I am a Writer. Or something.

I am a writer. I have published a few novels of science fiction and fantasy, though sometimes it’s not easy to tell them apart. And a few stories, some collected. And some non-fiction, in which I have little further interest.

I also have run workshops at SF conventions, where I try to help people learn about writing, about how to get started, how to structure a whole story (or at least one way to do it), and what they have done well and where they can improve.

I talk to people about the things I have learned about writing, particuarly about writing fiction, and about what I am still learning. Almost everything I know has been learned through personal experience, mostly by doing it the wrong way and learning from that, rather than from reading books. I have found only a few books to be very useful.

But really I am a story-teller. I don’t write because I want to write, but because I have a story in my head that I have to get out. There are characters whom I want to make real. There are places I want to explore, to experience, if only vicariously, since most of them don’t exist in the real world. I have ideas for situations that present problems, and solutions that have consequences, and which, most importantly, offer growth. There are things which I want or need to learn about myself, which can only be done by creating an alternate reality and capturing it in a story.

So I am a writer. Because daytime fantasies about any of these things is ephemeral, and once thought, they just disappear. Sometimes I can’t remember much about the beginning of such a fantasy by the time I get to the end, which might take only a few minutes.

Most of my daytime fantasies go nowhere. They are fragments, though sometimes I indulge in them for years, but they are just smoke. It’s only when I can discover the story which lies behind those fantasies, or which connects those fantasies, or which fleshes them out that I become a writer, a creator, making something real out of nothing. It’s only by putting the words down, on paper, or on the computer, that makes them at all real.

Words on paper, after all, are real, even if the person or situation or place described is totally imaginary. Books are real, containing those vague ideas which have been developed and perfected (one hopes), and have been expressed in a way that makes sense to me later, and that (one hopes) may entertain anyone else who reads them.

It’s not the words on paper, it’s the story they tell which is important to me.

Image, not Intellect

I’ve covered this subject before, but it was brought home to me again while I was working on chapter 21 of Heart of the Fey. A crucial geological detail, essential to the plot, helps explain why the Heart had been lost for so long, and gets my hero on the right track to at last find it. If there were no waterfall, no vanished ford, no barrier between north and south, then there would be no story.

My problem was that, while I had worked it all out intellectually — times, places, history, why they’re there, where to go next — I discovered when I was revising it for first and second read-alouds that it made no sense. It didn’t work physically, geologically, or any way at all. Because I had only intellectualized it, I hadn’t actually visualized it. And that became clear while I was trying to write what my characters saw, because I couldn’t see it, and therefore it didn’t make any sense. I had to stop, and rework the map, and rework the history, and rework other stuff, until I could see it as if it were a video. Now it all makes sense, but it took me over two days to fix one paragraph, and to deal with the consequences of those changes.

Why go to all the trouble?

Because glitches like that can ruin a book, no matter how good the rest of it is. Some time ago I was reading a non-fiction book, which I cannot remember now, but I was interested in the development of the author’s argument, and I got to the last three pages, where he was supposed to at last have it all come together and prove his point. But it was as if I were reading notes instead of completed text. Nothing came together and all, the feeble point he did make sort of contradicted what he had promised, and he lost me completely.

I was terribly disappointed because, whatever it was he was trying to say, the ideas had been good, and worth my time. But the let-down, because of a terrible glitch in logic or reason or follow-through or whatever, was so bad that I put the book away and immediately forgot it. Except my frustration and disappointment. I can’t find the book again.

My wife was reading a novel by an author she enjoyes, but somewhere in there Lady Rutherford was called Lady Blair, or something like that, and the sister of a nobleman wanted her son to inherit her brother’s title, which was not possible — nephews can not inherit — and Diane just dropped out of the story. She finished it, but she wasn’t in it any more. She told me about that while I was working on my glitch, but she can’t remember the author or the story.

And If I didn’t fix this one scene, readers would be ejected from my story, might not finish it, and might even forget what the story was about, except for the glitch. And might decide not to read anything more of mine.

I have a rule. If I write something in a story, which I discover later takes me where I didn’t expect to go, I will work with what I have and keep going. So when I found that the waterfall into the river couldn’t really be that way, I felt compelled to work with it anyway, and to somehow make the story fit. And I couldn’t. Geologically, it made no sense.

