an extension and having to plow through file after file until I find v1 or v2 or v infinitum (I am truly an analog mind in a digital world at times). I can make copious notes in margins, change colors, underline, bracket or cram tentative corrections and adjustments above and below existing lines while also having the terrain to change location, or time, or the color of eyes, shirts, hair, the heroine's sneakers and always be able to flip back and forth in short order to get a feel for these modifications.

As a rule I use one of three media for this. 8 1/2 X 11 inch yellow lined pads, the good old fashioned wide rule composition book or a buff covered, unlined notebook (this last I reserve for more general note taking, journalising and poetic composition). I try never to be without at least one of these and can actually be found carrying a mixed few with the addition of a small sketch pad and set of pencils. This last is because there are times when the words aren't there yet but a quick sketch of a scene, character or idea can keep it fresh and sometimes even trigger a line of thought I didn't realize was in my head.

So, if any of this seems like something useful to you then give it a try. Just having the freedom to continue a project without having to get back to your studio or worrying about battery life or plug-in stations can be a real liberation. You see or hear or feel something that you either know has an immediate use or that feeling of latent energy and out comes the pad and pen before it escapes. Snippets of conversation, that setting you were trying so hard to conceptualize or just the gentle fragrance of flowers or food on a momentary breeze, captured in a second and ready for use later.


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