Novel Writing by Hand? Yay or Nay?

Novel Writing by Hand


If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen (a couple of months ago now) that I’ve been having a go at writing a novel by hand.

I’ve long been hearing of the benefits of writing by hand. Heaps of authors do it (so I’ve read); Isobelle Carmody and Stephen King, for example.

Then there were all these amazing articles about the benefits of handwriting: all of which I have managed to lose, despite planning on keeping links for this post. The Australian Writer’s Centre podcast ‘So You Want to be a Writer’, also discussed this in Episode 108.

In this podcast, Allison and Valerie refer to an article in Forbes magazine: ‘Three Ways writing with a pen positively affects your brain’.

“sequential hand movements, like those used in handwriting, activate large regions of the brain responsible for thinking, language, healing and working memory”

Nancy Olson

The theories are that handwriting increases creativity, as well as increasing neural activity in certain sections of the brain, similar to meditation, and it forces us to slow down and think about what we’re doing.

So I tried it out.

These are my findings…



You can carry an exercise book with you wherever you go, and all it takes is a moment to flip open the page and start writing. I almost never take my laptop anywhere, and when I turn it on it always takes several minutes to load up, and then to get the document open. If I have an idea burning to be written down – it could well be lost by the time my laptop is ready. (On saying this, I carry a notebook with me everywhere anyway. So I do often jot down story ideas that come to me when I’m out and about, and then I just transcribe them to the computer when I get home. The only real benefit here is that you’ve got your whole story with you where-ever you go.)

Crinkly pages

I love the sound of pages that have been covered in writing – there’s that lovely crinkle that they have when you turn the page or pages. Music to my ears.



Speed = slow!

I type fast. When I’m in the zone, I can manage 2000 words in half an hour – though it usually takes me time to build up to that, time that I don’t really have at the moment with three kids about. But it’s not hard for me to hit 1000 in an hour or so if I have the time and space to do it. Not so for my handwriting. I struggled to hit 500 words a day. My best day was day 2, where I managed 1600 words, and out of 36 days in total I managed to reach 750 words (or above) on only 9 of those days. The rest ranged between 250 and 500, with the bulk down the 250 end. And every day I stayed up for a good couple of hours after the rest of the house had gone to sleep to make sure I got some words down.

Lost story…

This is linked to the above. When I write a story, I have ideas flowing all the time for what is coming up next. If I’m typing, I can get the story down quick enough to get to those ideas and write them down. Handwriting… no. I had so many ideas that were lost because it took me so long to get this-little-bit-now down. (Interestingly, as I type up what I’ve handwritten, I’m having all sorts of new scenes and ideas come to me, which I’m able to add now. Scenes which improve and expand the story line. I have no idea whether they were the same ideas I had first time round, but they seem to be improving it either way!)

Too hard to back up

When I’m typing out a story, it’s easy to email myself a version at the end of every day (or every couple of days), to provide a back-up should something dreadful happen. If I’m carrying my entire story around with me, it could end up lost somewhere. And with children running around there is always the risk of drinks being spilled, or pages torn out and lost. The story I’ve been handwriting has lovely ‘illustrations’ from my two year old – directly over my writing (or perhaps she’s getting into editor mode early, and letting me know what needs fixing??). Thankfully I can still make out my own words underneath her scribbles, if I squint hard enough, so all is not lost… it’s just been made a little more complicated.


My Verdict

For me, writing by hand is definitely a ‘nay’. While I would never get rid of either the notebook beside the bed or the one in my handbag for jotting down those moments of inspiration, I just can’t see myself writing a full novel this way. While it’s possible that I had a boost in creativity (it didn’t feel any different to usual), I wasn’t able to capture all those new ideas, so they were lost to me. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe they weren’t as great as I thought they were at the time, but without having recorded them to glance over, I’ll never know for sure. And while I obviously have no real idea what my neural activity is doing, I often feel the same affects from writing a story as I do from meditation, regardless of whether I’m typing or writing by hand.

