Beautiful Writing Tools

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typewriterfountain pen

I was thinking recently about the beauty of old-fashioned writing instruments. I sit here typing this post on my computer, after having drafted it first by hand, a writing habit I always try to follow. Drafting by pen slows down the process and forces me to focus on the immediate words I am choosing rather than my thoughts flying ahead to other parts of the piece. By slowing the writing down, my concentration increases and my writing becomes stronger.

Regardless of the length of the project, from a short story or article to a novel, I always work in this method.

On taking a break, I put down my pen, admittedly not a very special or beautiful item, and began to consider writing implements from the past. The two pics I found of an old manual typewriter and a fountain pen and paper are things of beauty. Not only do they capture the tone of a past time, but they also suggest the power and solidity of that writing.

It has been many years since I have used a manual typewriter, and I am not going to claim that they are more efficient than a computer—that would be silly, but they are stronger, made out of metal and intended to last a very long time. There is a kind of beauty that is encompassed in items that were created to last a long time, not to be thrown aside after a mere year or so of usage, like most contemporary electronics (a rant for another day—the ecological disaster that might come as a result of our “recycling” of computer and phone parts). There is also an aesthetic quality in the holding of an old, well-made pen, something created to work in the hand of the user. I am not being nostalgic, looking for the non-existent “good, old days” but commenting on a characteristic that we seemed to have lost in our current desire for speed and convenience, and that is quality in the crafting of items.

Again, I am not searching for a golden age but acknowledging that we have lost something as we have gained speed.

I admit that I do my revisions on the comp, especially because I am a terrible typist, but I still love the feel of a good pen in my hand while writing. On special occasions, I do use a quill pen, ink bottle, and parchment to draft letters to my beloved wife. That, however, is a private matter!

I wonder if anyone else sees the beauty in these writing tools.

The Next Step

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Monday was an eventful day. I have been working on the sixth draft on my novel Evil Lives After before sending it out to several agents. This draft was specifically for the purpose of tightening the writing. After an extremely close read from a very good editor, I was confronted with quite a few examples of repetition that could be cut as well as having to answer difficult questions about the purpose of several chapters. After careful consideration, I decided to cut two chapters. It was difficult, because I liked the minor characters I had created, but they did not move the narrative forward. So, obeying the instructions of “kill your darlings,” which I have seen attributed to various writers, from Fitzgerald to Faulkner to King, I cut those chapters. When I was done with this draft, I had sliced 29 pages, bringing the book to 402 pages.

After attending the Writer’s Digest Conference, I had five agents who had requested part, or all, of the novel to be submitted to them. I spent the next several hours sending the novel—in various page amounts—, the query, and the summary to them. Now I simply have to wait for their reactions and put the novel aside for the next, and ongoing, writing projects.

I was not finished, however, with writing submissions for this day.

Writer’s Digest is also running a short story contest, which I decided to enter. I had not tried to write a short story in many years before recently creating one. I am still very uncertain about the story since it is such a short space to create a character and a point to the narrative, and with the drafting of the novel, I had become used to a much larger canvas with which to work. I did, however, draft and redraft the piece several times.

The contest has a word limit of 4000, and the next to the last draft was 5500 words, so I had a very large task of cutting and editing in front of me. This work was difficult, and, once again, I had to kill my darlings. After much effort, I had cut it down to just under 4000 words. Without question, it is a much tighter piece, and, I hope, a better story. And, I submitted it to the competition. Now, it is out of my control what happens.

It was an exhausting and exhilarating day.

Many Projects

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I mentioned in an earlier post that I am committed to writing in two different worlds: fiction—novels and short stories and academic—articles and books. I remain dedicated to doing this work even if it seems like a very huge series of tasks. I don’t want to sound like I am somehow whining about the work. I am not. In fact, I wonder about writers who complain about doing their writing. I love the process and the completion of projects. I just thought that I should share, in this blog, some of my current and future projects.

I am currently putting the finishing touches on what I hope is a draft worthy of sending out to potential agents. It my time frame for this is accurate, I will send it out to five agents by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

Then, I can return to working on draft number two of my next novel, which is not part of the projected trilogy of the first novel, Evil Lives After. This one is a future history novel, complete with post-apocalyptic setting, with a teenaged girl as the protagonist, which I believe qualifies it as young adult. Although, I have not been able to identify exactly what that terms means. If anyone can give me an idea about it, I would appreciate the help.

On the academic front, I am reediting an article connecting Poe’s work with a current novel. It was in serious need of rewriting, and I hope to submit it to another academic journal soon.

The largest scholarly project I am launching is a book based on one chapter of my dissertation. I will speak more of that in the future.

Happy writing everyone!