The New Project

I’ve been asked how my handwritten novel project was going…

Well, not that well until now!

The fact is, people get used to specific ways of working, I think. I decided to try writing a novel by hand because I felt it would allow me more freedom to work in different places, would give me more time to concentrate on a good, working first draft, and would force me to rewrite into a second draft more efficiently. I do still believe that by handwriting the draft I will end up with a cleaner manuscript in almost the same time as it would take to write on a keyboard.

My lovely Visconti Homo Sapiens: designed just for me!

However, although I did start writing by hand last year, I had to give up. I was delayed for a number of reasons. First and foremost, my great friend, Andy Setchell, had a recurrence of his cancer, and his death preyed on my mind while I was trying to work. Then, the pen that I was planning to use for the project (for which I am eternally grateful to the brilliant Dante del Vecchio, the genius behind Visconti and who is now the leading light behind Pineider’s writing instruments) was unexpectedly delayed. It’s a prototype of a special model, and I think created some “interesting” challenges for the design team, but the delay also meant I was already getting late on my deadline. I had to crack on with the computer instead.

So, these issues led to me starting late on my project, and caused a certain amount of grief that didn’t help the creative juices!

A third issue which I had not anticipated was that, having the freedom to choose different locations in which to write, was quite a problem in its own right. It led to a lack of concentration when I needed it. Suddenly I could wander from one room to another, and that distracted me from the job at hand. All of which means, until now, it’s been rather difficult to see the wood for the trees.

But I have now got over these hurdles, I think. I have developed a new way of working. I have dedicated two specific locations for writing: a standing desk in my office, and occasionally the garden when it’s just too hot to stay indoors. This means I’ve been growing more and more comfortable with my working environment, and that means I can concentrate better and for longer.

My main Atoma pad

I am also changing how I was working. In the past, I’ve merely written on notepads and loose-leaf paper. Now I am using Atoma pads. I have a binder punch from the ever-excellent Cult Pens, and that means I can use any paper to write on and hold them together in the Atoma ring system. If you haven’t seen it, I can recommend Atoma for every day use. Being able to insert fresh pages, removed them, reinsert them in new locations, and basically play with the order of pages and scenes is fantastic. But there is one aspect of this system that causes me – or used to cause me – headaches. That is, that when you have filled an Atoma pad with a couple of hundred pages, what should you do? Buy another set of Atoma rings? My problem is purely that I don’t necessarily want to carry all my draft with me all the time.

Exacompta Harmonika

Exacompta Harmonika

Because of that I have started trying out Exacompta’s Harmonika A4 folders. These are multi-division folders, so you can have a series of sections into which you break your work. I have gone for the twelve division version, which gives flexibility and a good amount of space. I will be using each section for a number of scenes and later deciding how to separate them into chapters.

Only 5/8ths the thickness of 80 gsm

At the same time I am using paper which is considerably thinner. I have a lot of different types of paper, but this is 50gsm paper from a company called Q-Connect. It is not, I hasten to say, the best writing paper. It is a little “toothy” with a nib, which means you can feel the nib scratching ever so slightly. Even so, it’s good quality, has no feathering or bleed-through to the other side of the paper, and is very thin. The big benefits of course are that it is lighter to carry, that it is cheap to buy, and that it allows me to fit more pages per section into my Exacompta wallets.

I’ll be videoing the project periodically on YouTube (on my writerlywitterings channel) and talking about it here, too, no doubt, as I discover more pitfalls and headaches.

For now I should just mention that the pen was given to me for this project by Visconti, but I was also enormously fortunate to have the backing of Diamine Inks and Atoma, the pad makers. I’m very grateful to all three companies.

For the other items, I can recommend SBS Consumables of Bexhill-on-Sea for the Exacompta files – I ordered from them and the files were with me in two days flat (whereas an order placed with Amazon, and which was supposed to arrive on 19th, now will apparently not get here until next week – that’s been cancelled). The paper can be found from a number of suppliers, where it’s usually listed as “Bank” paper. I think this is because it was originally developed for use in typists’ rooms where many carbon copies of letters and invoices were needed.

Wish me luck!

19 Responses to “The New Project”
  1. Connie Edwards says:

    Hi Mike I’ve been protesting in Flint MI with the Sioux who were at Standing Rock when the pipeline was pushed through their sacred burial ground. I’m to damned old to sleep on ground with no water or electricity. I’m to be featured in a tv documentary reading my water protector poetry. Jim says hi

    Sent from my iPhone



    • I cannot believe that the government is still desecrating sacred sites. I’d offer to take your place, Connie, but it’s a bit too far to trek. Please give my sincere support – and say hi to Jim! All best wishes.