– – –

If you’re a writer, (of any form) how do you prefer to write? And have you ever tried to do it another way?


#AWW2016 Review – Flywheel by Erin Gough



I first heard of The Flywheel at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival earlier this year. Author Erin Gough spoke about her experiences discovering her sexuality as a teenager. Attending an all girls school she had never ever heard of anyone who was gay – it wasn’t mentioned at school – there was not even any teasing, and she’d never come across gay characters in any of the books she read. She assumed that the only reason she liked girls was because she didn’t know any boys, or at least, not well enough to develop a crush on.

She wrote this because she wanted other young gay girls out there (and guys too I guess) :), to be able to see themselves in fiction – to learn that they are normal, that there are others out there just like themselves.

I loved The Flywheel, it really is such a sweet story.

Delilah is 17 years old, and gay. It’s the universal high school story – misplaced crushes and the embarrassment that stems from the world finding out – but there’s a twist – the popular girl Delilah has a crush on likes her back, but is not confident enough to admit to the world she’s gay, let alone she’s attracted to one of the uncool kids.

Struggling with the taunts after popular-girl’s friends find out and believe the attraction is all one-sided, Delilah decides to ditch school for a bit and focus on the family cafe she’s supposed to be running while her father is away. This also gives her more time to spy on her newest crush, the beautiful Rosa, who dances flamenco at the tapas bar across the road.

This is such a well written story – and I’m sure totally relatable to anyone who has ever attended high school, regardless of their sexuality. Highly recommended! 🙂

My Leibster Award


Just over a month ago I learnt that Alisdair Daws had nominated my blog for a Leibster Award! Wow! Thanks Alisdair! I announced the fact to my family, (we were all gathered in the lounge room) who asked me what, exactly, a Leibster Award is. I had a vague idea, but thought I’d better head over to Alisdair’s blog to make sure I was right before I started telling everyone about it.

I was on the right track. As Alisdair notes, the Liebstar Award is a way for bloggers to connect with other bloggers and let them know they’re doing a great job. It works like a chain letter – a blogger nominates blogs they enjoy, and those bloggers in turn nominate other blogs.

Its great feedback from other bloggers – a confirmation you’re on the right track with your blog – and a great way to share your enjoyment and appreciation of other blogs!

So – the rules, as passed on via Alisdair:

  1. Display an image of the award and write about your nomination.
  2. Thank and link the person who nominated you for this award.
  3. Answer the 11 questions prepared for you by the blogger who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 5-11 awesome bloggers who you think deserve this award, and create 11 questions of your own for your nominees to answer.
  5. List these guidelines in your blog post.

Alisdair’s Questions:

  1. Who is your favourite James Bond, and why?

My first thought on answering this question was – ‘I’ve only seen one James Bond, who was it? Ah – that guy from Mamma Mia’, which of course is Pierce Brosnan – but then I realised that was a lie, and I’ve also seen Daniel Craig and Sean Connery as James Bond – and I’d probably have to say Sean Connery- purely for the accent!! 😉

  1. Pride and Prejudice or Bridget Jones’ Diary?

Pride and Prejudice. I love Bridget Jones’ Diary too – but if I have to choose one then Pride and Prejudice would have to be my top pick.

  1. What was your favourite tv show as a kid?

The Mysterious Cities of Gold. I was devastated when it ended!

  1. What is your favourite tv show now?

Well – we don’t actually have a tv, so we don’t really watch it as a rule, but the new ABC series Cleverman intrigued me so much I bought it on iTunes, and we downloaded each episode. Loved it!

  1. What is your favourite city to visit? (Or the city you’d most like to visit if you haven’t been there yet.)

Edinburgh. I was only there two nights, but I honestly felt like I’d come home! Amazing city!

  1. You’ve just been captured by an evil villain. Who comes to your rescue?

My hubby, without a doubt. ❤

  1. Night out on the town or night in?

Night in.

  1. What prompted you to start blogging?

I read that it was a thing authors needed to do, and so I did.

