Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Retro Writing

Brief update: I finished proofing the final draft of my novel this past weekend and sent it back to the editor. Initial result is 98% approved and 2% disapproved. Also, I finally got the chance to read "The Cutman" last week. Please check out my review on Amazon.

I bet you're wondering what exactly is "retro writing". "Retro Writing" is the antique art of writing by hand.

You know, using a pen and paper to write a letter to someone.

You know, what we used to do prior to texting, e-mailing and tweeting.

Anyways, very early on during the current phase of my writing career, I decided to split my time and energy between writing on my computer and writing by hand. I'd already started doing a little of this back in '09 when I was going through my flash fiction phase, so it was pretty easy to crank it up.

I found that while was writing my current novel, it helped me a lot to write small chunks by hand whenever I'd found myself stuck. Somehow, writing by hand forced me to really focus on what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

For the next couple of years, I kept to that same 75-25 ratio for my regular writing (blogging became reversed). However, by late 2011, I found myself going through long periods of time where I would sit in front of my computer and not write, yet when I went outdoors, writing was easy.

When 2012 rolled around, I was a walking disaster with my original writing. I couldn't do squat if I sat in front of a blank Word document, but had no problem in putting it down on paper. So for a couple of months, I deliberately put my focus on editing one of my novellas. I figured so long as I did that, I wouldn't have to worry about fixing my problem.

However, one can only work for so long on editing a previously written story before the muse starts bopping you on the head.

About a month ago, my muse started bopping me on the head, when the seed of a story idea started growing. Because it was in a genre that I had previously ranted about, I tried my damnedest to squash it. Unfortunately, it fought back and this left me no choice but to write it. It also left me no choice but to face the sticky problem of not being able to write on the computer.

After thinking about it for a bit, and due to the fact that this story was begging to be written, I managed to write a page and a quarter on my computer in under an hour before I had to stop and go grocery shopping. When I finally sat down in front of my computer again a few days later, the story was still begging to be written.

However, I still had that thorny problem of not really being able to write on my computer. Solution: write the damn thing out by hand then transcribe to the computer.

And thus, I began writing my current story exclusively by hand. Writing by hand allowed me the opportunity to really sit and think about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. And because I frequently wold churn out two to four pages of story, I found the perfect opportunity to use my Dragon software for transcription.

It will be interesting to see how this story eventually turns out because I know if I was writing this exclusively on the computer, I would probably have incomplete scenes and a disjointed plot line.

And speaking of plot, here's the basic plot of my story "Time To Go", which is told in first person point of view.

Two serial killers travel the Wyoming countryside and during one of their successful conquests, turn a potential victim into a reluctant participant.

And if you so desire, follow me over to "It's Always Saturday In Suburbia" to read the first couple of paragraphs of this new tangent that is the writing world of yours truly, and if you feel up to it, leave a comment on what you think of it, or where you think it might go, or even about the inspiration behind it.

Because as with 99% of the stories that are out there, something did inspire this particular story.


  1. I do a ton of "retro writing" myself. Several of my short stories of the last couple years have been written that way.

    Hell, my second most recent story I wrote was written with my thumbs on my freakin' iPhone. That was more a result of needing to work on it on the plane in cramped quarters, where even long hand can be a challenge. Plus I don't like people reading over my shoulder when I'm writing. It wasn't too bad to do that way, which surprised me.

  2. I've had folks tell me that they break a writing block by switching from computer to hand writing. It's never really worked for me.

  3. When I first starting using a computer, it was extremely difficult to face that blank screen and write. I had to divorce the notion of writing from the physical act of using a pen. Now, of course, it's just the opposite. Put a pen in my hand and the brain goes blank!

  4. My hand would fall off if I forced it to write stuff out on paper! Besides, I can't read my own writing! That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

  5. Chris: I write a lot of my blog posts like that at work. Can't use the computer for things like that, so it's the next best option.

    I always keep a zipper folder case with pens and paper in my tote bag at all times.

    Also worked on a lot of my stories at various points during that past few years like that as well.

    Charles: Gotta do what works best for you. For me, not even working on a computer will break my writer's block now. Kind of sad, but maybe in the future it will clear itself up.

    Debra: I know exactly how you feel. I was the same way early on, but now, it's flipped.

    My main hangup now is trying to use my Dragon software to do original writing, but so far, I just can't divorce myself from either writing by hand or writing on the computer.

    Dan: One of the main reasons as to why I'm so comfortable writing by hand is that my manual dexterity is going rapidly downhill.

    Unfortunately, God has graced me with a neuro-muscular disease that will eventually make my hands into two useless appendages, which makes typing quite fatiguing.

    So I print, because like you, I can't read my own handwriting. About the only thing I can normally write is my signature. Other than that, my writing is like a doctor's.

  6. I am the only one who can read my own handwriting...but usually it's too slow for my thoughts. I will check out your story.

  7. Just keep writing everyday works best for me.

    Glad to hear your book is coming along, G.

  8. M: I used to have that problem when I was younger. Too often my brain would be moving at a faster clip that my writing, and the end result more often than not would be a few sentences missing that would completely torpedo whatever it was that I was writing.

    David: Thanks. It's actually back at the publishe now. Nik was thoughtful enough to suggest one last change which I was able to accept as it fixed a small problem that would've made readers scratch their heads.

    I try to write every day, but this current story is forcing me to reexamine the crime fiction genre and my current opinion about it.

  9. That need the notebook thing happened to my short poem today, after writing only 4 lines in Notepad text- I needed to shut down n go out to the deck. So much easier to think when the childhood was spent the same way I think-

  10. That's so interesting that you write mostly by hand at first. It's hard to do, I think.

  11. Snaggle: I do that all the time with my latest project. Sitting in my backyard allows me the opportunity to completely empty my head and really focus on what I want to do.

    Biking also does the same thing too, as I bought a backpack for that exact purpose.

    Lynn: It was at first, especially if I was making a lot of errors, then I would have a tendency to re-write the entire page.

    However, it's become almost a necessity since my hand problem has gotten worse. My typing speed has dropped down to the low teens and I suffer from a lot of hand fatigue now, so writing by hand allows me to continue writing without dealing with a lot of pain/fatigue.


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So remember, all of your comments are greatly appreciated and all answers will be given that personal touch that you come to expect and enjoy.

G. B. Miller

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