Monday, February 05, 2018

Long Hand: In Praise of Inefficient Process - A Guest Post

Today's post will resonate with you if you've ever wondered if you were doing it "right" & pursuing your writing in the most efficient way possible. Author Crystal Cestari, whose second book (The Sweetest Kind of Fate coming to you from Hyperion this March) is very forthcoming about her inefficient and successful process and if you visit her colourful instagram account, her love of ice cream, unicorns and all things nerdish as well.

In her words...

I am the World’s Most Inefficient Writer.

It’s not a title I consciously pursued, or that I’m particularly psyched to have, but over time, I’ve accepted my fate, knowing that while the way I write may not work for everyone, it’s the only way for me.

I write everything longhand. Everything. Whether it’s a blog post of a first draft of a novel, I always put pen to paper before committing to type. For some reason, opening an empty word doc makes my mind go blank, and the constant pressure of watching my word count grow (or worse—not) in the corner of the screen makes me absolutely crazy, and trust me, I’m already crazy enough without that extra element.

A blank notebook is different, though. The open lines call to me, giving me a place to scribble and play. None of my misspelled words jump out with jarring red underline; nothing documents the progress I’ve made. Paper has proven to be much gentler than the screen, and the physical act of forming letters is calmer than the clicks and clacks of the keyboard. When I’m stuck, I can draw in the margins or make little notes to myself, planning ahead for future chapters.

Does this take forever? Yes. Is it effective? YES.

My handwritten drafts adhere to one rule: don’t stop. I don’t let myself get caught up on word choice or finding the perfect turn of phrase. If I’m using the same adjective too many times (which I often do), I go with it, underlining all the examples of the duplicate word so I can find better synonyms later. If I don’t know exactly how to describe a character or setting, I move on, making a note to fix it later so I can keep moving forward. More often than not, I’ll find the instructions “MORE HERE” sprinkled throughout my draft, and it works out, because when I get around to typing up my work, I’ve had more time to visualize what I was stumped by, allowing me to flesh out my trouble spots. Also, my word count usually doubles as I’m typing up what is now draft two because now the entire story is clear; I’ve found my way to the end, and I now understand the beats that need to happen along the way.

Terry Pratchett once wrote that “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story” and that resonates with me. First drafts aren’t perfect; they’re messy, just like my handwriting. The important thing is to keep going, and writing longhand helps me do that. Yes, it makes my hand cramp, and sometimes I don’t understand the notes I’ve left myself, but this technique gives me momentum, and that’s what counts.

However you can take pressure yourself is worth it, even if you acquire a ridiculous title along the way. 


  1. Marvellous blog post! I also write everything longhand and find it a really relaxing, beautiful way to write! The only thing I hate is typing everything up at the end! I think this might be because I've now gotten to a point where I write faster than I type!

    1. I agree! Crystal has a way with words! I've occasionally written longhand and then typed and considered the typing out almost like a second draft as it often gets changed as I'm going along typing it up.

  2. Oh gosh this is just how I used to do it. Now I'm better at working with a new word doc. But there are days when I still love writing on a notebook!

    1. There are few things as satisfying as a good notebook with a bunch of words in it! Agreed :)


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