How to write a novel the old fashioned way?
January 17, 2021 12:39 PM   Subscribe

My creative writing process has been pretty derailed by screen burnout during Covidtimes. I want to shift gears and write it out longhand but am having a bit of trouble imagining a good set-up for doing so. I'd like to have some kind of system for organizing both the actual draft and things like outlines, character notes, worldbuilding notes and am looking for examples and suggestions of both physical things (like maybe some sweet Trapper Keeper kinda deal) as well as organizational systems that other novelists use (like maybe bullet journal style tools and frameworks for writing novels long hand). Open to blog posts, videos, essays, books, etc.
posted by overglow to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Buy a lot of 3”x5” note cards, mostly white but some in different colors too, and a lot of scotch tape, and maybe some colored stickers. Write out the story beats, character notes, etc on the cards and tape them to your emptiest wall. You can arrange and rearrange and edit at will. Super flexible, super analog, and you can even connect some of the cards with red string for bonus conspiracy aesthetic. (I did this at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, and it was a very satisfying technique.)
posted by ejs at 1:17 PM on January 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Read things that were written without screens and see what those writers had to say about writing and don't read that on a screen either.

Get some scissors. That's your organizational tool.

Write in an unheated shed so the discomfort makes you focus. Stay off social media and shoot your television. Listen to quality music and get some exercise. Eat write.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:20 PM on January 17, 2021

I haven’t written a novel, but I have used the note card/colored sticker method to some effect.

I do wonder if you’re projecting as to how pre-digital authors wrote, though. Knowing what I know about the writing processes of certain (mostly 19th or early 20th century) writers, I don’t think they kept particularly detailed character or “worldbuilding” notes. That strikes me as a more modern contrivance made possible by technology.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:26 PM on January 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Index cards! I used them in screenwriting, but writers of all kinds use them. Different colours for plot points, characters, etc.

Btw, if you're tired of screens, but handwriting isn't working, you could always look into an Alphasmart (cheap) or a Freewrite (expensive).
posted by betweenthebars at 2:55 PM on January 17, 2021

Best answer: For pre-digital authors, search for "Handwritten outlines of famous literary works by their authors". An image search can be fruitful. There are many compilations, for example this one from the first page of search results.
posted by JonJacky at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

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