My Low Tech Adventure

My Low Tech Adventure


By low tech – I mean I’m writing a novel in long hand using a pencil and a 3 subject spiral notebook. Old school. Ancient technology. Ben Franklin, Shakespeare, even Moses wrote in long hand. These days we introduce computers to infants in their cribs.

Okay, to be honest, I’m not all that low tech because I am using a mechanical pencil, but this creative journey is kites to jets different than my norm. Rarely do I pick up a pen or pencil.  Thank you notes are about the only thing I write on paper anymore, and even some of those are accomplished by email. My phone keeps track of shopping lists, coupons, calendar, to do list, reminders, email, banking AND it also works as a communication device!

Picking up a pencil to write a novel was not a decision I made, but rather a condition forced upon me after having a pacemaker installed. For two weeks my left arm was in a sling. I couldn’t lift anything or raise my arm above my waist. The few attempts I made to work at the computer resulted in pain pills and naps. I couldn’t type, but I could write longhand, sitting on the couch with a notebook in my lap. And since I was in the planning stages of a new manuscript, it seemed the perfect time to start a low tech adventure – I’ll write this book in longhand, I said.

In retrospect, it might have been the pain pills who said that. Either way, I was committed.

I had a brand new 3-subject notebook and no memory of what prompted its purchase. Perfect – 3 sections allowed one for heroine, hero and villain (although it turned out to be hero, heroine, and mentor).

Initially, I had a different color of ink for each of my characters. It didn’t take long to realize pencil was a better way to go, even though keeping a pencil sharpener and eraser handy proved inconvenient. And then my own personal hero, having no idea what I was up to and with no prompting, brought me home an awesome mechanical pencil, with plenty of replacement lead and erasers.

The stars were surely aligning for this story. The working title is The Hoarding Heiress. I conceived of this ideal a few months ago, inspired by my love of the PBS show Antiques Roadshow crossed with an advertisement I saw for a show called Hoarders. I discussed the rough ideal with my critique group, and I swear – and they will all back me up on this – a few weeks later a million dollar home went up for sale and pictures quickly went viral because a hoarder lived there and had put the home on the market without clearing anything out. Just like that, pictures of my hoarder’s home fell into my lap.

Writing in pencil slows down the process, but in a good way it turns out. The slower progression of words appearing on the page allows a longer contemplative opportunity to plan the next sentence and capture the feelings and emotions. If I allow my thoughts to get too far ahead of my pencil, I run the risk of losing track and skipping over important details or omitting entire sentences. Longhand, even when peppered with shorthand, forces me to focus on each sentence, one – word – at – a – time.

Creating on a keyboard keeps my fingers flying in a race to keep up with my thoughts. I type over a hundred words a minute so that’s a pretty fast race. There is no time to stop and question or plan – when The Girls start dictating, my job is to hang on and keep up. Which explains why I have so many 1st drafts hidden in my closet. They are good stories, but boy do they need work!

My pace maker has been in place long enough now and I can type and lift my arm again (and shower – OMG; 2 weeks without a shower! Yeah, that’s not one of the things they tell you about before the surgery.) At any rate, if I want to I can now switch back to my norm and continue writing this story on the computer.

Writing on the computer is infinitely more efficient. I’ve gotten really spoiled to being able to instantly look up obscure facts or confirm dates with minimal interruption and no need to insert a placeholder so I can look it up later.

The choice to write with a pencil might have been thrust upon me by circumstances beyond my control, but now that I have a choice, I have consciously made the decision to continue old school. I might have ended up here by accident (or cosmic design!) – but, I’ve discovered here is a good place to be.

Have you written today?



Terri Rich

Terri Richison (writing as Terri Rich) lives in Clear Lake City, TX with her husband and a giant Great Dane (giant even by Great Dane standards). She is working on self-publishing women’s fiction and avoiding getting a pie in the face if she doesn’t produce pages for every critique session! PIES OR PAGES! Terri started telling stories almost as soon as she could talk – she learned everything she needed to know about storytelling at her grandmother’s knee. Craft however, is something she is still learning – those damn commas give me nightmares!

5 thoughts on “My Low Tech Adventure

  1. For me, low tech mean “mind-writing” – the process where I see scenes playing out in my head, where dialogue sometimes comes to mind, and what is the best way to try and bring emotion onto the page. I also try and puzzle out WHAT exactly I need the scene to do. And then that Damn Donald Maas comes into my head, and tells me “conflict on every page”. I surely do have a love-hate with that fellow. After that, my wee little brain can only handle so much, so after a while I must commit all those thoughts to the page. But “page” for me is on the computer. I feel if I write it out long hand then I have to spend even more time recapturing the same stuff on the computer – and I’m already a slow enough as it is writer. That being said, I have gone back to old chapters and completely rewritten them, not even looking at the old stuff I wrote. Gives me a fresh perspective – so maybe this long hand thing is doing the same for you. Whatever works, baby. That’s my motto.

    1. so, your mind is low tech – haha. Well, that’s basically what you said. Mind writing is low tech… Actually, mind writing is thinking – so, in my book, that is not writing, its planning.

  2. I love low-tech for sketching characters and doing some of the “throw away” work that I normally do before starting the first draft. I’ve also learned to love low-tech for my morning pages from The Writer’s Way work I’ve been doing.

    As you pointed out in your post, going low-tech forces the brain to slow down a bit, giving it time to mull things over before committing words to the page. I’ve caught myself “editing” in my morning pages without slowing down the actual writing. It’s as if my brain is doing all its self-editing in nanoseconds — between the time the thought occurs and the time I write the word on the page.

    Great experience, Terri! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Low-tech is probably something I will continue with for 1st draft. I’m enjoying the slower process. Although, the more I write in long hand, the faster the process is becoming. However, I’m a long way from nanoseconds in the self-editing. I’ll have to keep working this way and see if I get there.

  3. Long hand writing has long been one of my favorite tricks for when I don’t really know what comes next. Definitely something about the slower process of getting the words out of our brain and onto the page that allows my brain the time and space to create.

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