  1. What motivates you to keep blogging?

I’ve been blogging for four years now, and there have certainly been moments where the motivation has waned, but, for this year at least, I’d have to say my motivation at the moment comes from the facebook community that has built up around the ‘Build Your Author Platform’ course through the Australian Writers Centre. There’s a Facebook page for all current and former students. The support and encouragement is fantastic, and seeing what other people are up to on their blogs is great motivation to keep going. But aside from that I really enjoy reviewing books that I adore – if I finish a good book I just want to share it with the world.

  1. Who is your favourite author?

This is too hard! Hmm… I loved Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series growing up, and Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Margaret Atwood’s stories are always thought-provoking, I love Steven King’s Dark Tower series, as well as The Green Mile. I’ve only recently discovered Heather Rose, with her novel ‘Butterfly Man’, and then there is Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and I love Joanne Harris’ books – especially Blackberry Wine. Then… well, I think you get the picture. There are so many incredible authors out there – it’s impossible for me to pick just one.

  1. What book has most influenced you?

I never know how to answer this question. I think the answer is something like the above – there are so many books that have influenced me over my life, that I struggle to pick the one that has influenced me above all others. Perhaps if I narrow the field down a bit, to focus on my writing… but I still have two that come to mind – ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, and ‘Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing’, by Margaret Atwood.

I first read ‘The Artist’s Way’ around 6 or 7 years ago, at a time when I was trying to manage a daily writing and meditation practice all while raising two young children all on my own (quite successfully, actually). What resonated with  me then was the idea that the writing ‘is’ the meditation practice. It’s something I’ve fallen back on when time seems to fold in on itself and disappear.

‘Negotiating with the Dead’ is a more recent read. I only finished it last month, but I loved it!

“…its hypothesis is that not just some, but all writing… is motivated, deep down, by a fear and fascination with mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring someone or something back from the dead.”

As an author of historical fiction I almost feel this is exactly what I am doing when I am writing, listening for the stories from those who lived long ago, and presenting their story to the world.



My nominees for the Liebster Award

Emma Lee Gough’s blog is very new, but I love her approach to reviewing books: “Every story has a What If. What’s yours? What If Fiction drills books down to a single “What If” scenario and analyses the execution.” (I also love her cover image – wow!) Emma is a speculative fiction and fantasy writer, based in Brisbane, Australia.

Sophia Auld has another fairly new blog. She shares excerpts from her daily writing practice, and peeks into her days.

I met Katara through our local write-in group (it started as part of a Nanowrimo Write-In in November last year, and four of us decided to continue, so we’re still meeting 9 months later!) 🙂 Katara writes memoir and her blog reflects this, forming part of her writing practice. “Online writing forces you to think about audience (unlike a private diary), and since I am a biographical writer, forces me to think about just how much of myself I make public before I formally publish anything.”

Kelly Matsuura is a member of my other writers group – an online writers group formed 5 years ago!! :0 We haven’t met in the real world yet, though I’m sure we’ll arrange it one day. Kelly has numerous blogs, but I’m sharing her blog of the ‘Insignia’ anthologies which she compiles and edits. The Insignia Anthologies are short stories based in Asian countries, with Asian characters. Submissions have just closed for vol. 4, but if you write Asian fiction then keep your eye on the page for future submission calls.

Elizabeth Foster writes stories for children, and her first ‘Esme’s Wish’ has already been submitted to publishers. Though still new, her blog has some great posts about the writing process.


And now it’s my turn to ask the tricky questions!! 😉

11 Questions:

  1. What is your favourite book?
  2. What makes you happy?
  3. What’s your favourite pastime?
  4. Do you have a favourite quote?
  5. Who (dead/alive/real/fictitious) would you most love to meet?
  6. What do you like most about blogging?
  7. Is there anything you don’t like about blogging?
  8. Seaside or mountains?
  9. What was the last movie you saw?
  10. What is your favourite season?
  11. Where is your favourite place?

There is absolutely no obligation to play along, but if you do, let me know and I’ll link to your post. 🙂