5

I am a happy user of an Underwood 5, an old typewriter from the beginning of the XX century. I use it to type letters, short stories, greeting cards, and labels.

I am now planning to try and type the next Nanowrimo.

On a computer I can blob out 2000 words a day in 90 minutes. It is also easy to keep track of progress, edit and copy-paste sections around.

My worry is that the typewriter, besides being inherently slower than a computer keyboard, will have an added management overhead. Nanowrimo amplifies this issue by adding a time constraint.

I am looking for an efficient way, or some non-digital tools to manage writing a 60,000+ words novel on a typewriter while keeping the writing ordered.

For instance: I thought of having a printed Excel table on the side, where I plan the novel in advance, and write down the page numbers as I write. It sounds like a nightmare if I retrospectively insert a chapter somewhere.

To give an idea of the specific scenarios that I am worrying about:

  • I need to add some foreshadowing before X happens: where is the page where X happen?

  • Retrospectively inserting a chapter somewhere.

  • I don't like this character name anymore, let me change it.

4

Jack Kerouac's On the Road was famously typed in one long paragraph on a single 120ft scroll of paper, over 3 week coffee and Benzedrine bender. The story isn't entirely true – it had been previously worked out in drafts, and the whole thing was edited after-the-fact, but there really is a long (taped) scroll of paper, with pencil notes and strikethroughs. The original ending went "missing", but the stream-of-conscious, breathless language captures that manic high, and it arguably makes the novel good.

My one attempt at Nanowrimo made me think of Truman Capote's critique of Kerouac's gimmick: "That's not writing, that's typing."

I suggest that you write it all in one string of conscious paragraph without edits (maybe some pencil scratches) on a single scroll of paper – what is the point of editing on an Underwood when it will have to be transferred into digital form at some point anyway? Save edits for the rewrite.

Nanowrimo isn't for me (I'll stick with endless methodic plotting), but seems to me the goal of a 'wrimo is to pants like your pants are on fire without stopping or looking back or worrying about mistakes. Doing it all on such a classic device, is like a road trip in a classic car. Do it for the love of the road, and without concern for hybridized modern conveniences – pen and paper to "edit", lots of coffee and natural light (hold the speed, none of the Beats came to a good end).

Commit to the authentic meta experience and see how it changes your language patterns and flow, it will make a better bragging rights when the book is done.

To give an idea of the specific scenarios that I am worrying about:

  • I need to add some foreshadowing before X happens: where is the page where X happen?
  • Retrospectively inserting a chapter somewhere.
  • I don't like this character name anymore, let me change it.
  • Pen and paper, and the genius of chance.
  • scissors and tape (AKA the Kerouac Method) haha, no. Really just throw that piece of paper in the trash. Edit is complete.
  • So what? People change their names (or they remember wrong). Virginia Woolf changed Orlando's sex for no reason and then kept going. I'm not saying it makes you an instant genius, but….
2

How about a three ring binder?

It would make it easy to insert a new chapter, although it won't solve the issue of needing to make edits. Perhaps you can have list of notes at the beginning for keeping track of things like changing a characters name? You can then refer to that list of things that need to be changed when editing (after NaNoWriMo).

And I suppose if you need to add something into the middle of a page, you could cut it in half to insert a new page between them. Smaller sections would likely needed to be glued to a new piece of paper.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.