Essays, Misc, Stories

The Verdict is In: Writing by Hand Rocks

Mission accomplished. From handwriting the first draft of my current light science-fiction story, The Keeper and The Kept, to the current computer rendering, the deed is done. So what’s my verdict?

I freaking loved it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the early results and initial conclusions of this experiment here. But that was just the beginning. So I figured I’d complete the story by shedding some light on what I learned as well as what worked and why.

1)      The final version is vastly different from the handwritten version.

So what? I’d suspected that would happen anyway. In the past, this is often what happened between drafts—which is one big reason I was against working this way in the first place. I mean, why go through all that writing (and hand cramping!) only to end up with something totally different?

But I chose to look at it this way: the first hand-written draft is really just that: a draft. It’s the act of working out on paper by way of full scenes, vignettes or random bursts of inspired prose what is unclear in my head in preparation of the versions to come. It’s a means to do away with the performance anxiety of ‘getting it right on the first shot’ and letting inspiration lead the process rather than my head. Mistakes? Big deal. They stay in my notebook. No one sees them, not even me; once written down, I rarely look at the first draft again anyway. I take what I need and leave what I don’t.  

2)     This is a great way to write a long story. For those who have read my posted stories, you probably noticed that my sweet spot for stories is around the 500-2000 words mark. Due to lack of time and my desire to practice the craft as much as I could, I focused on writing whenever I could in focused bursts–2K was about my max before my brain went numb, anyway. I always used to wonder how people wrote stories so long!! But this is one way great way to do it. What I found, mostly because of the points above, the story took time to build, in this case, about 2 weeks. This allowed the story gestate. The longer process enabled me to understand about what it was I wanted to write, as well as figure out the characters, etc. so that when I sat to write at the computer, the story flowed so much easier. From a pen and paper version of maybe 1o pages (maybe 2500 words) came a story of 7ooo words. How exciting!

3)     This method allowed me to write a more complex story. As stated, this method took more time. However, there was another important bonus. On my downtime, the wheels kept turning in my subconscious and, at the same time, I was conscious of what was going on in the news. Suddenly I saw ways I could write a story that was socially relevant as well as entertaining, taking my writing to a new level. That was a really pleasant surprise.

So I suppose I should provide a sample of this story I keep talking about. 🙂 Below is a portion of section two of The Keeper and the Kept. (this is still a draft version)

Part 2

“What the hell are you doing?” Argus shouted at Leo from across the mess hall. Leo was a botanist, long-haired and lazy. He enjoyed all things plants, especially if he could put it in a pipe and smoke it. “Haven’t you got it in your head yet that you’re in space? Put that out! Fire does weird things out here!”

“Ah, shut it! One smoke won’t do any harm,” Leo called back. “See?” He blew out the fire-stick and then stuck the tip in suppressant gel, an extra precaution. “It’s out, alright? No harm done.”

Argus scowled and shook his head. He was a nervous type, always seeing death and ghosts where there weren’t any, at least none that anyone with an ounce of sense and a set of balls could see. Still, reliable people who followed the rules were the ones other people cried for when things went wrong. ‘If only so-and-so were here, this never would have happened!’ they cried while rueing how horribly they’d treated that very loser/savior. Jed gave Argus an encouraging look.

Argus went on. “You just never know, is all. I mean, it only takes one moment of carelessness–”

“I’ll be careful, okay? Geez, quit your crying, already. This is our downtime. Try to relax a little, if you even know how.” Leo sat back in his chair and inhaled deeply from the pipe. He smiled and looked into space, Argus and his stodgy worries already forgotten.

Unsatisfied, Argus was about to retort when Jed cut in. “Just let him be, man. Dude’s hard-headed.”

“More like stoned, if you ask me.”

“That too. Either way, you’re wasting your time.”

Argus glanced up from twirling his tin mug between his fingers, looking at Jed through long, white-blond bangs. “Idiot. For a scientist he sure takes things pretty lightly.”

“Most of us are scientists, good ones, even if we do work for the Cartel,” Jed said.

Argus smiled, but it was thin. “I suppose for this kind of job, you have to expect an ass or two. You look like one of the decent ones. Haven’t seen you around much.”