  2. Ah, thanks for the update! Interestingly enough, I had to abandon my attempts at writing my soon-to-be-published novel longhand as well. I found the tangible connection of pen to paper enormously satisfying, and it did improve my creative process, but I lost something in process of typing the first draft from paper to computer. From a time management perspective, it just wasn’t working. So back to the drawing board for novel #3 I suppose. I need to find a way to combine these methods. Will be looking for your videos and blogs on your process with eagerness!


    • I’m glad it isn’t just me! I started two books last year with a view to writing longhand, but had to return to the keyboard. This time it’s going much better, and I’m hopeful! Happy writing, Stephanie.


  3. That paper sounds interesting, I was expecting you to say that you could only use one side with a fountain pen because of bleed through, but it’s good to hear that it doesn’t. I use a lot of loose leaf paper for note taking and there’s a certain appeal of the lower weight and less space. I’ll check it out. Thanks Michael 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, this paper is a lot better than a load of much heavier weight paper (like some of my Rhodia). It’s much more like Moleskine weight, but incomparably better in terms of the bleed through and feathering. But it does have a distinct feel with a fine nib. With the medium it’s a lot happier!


  4. Austin Hackney says:

    Stop faffing about with stationary and get a move on – I’ve read all the others! ;)

    Seriously, however, I’ve been writing the first draft of my current WIP with pen and paper. I use boring old refill pads (wide lined, single margin, 400 sheets). I write, add notes with colored pens, use highlighters, stick bits in, remove pages and sellotape them in elsewhere, and scribble all over them. The end result looks something like a Jackson Pollock painting in three dimensions!

    I did this with a previous work, too. The next step was to get all that “action work” onto the computer and re-written in a comprehensible form. To do that, I dictated it using Dragon Naturally Speaking, editing page-to-file-via-brain as I went. That produced a pretty clean first draft.

    The next draft was done in Scrivener and sent off to the editor. And you know what happens after that!

    The Atoma ring system is appealing, but I wonder if my style isn’t just a little too chaotic to merit the investment? Worth looking into, though.

    The great advantage of writing by hand is simply getting away from the wretched computer. On fair days, I can settle myself down under an oak with a flask of coffee and scribe away with no knocks at the door, no email pinging, no telephone buzzing, no dogs barking… bliss! In foul weather, there’s the cafe or the pub. :)


    • The great thing about Atoma is, you can write up the main text on A4, then add odds and sods with A5 or A6 and just insert them where you need them. You waste less paper, and can reorder and change scenes etc as you need. It is a bit different, but I find the Atoma systems fabulous just because, like Scrivener, they’re flexible. But it’s like all these things, we have to write using the tools that appeal most at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lindsey Russell says:

    Way too expensive my my purse. Cheap supermarket A4 lined pads and cheap biros for me I’m afraid. Write by night transfer to the computer by day. Print off every completed page, hole punch it and place in an A4 lever arch file.


    • Very sensible. It’s making use of the tools that work for you. I have used lever arch files, but it’s the same as using Word. The time it takes me to get to the relevant section drives me potty!


      • Lindsey Russell says:

        I have a separate ring binder with all relevant notes and these include a scene by scene break down of a couple of lines to a short paragraph (depending how long the scene is). Each scene is numbered in the MS (I form the chapters later) and numbered in the notes, plus which page(s) form that scene.


  6. Jack Eason says:

    Alright Michael, I’ve got to ask – why on Earth are you taking a step backwards? Several in fact? Are you feeling a little nostalgic for the days of pen and paper? Why not go the whole hog and take up the stylus and wax tablet??? ;)


  7. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    I do believe Michael is feeling a touch nostalgic. ;)


  8. davidprosser says:

    Have to keep my eyes peeled, I haven’t seen any 50 gsm paper on sale anywhere.


  9. Waaaaay back in the 1890’s, I mean 1980’s, after the chisel and stone were replaced by paper and pen, I liked the freedom I felt


  10. … and then she fell asleep in mid-sentence, again. Michael, it’s not you; it’s me. I have a terrible habit of trying to read and leave comments on my favorite blogs when I’m in bed, and, too tired to operate heavy machinery. My apologies.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: