Writers generally spend hours on their computer crafting their work. Would you believe that I don’t? I spend part of my writing time on computer, but the vast majority of it in my favorite living room chair with my chapters on paper. Yes, I said ‘on paper.’ Before you say, “but that’s harmful to the environment,” hear me out. I always print on scrap paper so there is little waste, but my main reasons for paper versus the computer are (1) comfort, and (2) more thorough redrafting. Both are equally important, and I’ll explain.
I’ve discovered in the assemblage of my first novel that I love to write more than anything else. But one thing that aids my writing is to do it in the best possible environment I can find. For me, that would be my favorite living room chair in the sun. It’s peaceful, quiet, bright and cheerful—what better physical environment can an urban writer hope for? It affords me the mental space to do what’s needed most: create and concentrate. I gain a lot of energy from moving about the city, and I understand many writers would prefer a coffee shop for their craft. But for me, I prefer my own space to think. (On that note, my bed in the silent, wee hours of the morning has also become a creative space. Some of my best writing ideas have come at times when I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep.)
The other reason for redrafting on paper is one I discovered by accident. Making edits in pencil allows for deeper, more comprehensive redrafting. I started by writing on computer only, and discovered that as I deleted and replaced passages, it became difficult to go back to the original or even parts of it. I found this to be awkward. After redrafting on paper, I discovered that not only was I in a nicer physical environment (my living room is bright and sunny, my computer room is dark and at the back of the apartment), but having the original writing allowed me to see what was being changed, so if I decided to keep some parts of the original writing, it was there. Occasionally, I find that parts or all of the original thoughts were fine as they were. But what I’ve also discovered, is that after all my paper mark-ups, I go to the computer and make even more, and better edits. Transferring to the computer in a sense creates a second round of redrafting which always produces better sounding passages in fewer words. The wrangling I did and re-did in my living room chair gets smoothed out at the computer. Some of my best dialogue and narration have come from this process of second-guessing the changes I made earlier by hand, from those ‘actually, this would sound even better’ moments at the computer.
I imagine most writers would find my method cumbersome and would prefer to do all of their work at the computer. It is more contained and involves no printing. And I’m certain some wonder why I don’t just move my computer into the living room, but that isn’t an option for reasons I won’t go into. But redrafting on paper first works excellently for me, and I have heard at least a few other writers say that they do the same thing.