The Glorious Scribbly Scrawls of Madness

I spent part of the day transcribing novel number two into a computer.

Because I am a lunatic, and an old-fashioned one at that, I tend to write the first drafts of books by hand. This is actually quite convenient as I find it easier to break out a notepad and write on it, even whilst riding on a train, than to drag out a laptop computer and try to position it correctly on my lap. Also, notepads don’t have pre-installed games.

The disadvantage is I also have to have a fairly accurate “book bible” that keeps track of all my settings and my characters and their backgrounds. If I don’t, I end up wasting a lot of time, ink and paper. This happened on book two when I realized I’d spent thousands of words writing about a character’s family and getting his background wrong.

After I declare the manuscript finished, I hide it away for a couple months and then attack it with fresh eyes. I cross things out; cut things out; and tape and glue things in a different order. I call this the “assembled draft”. I then attempt to enter it all in computer, usually making even more changes as I go.

This step, however, is hindered by my handwriting. At a slow speed, my handwriting’s sloppy but legible. Then I begin to speed up. As the ideas and words begin to flow my handwriting becomes semi-legible scrawl bordering on sheer madness. Even I can’t read it and have showed it to other people for their opinion on what word they thought a particular scribble might be. They often scream at this point and flee whilst crossing themselves and saying Sancta Maria mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae but that may be for other reasons than my handwriting.

For an example I offer the following for your consideration. It shows the various steps my handwriting goes through:

Gaze upon the madness.

Gaze upon this at your own risk. (And this is only average madness.)

Gaze upon this at your own risk. (And this is only average madness.)

For the record, the Madness was not an exaggeration. I just quickly wrote the first thing that popped into my head. (And, no, I didn’t think of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” until just now.)

Now imagine trying to work your way through 600 pages of such Madness.

I’ve tried slowing down, but can’t seem to manage it. I’ve also been, on occasion, doing some handwriting improvement exercises, but again, I have to be going slowly for that to work. Also, the last few months, I’ve been doing my best to work on computers but that requires fully charged batteries and no internet connection of any kind. These daily postings are also supposed to help me develop the habit of thinking on the keyboard (something you’ll notice I haven’t managed to do yet in these postings).

I’m not a luddite. I love having a computer for editing and research, for photography and for just good old fashioned time wasting. Still, there’s nothing like that scratching of fountain pen on paper. (Yes, pen snobs, that means I need a smoother nib or better paper. I know.) And seeing the word count on the screen isn’t as satisfying as seeing a stack of paper grow larger as you work.

You actually feel as if you’ve accomplished something. Even if you can’t read it.

3 thoughts on “The Glorious Scribbly Scrawls of Madness

  1. Steve Brisendine

    I can relate. I look back at some of my old notebooks, and I can’t make any sense out of most of them. Were it not for sound recording equipment, I shudder to think what a lot of my stories might look like.

    “I think Montreal has turnip Rottweiler corduroy ecstasy,” the veteran goalkeeper said. “We’re going to have to be careful, or melanoma injection laundry Asbury in the first five minutes.”

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