Longhand or Typing?

by | Apr 22, 2013

Last Updated:
May 27, 2017

Can writing longhand be a hinderance?

I wouldn’t have thought so. Heck, I’ve hand written a novel before. And isn’t that how J.K. Rowlings wrote the Harry Potter series? Longhand is awesome!

Okay, I'm not quite THAT old fashioned!

Okay, I’m not quite THAT old fashioned!

It is more common to hear about the problems associate with composing on a computer. I remember the first time I wrote a research paper directly on a computer and not just typed in one written on notepaper. It was difficult to adapt to creating and organizing my thoughts electronically. I was happy that my mom had convinced me to take typing in high school though! I did adapt and learn to navigate my way around Word and Pages. How can you not love copy/paste? It beats the circles and arrows I’ve used to “move” hand written text. 😉

I consider myself something of a creative mutt. I tend to write my stories by typing directly into a computer. However, my notes for stories are all longhand in topic oriented journals (Scrivener isn’t available on iPads and that is my current writing computer of choice. Plus I HATE screen clutter.).

“Tend to write by typing” isn’t an absolute. And it wasn’t, until recently.

If you’d asked me last month my feelings on writing longhand versus typing, I would have jokingly mentioned that when inspiration hits, my handwriting can be atrocious! I scribble as fast as the ideas come to me, often then needing to interpret my muse inspired frenzied scratchings. I think at times I’ve invented my own hieroglyphic language!

I actually believe there are a few advantages to writing in a journal and then typing. You get to go over your story, granting a preliminary edit. My word use is minimum. To keep my notes legible, I try to write slowly and think about the pace of the story. Admittedly that breaks down when ideas really get flowing. But when a laptop is nowhere to be found and any sheet of paper (napkin to receipt!) will hold an idea (a pen or pencil does help too. I hate writing in blood or mud. Yes mud. I was desperate), well you go with what is available!

But recently I was completely stuck on a story. I was hand writing it, but it was’t moving. I would start a sentence and lose interest before reaching the end. It wasn’t that I had no idea on what would happen, I had several. They were battling out in my head and I’d start with the current winner and then try to end the sentence with the next thought. It made no sense. I was frustrated.

Hands of Businesswoman Using Laptop

Not me – my nails have NEVER looked that good!

So one night I sat down at my laptop and started typing. Out spewed all the information and snippets that would have given me an epic writer’s cramp! My ability to write it out in longhand would never have kept pace with what was flowing from my mind. But typing . . . that I could handle.

To be accurate, I just took a timed typing test. Copying text, I was typing away at 80 words per minute. I would gander that when the ideas are only in my head and I’m in a groove, I’m typing between 90 to 100 wpm easily. There would be NOTHING legible in any handwriting I tried to produce at that speed!

I see the value in being able to transcribe ideas directly onto a computer at a speed that doesn’t trip up my thoughts. Who would have thought that typing could free dreams? So, you’ll probably find me typing my stories for the most part from now on. I’m sure there will still be those brainstorms that require a scribbled note to myself on anything available (I’m suddenly happy I’m not a romance writer. Can you imagine the notes my husband would be finding all over the house?!). That is until they find a way to capture thoughts directly so that ideas don’t have to be translated into words . . . now THAT would be something!



Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

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Written by: Autumn

Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

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  1. jackstr952

    Writing longhand does have its advantages, although with some arthritis setting in, it’s often too painful. It takes longer to write longhand which provides opportunity for more brainstorming while writing . . . you can do it anywhere, don’t need an outlet, don’t need to be afraid about losing your file or a hard drive crash, and you can free write, draw diagrams, flow of events and dialogue. If only this arthritis wasn’t an issue! 🙁

  2. jackstr952

    Comment meant to click boxes below for notification.

    • I like the concept of writing longhand for all the reasons you listed – well except for the arthritis! But the reason I find myself pulled increasingly toward digital, more so with every book I write, has little to with hand cramps. I can’t hand write fast enough to keep up with ideas. Or when I need to slow down and think, I switch keyboards. My most recent book even has all notes and outline digital. I like the ease of having everything in one place, easy to sort and find, and the first draft is digital when I’ve gotten to the end!

      But I’m actually surprised to find myself becoming solely digital. I’m a trained fine artist and sketches have often been part of my notes as well as flow charts. I love the feel of nice paper. I hate relying on batteries. And the most damning, I lost 10 chapters to a novel in a failed OS upgrade (I back up MUCH better now!). Despite those things, I’ll grab my iPad before a notebook. Can’t explain it. 🙂

  3. amadeozed

    For most of my writing life I have written first drafts longhand, then typed them up as I went through the editing process. It’s kinda strange because even though I’m a child of the digital age, I definitely prefer longhand. I put on some music, grab my pen and notebook, and away I go. I find it easier to get lost in the story (in a good way) when writing longhand, while if I’m typing, I tend to get distracted more easily. As I’m moving forward with my writing career though, I’m open to shifting toward digital as longhand can take a considerable amount of time.

    • Considering that I’ve written high school papers longhand, I’m shocked at home much I prefer straight digital or writing! I do think habits can really set the mood and tone of writing. So what you describe as putting on music and sitting down with pen and paper may be as much a part of developing an idea as it is writing the book. My rituals involve tea and ignoring everyone but what is in my brain, though I admit I have a favorite keyboard that I’m rather possessive of! 😉

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