Sunday 23 September 2018

In praise of phone writing

Yesterday, I had a difficult scene to write. It wasn't difficult because of the action - I could see that in my mind - but it was a difficult subject and I knew it would be very, very tricky to get the tone right. I sat down yesterday morning determined to do it... and proceeded to get no end of other scenes edited, paperwork updated, emails answered and games of spider solitaire played while I was putting it off.

By the evening I still hadn’t written it. I shut the computer down and went downstairs to do the washing up.

And then I wrote the scene.

On my phone.

The thing about using OneNote on my phone is that by its very nature, I know whatever I write won’t be a finished copy. My fingers are so clumsy that there are typos all over the place. The phone makes heroic and occasionally ludicrous attempts to guess what I mean, rendering the text even less readable, and I often can’t see the screen properly to know what I've done wrong anyway.

There is no tabulation, hit and miss punctuation, but the great thing is that none of it matters. I know I am going to email it to myself and correct it on the PC tomorrow.

Here’s a confession. I love editing. I have stupidly high standards. That quote about spending all morning moving a comma and spending all afternoon putting it back again could have been made for me. I adore going over and over a paragraph until it flows properly, getting the words exactly right. It’s just the writing in the first place that’s the tricky bit.

And that is the beauty of writing late at night on my phone. It satisfies my inner deadline (at least I've acheived something by bedtime). It means I can think about the current problem while I wash up - often the right word or phrase will come to me moments after I plunge my hands into the soapy water - knowing I can note it down straight away and email it.

Most importantly, because writing on my phone is so wildly inaccurate, I can gloriously ignore my inner editor. I know it’s going to be full of mistakes, sentences in the wrong place, characters with the wrong names, all dialogue and no action, or all stream of consciousness. None of that matters because it is impossible to do on a phone anyway. The transcending joy for me is that THE WORDS ARE WRITTEN. None of them may survive tomorrow’s edit in the particular way I've written them tonight, but they are there.

Trust me, it is so much easier to edit words in a manuscript when you actually have words to work on.