If I have an excellent idea for a story, would it be wiser to write on paper first or start directly on the computer? There are many different reasons for beginning stories on paper as well as on the computer and I'd like to know about the different advantages of each side.


7 Answers 7


I would recommend to just go with what you find most productive for yourself, but since you wanted a list:


  • Pros:
    • Can be used almost anywhere
    • Cheap, simple, reliable
    • Easy to arrange how you want it
    • No sudden data loss (unless actually lost)
    • Lets you draw a little sketch on the side
    • Won't die on you if it gets a bit wet
    • Probably wont get stolen
  • Cons:
    • Can cramp your hands faster
    • Harder to edit
    • Often doesn't leave room for inserting new things in the middle
    • Increases in bulk over time


  • Pros:
    • Insert, update, rearrange (or the dreaded delete) at any place in the document
    • Quick access to spell check, dictionary, thesaurus
    • When combined with something like Dropbox, all your internet-enabled devices can be used
      • Also works as a backup
    • Instant word count
    • Can format it right then and there (if you're into that)
    • Instantly sharable over the internet
    • When combined with a Version Control System (Git is a favourite of mine), it's easy to branch/fork/draft a story in multiple directions.
      • Also lets you share and edit with multiple authors easier
  • Cons:
    • Need to keep a device on you and charged up
    • Distractions said device can bring along with it
    • Can sometimes be a little too helpful (red squiggle invasion!)
    • Gives you too many formatting options to waste time on
    • When it's gone, it's gone! Backups might not always be there
    • Inadvisable to use in wet environments
    • Could get stolen
    • Microsoft Word is a terrible file format (don't use it!)

I myself prefer digital (Dropbox + iPhone!), but YMMV.

  • 1
    +1, but I would add that the ability to create instant duplicates (both for backup purposes and for branching of edits) is a key, and in my mind, the killer advantage of digital.
    – Panda
    Mar 23, 2011 at 22:36
  • Yes I'd forgotten that, a VCS can add all sorts of branching opportunities to digital writing. I'll add that one to the list.
    – Tim
    Mar 24, 2011 at 0:00
  • 1
    I tried iA Writer on my iPad and have never looked back. The advantages of being able to edit, copy, but mot importantly, to rearrange and to back up make paper nearly useless to me.
    – msanford
    Mar 24, 2011 at 20:03
  • If you're using git, then I guess you're keeping it to absolutely plain text rather than using a word processor, are you? Dec 10, 2016 at 11:58
  • @DavidAldridge "word processors" are needless garbage relics. They invented arbitrary lock-in file formats to keep you from using competing apps. There's plenty of modern apps & formats that use non-cryptic syntaxes (Markdown, amongst many others) that let you version control formatted text just fine.
    – Tim
    Dec 15, 2016 at 0:56

For me, the advantage of using paper is that I often make rash editing decisions early in the process, and lose things I may have wanted to hang on to.

Using some sort of version control might be an interesting solution to that particular problem though.

The other reason I use paper is that it forces me to go over the text at least once in order to find major problems while entering it into a computer. I suspect a more professional writer than I would be doing that a few times anyway, regardless of which medium he or she started on.


For writing fiction I always start on paper (with the unfortunate disadvantage of typing it later).

The reason for using paper is because the computer is a distraction and it's harder to become fully engrossed in the story I'm spinning. The temptation to jump on the internet is far too great. The importance of getting into a zone of creativity while writing far outweighs the negative of retyping later.


Depends on you. What are you more comfortable with writing? Which way you can avoid distractions better? Or which gives you enough distraction to get inspiration or overcome writing block if needed (if it helps)? I think you should try it out, if paper or computer, or a mix of both works best for you. Sorry, that I cannot give a simpler answer here.


I always write on the comuter because frankly, I can type about as fast as I think. The same cannot be said for writing with a pen.

If you can type, there's no reason to start on paper unless you're just jotting down random notes etc.. which are easier to scratch out or just doodle.


I like to write on paper first because it's more difficult to edit.

I write on paper when I'm away from my computer (and the most significant advantage of paper, of course, is that it's possible to bring it pretty much anywhere - I've even been known to write in the bath, on occassion, which I'd never dare do with a laptop, but I digress...).

In-between writing on the paper and getting a chance to type it up, I have a period of reflection, wherein it's not really practical to make any major changes to what I've written.

Sometimes I consider what I've written from memory, sometimes I have to re-read it, sometimes a little of both, but the end result is the same. By the time I come to type it up, I already have a fair idea what's wrong with it and where, and what I type up is almost always a significantly improved version.

Whether or not this approach will work for you, of course, is a different matter. As can be seen from the other answers, this is a very personal thing, and you'll find the normal workflow from one person to the next may differ drastically.


I think you can use paper just to point some ideas. I mean, PC is usefull today, especially in writing. Ex: you can fix something without effort.

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