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Good Reasons For Writing By Hand

Good Reasons for Writing by Hand

Headshot of Thomas Shepherd

Fantasy writer T E Shepherd makes the case for writing by hand

Though it's tempting to jump aboard the latest technological bandwagon for your self-published books, fantasy writer T E Shepherd explains why he loves writing at least his first draft by hand. Will his loving description of his way of working persuade you too to give it a try?


This isn’t another one of those ‘how to write' posts, it’s a post about the actual physical nitty-gritty of how we go about putting our stories down into words.

Lots of writers now use the ubiquitous laptop – some have even found a way of writing on tablets, and others still, as recent discussions following the recent BEA Indie Author Fringe have shown, have been talking about how they use voice recognition software for dictating their stories.

Photo of handwriting in the gardenI should imagine that most writers have, at some point, had that dream of writing novels in some remote cabin.

Remember Captain Flint on his houseboat? Or Laurence Durrell in My Family & Other Animals? The writer at his typewriter, clattering keys against inky ribbon to give life to their stories – surely every writer has had that dream? The modern equivalent would be the laptop in the coffee shop.

High Technology Writing Tools I Tried and Rejected

When it comes to practicality though, I have always and still do, favour pen and paper. Specifically fountain pen and leather-wrap journal. It’s what works for me. Of course writing this way is not without

Of course writing this way is not without its downsides. Principally there’s the typing it up afterwards (‘though this too does have its own pros, but more of that later). So to counter the typing-it-after phase, I have experimented with other means:

  • Cover of Mr Tumnal

    T E Shepherd writes fantasy and magical realism novels

    Back in the day I tried an old typewriter but they are so much hard work! I don’t know how Captain Flint and Lawrence Durrell ever manage!

  • I tried typing straight onto word processor and/or desktop computer, but they were always expensive or cumbersome. Plus the ‘computer’ was always kept in a corner of my bedroom but I wanted to be writing in the lounge.
  • Then I got a laptop, and I fondly imagined carrying it about with me, and setting up in my favourite coffee shop or bookshop, surrounded by inspiration. The laptop was a desktop replacement though, and so heavy – and battery length is never what they make out on the box so you have to carry chargers with you – and it’s all so much effort.

This is all before you get to the actual creative process.

I can touch-type (the most valuable qualification I have!), but even so my fingers at the computer keyboard do not keep up with my creative mind in the way that the pen does between my fingers.

The Advantages of Writing with Pen and Paper

  • Accessibility: Take the pen and notebook and you can literally write anywhere, at any ime, and be putting down your story in as short as time as it takes to flick off the lid and turn to the next blank page.
  • Portability: The leather-wrap journal is the ultimate in portability.
  • Power: It never runs out of battery, or crashes.
  • Legibility: You don’t have to worry about the glare of sunlight on the screen.

I’ve been known to write (as those dreams would have it) for hours in my favourite coffee shop or library, or in snatched moments at the end of lunch breaks at work, or on the bus whilst commuting.

photo of author's hand writing in his notebook on the bus

Writing on his commute by bus

Fun Bonus Tip

Writing on a restaurant table

Writing by hand in a restaurant can get you better service!

There have been times when dining alone in a restaurant that I have got my notebook out to write, and after asking to keep a copy of the menu beside me too, received the most-fantastic and attentive service! Always a handy tip to know!

I wouldn’t be without my laptop, and I have even made use of tablets with Bluetooth-connected keyboards for editing purposes., but for that all important first draft it will always be the simplicity of a pen and paper for me.

But for that all-important first draft, it will always be the simplicity of a pen and paper for me.

(All photos by T E Shepherd)


OVER TO YOU What's your take on writing by hand? Have you any top tips to add to the points made by T E Shepherd? We'd love to hear your views!

Why sometimes old #writing technology is best: pen and paper! - by author @shepline #ww Click To Tweet


Author: T E Shepherd

T E Shepherd is the writer of magic-realist stories set in this, or closely-related worlds often with links to contemporary concerns to do with society or environmental issues. Read more about his work on his website: www.shepline.com.


This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. I have written and published eleven books to date. They were all done on a computer. This twelfth one I’m working on now I’m writing out by hand.

    It all started with an innocent keyword search for something that I can’t even remember what it was now, but I came across an article about how famous authors and screenwriters of today toss aside “modern conveniences” and write their works with pwn and paper. Lots of them. More than I would have imagined. So I decided to give it a try. And I have come to this conclusion: I’m going to write the first draft of the rest of my books out by hand. There’s no comparison to how it feels to write by hand over tapping away at a keyboard. Writer’s block interruptions are fewer, and they don’t usually last as long when they do happen.

    One particular project I’m going to work on after my current one I’d like to write in a leather-bound journal, on deckle edge paper, with a fountain pen. Right now I’m using dollar store college-rule paper and a twelve-cent pen.

    Thanks for the article. It was an enjoyable read.

  2. I have over three thousand pages of writings. Mostly one topic if not all. Been wanting to be an author for many years. I have Multple Sclerosis and am poor financially. I’ve talked with a couple of publishing companies and actually made them cry when they hear my story. What do I do?

  3. I wrote my first novel, 125K by hand with a pad and pen at night at home without a computer. I took my note pad to work every day and typed those notes into my work computer before work and during my lunch break. Great way to work.

  4. I’ve only just recently rediscovered writing by hand. I’ve always had the intention of going back to that, but had never taken the steps to do it. I would assert that just on a (bad) distraction free level of writing, not having the computer is a big bonus. Even though I write slower than typing, it has skipped up my overall productivity by great strides.
    Love the post. Thank you!

  5. My upcoming book is a memoir of my adventures in Argentina, which I wrote one story at a time, by hand, in various cafes around Buenos Aires. It all came together with less effort than any of my other books, and I’m convinced the writing-by-hand-in-cafe aspect was at least partly responsible. Didn’t hurt J. K. Rowling either, did it?

  6. I am absolutely on the same page, pardon the pun. I always write longhand first, in Moleskine notebooks. Can’t claim to use a fountain pen, though – would bring back too many bad memories of boarding school!
    Whilst I do have a challenge sometimes of deciphering what I wrote, when it comes time to type it up, I just find that the physical connection with pen and paper does something for my creative juices. There’s probably nothing scientific about that, but it works for me.

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