But I have another rule, given me by David Gerrold, and that is, whatever you write must serve the story. The story can’t serve the false image, the bad idea, the gross error in creation or research. Everything must serve the story, not the other way around. So despite the first rule, I knew that I had cast aside what I had done wrong before I could go on. Or my readers would discover how wrong it was, and put down the book. And might remember how wrong it was when they were looking at something else by me.

The details of the error are not important here, only in the context of Heart of the Fey, where they eventually affect and color almost the whole story, sometimes retrospectively. The details of the correction are not important here, only that I made myself take the time, almost two whole days, to fix a paragraph, and deal with the consequences of that fix. What is important is that I had forgotten that, if I can’t see it, I can’t write it, especially when it comes to physical description. What I had written was only what my intellect had created, and no matter how interesting that was, it was wrong.

Which is why I draw maps. I draw floor plans. I create timelines. I chart people sitting at a table so that they aren’t talking through each other.

And when I corrected the falls, the geology, the history, all of which fit the story so far, I made the waterfalls more spectacular than they had been before. I made the mystery, of where the Heart had been lost, more logical when it was finally traced and found. It made my characters’ reasoning actually work.

So then. Make use of what I’ve got, even if it takes me somewhere unexpected. But if it takes me into a black dead end, work it until it serves the story, whatever that takes.

I hope to finish Heart of the Fey some time this spring or summer. We’ll see.

Every Story is Different

For me, every story I write, long or short, is different. Even those which seem to be much the same, like the three Rikard Braeth novels, or the six Elf Quest stories, have subtle differences in structure, or style, or depth. This becomes more and more true as time goes by.

Right now I’m working on a story, number two of twelve, for a collection I call Star Kings. It’s an old idea, which came to me some years after Elf Quest, when I wanted to write more stories like those, but set them in a different place and time and about a different people. It took me years to figure out how I had made the Elf Quest stories work.

I had just finished the antepenultimate read-through of Heart of the Fey, reading aloud for text, and I needed a break before my last two read-throughs, for story and performance, and since I had one Star Kings story, writing a second one seemed like a good idea.

Star Kings takes place in an unknown future, the technology so high that it can’t be described let alone explained. But what makes it difficult is that, unlike all my other stories, long or short, it has to be constructed, not grown. No part of it, aside from human nature, is drawn from the familiar. I invented the giant space station city, the star-dive spindleships, the Star Kings’ culture, and the cultures of the aliens with which they share the Cold Star Cluster, and the Great Cloud which hides and protects them the civilizations in the limb of the galaxy. I do draw on what I know abuot the real world, but in Star Kings it’s all different. What makes it like my Elf Quest stories is, that these are about ordinary people, doing ordinary things in their own bizarre context.

I am also having to construct the stories themselves, one at a time, and not just let them happen. Stories, after all, are constrained and shaped by their larger context, the world, the over-all situation, and this time all of these things are being built. It’s a very different way of working for me, though many books on writing have advice on how and why you should do it that way.

When I finish story two, I’ll go back to Heart of the Fey, which, despite the maps and the research and the creation, is a story that grew. Then after that is published, I’ll do story three for Star Kings. Then I’ll do as much more as I can with The Empty House, which is perfectly organic. If I need a break from that, I’ll construct another Star Kings story. And so on until the whole collection is done. It will take a while.

I will never write anything like this again. I would rather grow my stories than build them. But I’ve been thinking about Star Kings for years. I have a handle on it now. I have sketches for all twelve stories in a perfect arc from first to last.

And Darcy has already done the cover.

He or She — or They

Ever since I wrote The Eye in the Stone, I have tried to tackle the problem of “he or she” versus “they.” If the pronoun refers to a single unknown person, e.g. “Someone stood in the doorway, in total silhouette,” I can simply use he, or she, if the gender is apparent to the narrator, even if the person can’t be identified. If the gender is not obvious, I may use “they” instead of “he or she.” This is a rather clumsy example, I know, but it will serve.

I have tried very hard to avoid using “he” as a neuter pronoun. One of the conventions I have used is “they.” Certain purists will object that “he or she … they” does not agree in number. They should also note that “he or she … he” does not agree in gender.

The real problem, of course, is that in English today, we do not have a true neuter pronoun, other than “it,” and I think almost everyone will agree that “he or she … it” is an abomination. After all, we do not mean that he or she is a neuter it, but that the person we refer to is either male or female but not specified. And not neither or both.