“Uh, yeah. I stick mostly to engineering, sometimes the lounge when I feel I need a little camaraderie.”

Argus snorted. He gestured discreetly at a few of the women sitting and talking in groups around the lounge. “Looks like you have found ‘camaraderie’ quite often over the last few weeks.”

Jed reddened but kept his easy smile. “And you said you hadn’t seen me around much but you’ve obviously been watching me.”

“Ah,” Argus said, with a wave of his hand, “I just pay attention to things. To people. Goes with being a psychologist. It’s my job to ensure the well-being of the crew.”

“I see.”

“Still, there’s one lady you haven’t seemed to make any headway with.”

Both looked towards the door when it slid open to let Saana in. Her dark skin glistened, as though she had been running, or maybe just fresh out of the shower, and her close-fitting jumpsuit, standard issue for mechanics, hugged her figure in all the right places.


Saana was a pretty woman and good at her job, but damn she was cold. Atmospheric interference prevented sensors from getting a clear read on Ataxa, but it was believed to be a cold planet, rolling with snow drifts, glaciers, and ice floes, and pitted with patches of tundra in areas it got warm enough for basic forms of life to grow, if only for a few months a year. But Jed didn’t doubt that, side by side, Saana’s frostiness rivalled the planet’s, maybe even surpassed it. Hadn’t aboriginals survived in the arctic for centuries? Who could survive that woman’s cold?

Their eyes met. When the passive mask of Saana’s face cracked, Jed thought she might smile, but she averted her eyes and went to sit at a quiet spot by the portal.

“I wonder what her deal is, anyway?” Argus commented.


“That impenetrable façade she puts on. She’s efficient, intelligent, and keeps out of trouble, but something tells me it’s for show.”

“You have her file. You must know.”

“A file’s only as good as what it contains. You have to know a person to really ‘get’ them. She won’t let anyone close. I’ve tried.”

“That’s because you’re a psychologist,” Jed concluded. “No one wants to feel like they’re being analysed.”

“You’re talking to me.”

“But you’re not analyzing me—are you?”

Argus smiled. “I am what I am.” He put up his hands, pleading for patience, when Jed began to protest. “Look, maybe she’s one of those Kept. Think about it: she’s alone, on this near hopeless, off the books mission, and with that coloring—”

Now Jed leaned in. “Why me? What do you know?”

“I know that out of everyone here, you’re probably the best one the get through to her.”

Jed frowned. It was unsettling to know that Argus, a stranger, knew that much about him. Still, he had enough presence of mind to not let on that the fact bothered him.

“Anyway, every time she’s around, you suddenly get quiet and your eyes follow her around the room.”

“I do not!” Jed protested, louder than intended.

Laughing a little, Argus said, “Hey, I’m just telling you what I’ve seen. Anyway, she’s not so bad. Aloof, yes, but she works hard. Maybe she just doesn’t like people much. Well, maybe not people like us. You know how things are on Earth. Maybe you could smooth things over a bit, in the interest of creating a healthier work environment for everyone.”

Jed almost reminded the psychologist that he was as white as he was, but let it go in light of the rest of what Argus had said. Jed did know how things were on Earth. It was why he’d left in the first place, but that wasn’t anything anyone had to know. Though, somehow, it looked like Argus did.

Copyright@ 2014 by Dyane Forde

Thanks for reading! Drop me a line below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

6 thoughts on “The Verdict is In: Writing by Hand Rocks

  1. Wait, you mean you’ve never handwritten a story before?
    Well… ehm… that’s what I normally do (blushes)
    If it’s a short story, I always handwrite it first, then type it on the PC and that’s a first revision. On longer stories, I type the first draft, then I handwrite all the revisions.
    Don’t know about you, but I find that handwriting allows me to concentrate better. It’s a lot easier getting into the story.
    Maybe it’s jus tme…


    1. Hi! I stopped hand-writing stories the moment I got my first word-processor (yes, a long, long time ago! lol).
      It’s not just you! That’s what’s so cool. Since posting these articles, I’ve encountered many people who hand-write first, for similar reasons you do. And I think I’ve come around again. Looking forward to my next experiment. 🙂


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