Peggy Bechko: Thinking About What You Write

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by Peggy Bechko

Here’s a Thought…

Ever really stop what you’re doing and think about how you write? How you physically, emotionally and mentally create the output you write?

Every writer is different, has different ideas on ‘how to do it’ which doesn’t mean he or she is right or wrong, just that’s the way they do it.

It really could be to your benefit to pause and consider this even though it’s a part of your daily life. Why? Because it gives insight into you, how you work, how you produce and how you can improve your method.

Today, mostly, people are going to tell you, “of course I write on my computer (or tablet or even iPhone). Technology.

There was a time, back in the stone age, when I used a typewriter for all the drafts I created and yes, I admit it, even made carbon copies (you know that stuff you see in museums today – the black carbon paper inserted between two pieces of paper that made a copy you could hang on to). That was partly because the ‘copy’ machines then made miserable copies (but that’s another story).

Today I, too, use a computer and as a touch typist I can type about as fast as I think of a new idea. And of course the computer offers things like software for manuscripts and screenwriting that take a lot of the ‘formatting drudgery’ out of things. Additionally, it’s doubtful in the extreme that a publisher, editor, or script reader would much appreciate receiving anything in hand-written form for a whole lot of good reasons.

But here’s the thing. A whole lot of process is getting lost. Years ago, back in that same stone age, after I’d published my first three novels with Doubleday, I received a letter in the mail (yes a real paper letter in a real paper envelope with a logo on the stationery and everything) from the University of Wyoming library asking if I would donate my original manuscript, notes, galleys, etc. to them. It was rather flattering and I did (also it was nice to get all of that out of my office which was then a corner of my bedroom with a tiny fold-up desk).

What’s happening to all that now? It is stored on your computer? Do you even have notes? Do you just dump it when you’re finished? Archive it? Do you save drafts as you go or just write over the original again and again until you’ve finished and no trace of your original work survives?

Hmmm. Well, I, for one, keep each draft as a separate save. I do like to see where I’ve been. I also highly recommend you occasionally write in long hand – notes, research, thoughts. Putting pen to real paper really does, at times, help to solidify thoughts. And yes, I do keep a file with those bits thrown in for a frighteningly long time.

But nobody’s asking for all those bits and pieces. Could it be they no longer care? Or could it be they don’t believe, with the advent of the digital age, that there is anything out there any more to ask for?

I think I’ve just made myself a little bit sad in a strange way.

So, how do you do it? Research, make notes, create an outline – or just start writing? Perhaps we should make a record of how all this works in the new computerized digtal age.