There is precedent for the use of “they” as a neuter pronoun, to be found in the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 1971), i.e.: They … signification 2. Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal by every, any, not, etc, or applicable to one of either sex (= ‘he or she’).

Examples of this usage date from 1526 to 1874. “They” has been used as a neuter pronoun by both common speakers and by literary figures. It is the natural thing to do. It may be the best solution we have.

Today, only a pedant will pick on the disagreement in number, though anybody can be pedantic at times (as I have sometimes been on other subjects, not always seriously). In current social consciousness, the problem of sexual equality and gender chauvinism is much more important than mere number. If you can think of a better solution, let me know. A better one, not just a different one.

I would like to refer the reader to Handbook of Non-sexist Writing, by Casey Miller and Kate Swift (Lippincott & Crowell, 1980). It is a calm, well thought out, sympathetic discussion of the problem, which every reader, writer, speaker, and publisher should read.

The First Story I Ever Wrote

Here is the first story I ever wrote:

Once there was a decative who thot thout thoat it was a simple quite thing, but it wasnt.

Right. I think I was about eight years old. No sign of precocity there.

A year or so later was when I discovered the old Royal portable in the back closet. This was  a wide dark place across the back of the house, behind both the dining room and the kitchen. It was full of interesting stuff, including the typewriter. There was still some ink in the ribbon, but the only paper I could find were small pieces of the textured light-blue drawing paper which my father used, with an orange conte crayon, for his first rough sketches. I rolled one in, and wrote a short ghost story of maybe a hundred words, probably less. It couldn’t have been longer, the paper wasn’t big enough.

I found another piece of paper which was slightly larger and slightly more square, and wrote a haunted house story. I quite liked it. (I may still have it somewhere.) I read it to my mother. It began when my character saw the stereotypical old abandoned house and became curious. I had him, as first person narrtor, say something like, “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone in there.” My mother said, “No, he certainly should not.” I took about three breaths, then finished reading it to her. I never read her another one.

Part of the problem, which I didn’t understand until much later, was that my mother didn’t like fiction. She knew it wasn’t true, and so she couldn’t enjoy it.

But she did read The Planet Masters, my first novel, because, well, it was my first novel. Despite all the discouragement, I proved that I could do it. I was afraid that she would figure out that Larson McCade, my anti-hero, was based on my dark side, and think that was who I really was. But she told me that she had quite liked it — because of McCade. She never made the connection between my anti-hero and me, and she never read anything else of mine.

But I kept on writing, despite my mother’s harsh disapproval of my first efforts. I wrote a lot of things, and made notes and lists and charts, all in service of some day turning them into stories. My parents didn’t like this, and thought I was wasting my time, and did their best to make me give it up. But I persisted.

And despite more failures than successes, I continue to write. There were many times when it seemed like simple wisdom to stop. And though I haven’t published that much, I can look back on some of my work with pride, and know that there are people who have read and enjoyed some of my books. And I keep on.

Once there was a riter who thoat thot thout that it was a simple quite thing, but it wasnt. But he kept on writing anyway, and learned how. Because he couldn’t not write. And my few successes have made it worth doing. I can’t not write, after all.

I can’t read when I’m writing

Lately I have been so deep into my current project, that not only can I not read fiction, I can’t read much non-fiction, and I can’t even watch movies. Reading — especially fiction — and movies are supposed to take you away from the world for a while. They are deliberate distractions from those thoughts and worries which preoccupy you. They give you a break from work. (Or, if you’re bored, they give you something to help you pass the time.) And they do the job quite well. Which is why I can’t indulge in them while I’m writing.

It used to be that movies were okay, but not so much any more. Many times it’s because I’m not in the mood for that kind of movie, because it conflicts with the mood I’m trying to sustain in my current project.

But many times it’s because I’m more critical of plot — or lack of plot in movies. Walt Disney’s Cinderella, for example, is a great classic, but it lasts an hour and a quarter, with about twenty minutes of actual story. All the extra is a lot of fun, and it’s done well — singing and dancing and foolishness — but it’s not story. It has been added to what would be a short film in order to make it a full-length feature.

And if a movie has a good story, which I might and do enjoy at other times, it conflicts with the story I’m working on, so I can’t watch it. There are a few exceptions I guess.

But mostly I’m not interested in the stories in novels and movies because I’m intensely interested in the one I’m working on now, and I don’t want to be distracted from it. I want to work on it, to focus on it to the exclusion of other stuff. Of course, after a few hours I run out of creative energy. I have to put the project down and find something else to do. Like my day-job of household management.

But just because I’m not actively creating, or developing, or rewriting, or editing, or polishing, that doesn’t mean that I want — or can tolerate — distractions from it. It’s just no longer in the forefront of my mind, and is grinding away, percolating, fermenting, revolving, growing in the back of my head, all unconsciously. Then the next day I bring it out for several hours of good work. If I distract my unconscious from the project, then I have nothing to work with the next day.

But I have discipline, which means I work on my fiction when I’m supposed to, for as long as I’m productive, without distractions. But there are other things which I’m supposed to do, and my discipline applies there too. On Saturdays I have to put the story aside and work on my book site, or my blog, like this one. On Sundays I have to deal with bills, both paper and on-line, and with emails, and with other things which I have put off doing during the week.

But right now, I am so deep into Amanda Valentine, and her growth as a character and as a person, as she seeks to overcome all obstacles, external and internal, to find the Heart of the Fey, that it takes all my discipline this Saturday morning to put the story on hold until Monday.

Get It Right the First Time

At one time it was popular to criticise the idea of “New and Improved” when referring to ads for laundry soap, cookies, or toothpaste. The sardonic response to this claim was, “Why didn’t they get it right the first time?” Which is really a stupid thing to say. Fortunately, the popularity of this criticism didn’t last very long. Nobody pointed out the fallacy, it just faded away. Like so many things which rouse my ire (better to leave my unroused ire sleeping), it has stayed with me. Get it right the first time doesn’t make any sense.

For example, consider a recipe that has taken you years to perfect. Why didn’t you get it right the first time? Or the computer you are using now. When they started making personal computers (Apple 2 for example), why didn’t they get it right the first time? Or when they upgrade my system, or game, or word processor, why didn’t they —?

Because, of course, you has to start somewhere, do the best you can, and do better as the technology evolves and you gain more experience. If you don’t like upgrades, you can stick with DOS. Or Model T. Or black & white TV on a 6” screen. They did get it right the first time, for what it was then. What you do the first time is your best try, but then you learn from your mistakes, you learn how to do it better, and you move on.

So what does this have to do with writing?

A long time ago, way back in the 1950s, when I was in grade school, teachers would say, “Take out a blue book and pencil. Now, write about what you did over the weekend,” or something like that. After ten minutes or so, the teacher would say, “Pencils down, pass your blue books forward.” And she would grade you on what you had written. The blue books came back, and every least mistake in language, logic, content, spelling, punctuation, whatever, was marked in red. And the more red, the lower the grade.

What we learned back then, was that when we wrote, we had to get it right the first time.

When we got older, and decided to write fiction, we’d try to do that, get it right on the first draft. And when compared our struggling efforts with what we had read in magazines or books, what we had done was terrible. Maybe we couldn’t write after all. Many of us gave it up after a while.

These days it’s different. Students in grade school, at least in the 90s when my daughter was there, were told to first put down an idea, and the class would talk about it. Then they were told to sketch out what they wanted to say, and were helped to put it in outline form. They they wrote a draft, which was marked up, but not graded. They they fixed the mistakes for a final draft.

Which, of course, is how real writers really do it. And real graphic artists, too, if you read the cover articles in ImagineFX. They don’t submit their first drafts, they submit their final drafts. They don’t have some magic talent that lets them get it right the first time. They sketch, rough it out, do a clean draft, revise, edit, and rewrite, as many times as necessary. If the beginning writer could see the first raw sketches and notes and rough drafts of the writers they admire, they would see that maybe their own rough drafts weren’t so bad after all.

Some of the people who take my Writer’s Workshop, when asked to read their exercise, start off by apologizing for how bad it is. They still have the idea that they should get it right the first time. Well, nobody does. Ever. There’s always improvement. Windows 10 is a lot better than Windows 8. Or than DOS of whatever version. Current cell phones are far more powerful than the computers which directed the space program in the sixties. And seventies. My cooking has improved over the last (ahem) years. So has yours.

