My Novel Approach to Novel Writing

At least it’s novel to me…

Anyway, these kinds of posts are always a bit self indulgent, but if you’re like me (and god help you if you are), you too like to know how the sausage is made when it comes to an author’s creative process.

I’m both old and old school when it comes to writing. First drafts are were always done with pen and paper.

Mostly because I love the physical act of writing, the feel of pen in hand, the feel of ink flowing on the paper.

But also because if I try to write the first draft on the computer I never make it out of the first chapter seeing that I’m one of those edit-as-you-go guys. I have too many folders with forgotten novels with unfinished first drafts that I attempted to write on the computer.

Writing the first draft by hand allows for limited editing — a line through here, a line through there maybe — and because of this, I enjoy a more immersive, free flowing writing experience…

One that actually results in finished novels.

How ’bout that?

But there is a catch.

My handwriting is garbage.

Which means draft two is pure and absolute torture when it comes to typing it up into the computer. Oftentimes it takes longer to type up the second draft than it did writing out the first.

Which brings me to my novel approach to first drafts, an approach that saves me months in novel development…

The iPad.

And the Nebo app.

Using this new technology (new to me; never been an Apple guy) I can still write out my first drafts longhand, but with the Nebo app, it automatically converts it to digital text.

It’s amazing.

The notebook contains a print copy of the screenplay (which I use as an outline for my novel). The cool sculpture/now paper weight is courtesy of my highly creative daughter. The iPad Pro 12 with Apple Pen attached shows the chapters of my latest WIP in the Nebo app.
A screenshot of the chapters in Nebo. One slight downside is that you can’t arrange the files (at least I haven’t been able to figure it out if you can) so they’re stored as they are created.
If you look at the top of the first paragraph (click on the image to enlarge), you’ll kind of see how it shows a highlight of my writing as converted text. It’s unbelievable in how well the app understanding my crappy handwriting, but if it doesn’t convert a word correctly, you can catch it in the highlight and go back and write it more clearly.

Of course you don’t get the same feel writing on the iPad as you do with pen and paper. The iPad screen is a bit slick so it takes some getting used to. I initially put a screen protector on it but that made it even slicker and it also screwed up the functions in Nebo to add and delete stuff.

The Apple Pen feels good in hand and works like a charm with zero lag between it and the tablet.

There’s another tablet I’m interested in checking out that is designed specifically for writing. It’s called reMarkable and the developers claim it will give you the feel of writing on paper. Sounds awesome. The best selling point to me for it is that it is a heck of a lot cheaper than the iPad Pro 12.

So, yeah… when it comes to drafting novels, that’s how I now roll.

Oh, and if you haven’t guessed by now, I’ll be announcing my latest novel soon…

Like tomorrow. 🙂


6 thoughts on “My Novel Approach to Novel Writing”

  1. I used to write the first draft longhand too, and I also love the physical act of writing (blue ink) but these days I write straight onto the computer. Saves me typing out the second draft and I’m very happy to sit editing, shaping and polishing for as long as it takes. Thanks for the post.

    • I wish I had your discipline and patience, PR. Though even if I had, I wonder if I would give up the pen. Seems an integral part of the process for me…or at least my temperament makes it seems so. 🙂

  2. Very interesting peek behind the scenes, Kurt. I can’t wait to read the new work. Am I on the launch team so I can review it for you?

    • No team would be complete without you, buddy. As of now, we’re an undefeatable team of two. 🙂

      For tomorrow’s post, I was planning on asking if anyone would be interested in the beta reader thing to see if I could get some feedback prior to release. We’ll see how it goes. Thank you, Gina!

  3. Your post joined up with a comment in a DailyOM course I am doing that prompted me to consider using handwriting again. My wife has been saying for years that I should use handwriting for my journals instead of typing. After reading your post I took the hint from the universe and spent most of the day looking at Nebo (what a great app it is, thank you for the introduction) and then on to GoodNotes and Notability trying to work out which one to use. But when it came to writing my journal this morning I sat at my desk with my iPad and Scrivener and cranked out my 750 words on the keyboard. You said you were old school but I learnt to type in 1962 and have been in computer related jobs ever since so keyboards feel like home to me. However you have given me the encouragement to work at learning to handwrite again.

    • I really appreciate you sharing this with us, Stace. It’s so interesting how our personal evolution never ends…until we do. But then again who know if that’s even the end of it. Write on, my friend.


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