So, if you’re a beginner, when you sit down to write a story, just remember: do your best, put even the worst down on paper, revise and correct, produce the new and improved version. Then do it again, until it’s as good as you can make it, and then move on to another story. You have to move on, because there can never be a perfect version. Just do the best you can do at the time.

They keep correcting translations of the Bible.

A Thousand Words a Day

When I was a beginner, the common advice was to write a thousand words a day. If you wrote for eight hours, that would be only 125 words an hour. Easy. If you wrote for only four houers, that would still be on 250 words an hour. That’s not bad, and quite doable. If you wrote for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, that was still just 500 words an hour. Not so easy, but not so hard either. And if you wrote 1000 words a day, five days a week, at the end of the year you’d have a very long novel. Or two long novels. Or three normal novels.

And so it goes. It’s easy, it says here… But who can keep that up? At my very best I’ve written 1000 words an hour. For about two hours. That day. And not so many the next.

But there’s something that the people who suggest 1,000 words a day don’t explain. Is that 1000 words the first draft? Or final polish? Because there’s an awful lot of work in between those two states. What about research time, does that count? Or, more importantly, revision, correction, development, tightening, enough proofreading for a clean draft, and so on. If you can do all that and still have 1,000 finished words at the end of the day, from first word to last, you are a phenomenon. I don’t think it’s possible.

So, “write a thousand words a day” doesn’t really mean anything. A thousand words of what?

~~~

Two hundred fifty words a day is doable. Sometimes. Sometimes that 250 words comes easily and superfast. Sometimes you struggle to find the words, to fix the problems, to discover that you’re going in the wrong direction, and you’ve actually typed over 1000 words but none of them work. So you stop. Do those words count. Or only finished words.

So, go ahead, write as quickly as you can, but by the time you finish your story or novel and go back to re-read it, it will look like crap. Because you’ve learned a lot about your story since you started. And because all first drafts are crap, by definition, and you haven’t done a second draft yet.

A second draft may not take as long as a first, but it may take longer. How many drafts do you need? When you read the story, can you honestly say it’s the best you can do? Or is it just good enough? Think about it.

My point is, writing a story of any length includes not just that 250 words/hour/day/week/year. It also includes all that other stuff — research or creation, revisions and corrections, notes and outlines and rough sketches. You have to take all these into consideration, and probably a lot more.

I know some writers who can do two books a year. I know a couple who have done six books a year, and published them all. And I know some writers, Joyce Carol Oates for example, who’s every story is as close to perfect as possible (I don’t know how many drafts she writes). Literary critics can’t understand how she can write so much so quickly, and still write so well. I can’t either. You may not like what she writes, but you can’t deny her quality.

But I’m not any of these people.

My second point here, is that comparing yourself to other writers is not good. Every writer works their own way (‘their’ not ‘his or her’). Every writer has different strenghts, and very different weaknesses. Comparing your first draft to someone elses published work will destroy you. You have to discover your own work methods, your best time and location, your own progress one scene at a time or the whole story at once.

So, again, “one thousand words a day” doesn’t mean anything.

~~~

Sometimes, as you grow as a writer, you learn how to work more quickly. It’s true, sometimes, and it’s great. Or sometimes, as you grow as a writer, you set higher standards for yourself, and it takes longer to achieve those standards. Or you can just hack.

Jack Woodford wrote a book on How to Write for Money. And if you follow his methods, you can do it too. Really, he’s not telling you a theory, he’s telling you how he really did it. Look him up. He wrote other writing books as well, which I don’t have.

How to Write for Money is out of print and costs a couple hundred dollars second hand. But Woodford was a self-admitted hack writer, and proud of it, and wrote bad but marketable books constantly, which all got published by publishers who wanted fast turnover. He made a living. If you can get a copy of his book, read it. You’ll learn a lot. And then decide, what do you want, quantity or quality. It’s not easy to have both. Unless you’re Joyce Carol Oates.

It’s what I do.

On February 21, 2017, I was working on the final, final polish of chapter 97 (out of 120) of The Black Ring. I was quite pleased with it — there was emotion, a progression of ideas, a tying up of some loose ends, and preparation for a significant turning point a couple chapters later. It was my final read-aloud for performance, and I felt that whoever read it would enjoy it, and be moved by it.

And then I thought —

Nobody’s going to read this. Nobody is going to even know that it has been published. So why am I wasting my time. How many of you have read Slaves of War? Dead Hand? Sturgis? Stroad’s Cross? I’ve sold about a dozen copies of some of them, and none of others.

The sense of despair and futility was crushing. It still is. It was not easy to keep going, but I did. It’s a good chapter, in an epic story, which explores the limits of fantasy, real science, character growth, courage, duty, hope, and super extra-cosmic meta-reality (ahem). But who’s going to even know about it?

I need publicity, and I don’t know how to get it. I did some reasearch, but they don’t help much, and almost all advice on how to promote your self-published book says you have to have a blog. Like this one.

I tried a blog once years ago. I couldn’t get it to work, I couldn’t post to it, I just didn’t understand the mechanics. The site remains empty, and by now it’s probably closed down.

But I have to do something. A search through Ralan and Duotrope comes up with nobody who whats to publish books like mine. My books are too long mostly, or too complicated, or too hard to categorize. Which is why I publish myself. And I have to promote myself, get my name out there, let people know that my books are available. Start a blog. That, they said, is how it’s done.

I must be missing something.

I did research, I learned about blog hosting, about blogging software, and I think I can do this, because here I am. But nothing I’ve read answers one basic question. How do I promote my blog?

It may not even matter, though I would like people to read my books and enjoy them. Some have. But even without readers, I know I will not stop. Stopping is the surest way to fail. I write, because I can’t not write my stories. It’s what I do.

Okay. I’m feeling better now.

Sometimes Longhand is Best

We all start writing by printing. Later we are taught cursive, or longhand. When we’re in grade school, that’s what we do, even if we have computers at home. That may change, if laptops or pads become common in the early grades. Writing by hand is still a valuable skill, for those times when we have no computer, tablet, or even phone handy. (Writing twenty pages of a story on a smart phone might be a bit tedious.) And when I started writing stories, when I was about eight or nine, for myself as well as for my schoolwork, longhand was what there was.

When I was about eight or so, I found an old royal portable typewriter in our back closet and tried to use it, but finding the letter I wanted to type took forever. Unless it was the same letter twice, in which case it took half as long. It took me a couple hours to type out a 100 word story. Not to create it, just to type it. It wasn’t worth the effort. I took a typing class in junior high (grades 7-9, not middle school grades 7-8) and passed, but typing was not to be my career, as it could have been for a number of the other students. It was just a tool.

Even today I can write longhand almost automatically. (I do have to think about it if I want to be able read it after a day or so…) So when I began to write seriously, in 1972, I did it in longhand. I could think about the words and the story, and not about the mechanics of getting my thoughts on paper. Then, of course, I had to transcribe. But whether it was first draft in longhand, or retyping after editing the typescript, it was the same. I hate typing.

One time at a convention, SciCon I believe it was, I was hosting a small party, just soft drinks and chips, and for some reason Jack Vance came in. He told us about how he went from longhand to a word processor. He had used yellow legal paper which he folded top to bottom, turned 90 degrees, and wrote across the lines, using fountain pens in red, green, blue, and black, paying attention to the patterns he made, not the words he wrote, which let the muse in his subconscious provide the story. Then his wife typed it up for him. He didn’t like word processors because he kept on editing himself, the way he did with a typewriter, and since it was easier, he did it a lot more. Someone suggested that he turn down the brightness on his monitor, so that he wouldn’t be distracted by the text and, as long as his fingers were on the right keys, he could just concentrate on his story. It worked.

He spent the rest of that evening, into early morning, in the bedroom, playing guitar and singing with Janny Wurtz, who had also come in for some reason. They had an audience.

I decided to try to compose by looking off to the right somewhere, into my imagination instead of at the screen. I too had a tendency to edit everything as I wrote it. And it worked pretty well. I was able to keep my mind focused on the story, and save the editing (and typos) for later.

But I still use longhand when I need to be careful about the text. Longhand is slower, but correcting with a pen is easier than with a computer keyboard and mouse. For me at least. I’m composing now on the computer, and I don’t have that direct link with my imagination, as I do when I use longhand, just my thoughts,.

It all depends on what I’m trying to do. I prefer longhand for rough sketches, computer for drafts. I prefer longhand for some forms of editing which require moving text, and lining out, and interlinear notes, and I prefer the computer for rewriting, revision, copyediting, and proofreading. Most of my work is done using a word processor, but longhand still has a place. And I get to use different colored pens.