Tag Archives: outline

Fountain Pens For Writing

Prera Fountain Pen and Ink
Pen and paper is often overlooked as a method of communication. Most prefer to keyboard their written correspondence, then send it via social media, a text, or email. A pen and ink is out-dated and unneeded.

Young students do not learn to read or write cursive handwriting and make due with poor penmanship if they use paper at all. When a young student needs to learn a signature, he is often sent to an art class where the instructor teaches how to develop one.

Among adults, lack of using pens has stunted their penmanship skills. Many have forgotten how to write except for the most rudimentary of script. Cursive handwriting has become a lost art. Many people are at a loss at how it happened and wonder how they could return to having decent handwriting again.

I found myself numbered among these adults several years ago. I used my computer keyboard for most of my writing needs and seldom thought to use a pen and paper. As I returned to writing novels, I discovered that something was missing in my process. I did not retain my ideas and I had trouble brainstorming.

One day, I decided to use a workbook to help plot out book two of a trilogy. The author recommended getting a paper notebook and writing all the exercises by hand instead of using a keyboard. His method asked questions about the characters and I wrote a certain amount each day for a month. I bought my first composition book and pulled out a ballpoint and got to work. At first, the writer’s block was still with me. Within a week I realized that ideas for my book were coming quickly. When I looked back over what I had written, I could remember the details better than when I was writing on my computer. Within that month, the plot for my new novel sprang into being. I became hooked on using paper.

At that time, my handwriting was horrible. I could print, but my cursive had eroded to near unreadability. The long periods of time that I was brainstorming ideas were hard on my hand and I experienced finger cramping. I did not want to give up this new method of brainstorming on paper since it worked for me. Instead I began to explore pen options. That is when I discovered fountain pens.

Why Choose a Fountain Pen?

There are many benefits to writing with a fountain pen over a ballpoint. In writing with a ballpoint, you must exert constant pressure to the page and hold the pen at a low angle. This is what creates the hand cramping when you write for a long period of time. With a fountain pen, you use a more natural writing angle, around 45 degrees when you write. This wider angle is easier on your wrist. The fountain pen flows across the page with little resistance, no pressure needed to put ink on the page. This allows you to write for longer periods of time without cramping your hands. There are a variety of nibs to choose from to give more character to your handwriting.

Plain – This is most basic shape of a fountain pen nib. It gives a clean line in your choice of width, from very fine, fine, medium, broad, and double broad. Most people find that fine to medium will work best as a daily writer.

Italic – This is also known as a stub nib. The nib is a flat plain where it meets the page and it allows the writer to write thin and thick lines as he writes. It adds character to your handwriting with a little extra practice.

Flex – These are nibs allow their tines to widen when a small amount of pressure is applied to the nib. As the writer presses, a much wider line results.

Ink Me, Baby

Besides choosing a nib, there are around 600 different inks to choose from on the market. Some inks have unique colors, others shade between two or three colors, still others have a special shimmer that is known as “sheen”. Some inks are permanent and will last for hundreds of years without fading, others last in the sun for only a few weeks. There are even “invisible” inks that you need a UV light to see on the page. All the different brands of ink and their assortment of hues allows a writer to develop a certain look to their writing. It can make your notes distinctive unto themselves.

For me, discovering the fountain pen has aided my skills as a writer. I now create all my brainstorming notes, character sketches, and plot outlines on paper with a fountain pen. What I write never moves on the page, as it would on my computer screen, and it gives my ideas a more solid presence in my mind. For the actual writing of the drafts and editing, I move to the computer, but with far better results than I had in the past. One extra benefit to this new method is that my handwriting skills have returned with practice. I can write legible cursive and my printing is small and neat. Due to this, I’ve been gradually moving to smaller nib sizes so I can fill my pages with more notes.

Writing with a fountain pen is sheer joy. If you have not tried it for yourself, I recommending buying an inexpensive starter fountain pen. See how it might improve your own writing process.

Creating the Outline of a Novel: From Notebook to Scrivener

A novel always starts out in the back of my mind as a nebulous zygote. A character or a single scene is the seed from which a beautiful child (novel) will be born. It grows there in my mind without my noticing it until one day it solidifies. I say to myself, “Ah ha! There is a story there to write.” It is time for the birthing process to begin. For some people, this means “pantsing” a rough draft without any thought beyond the original seed. For me, I prefer the outline process to give myself a solid foundation with which to build on.

I like to begin the outline process with pen and paper or in Word on my desktop. The pen and composition books are easier to take with me and give an extra layer of creative play that I’ve come to value. There is something about the feel of paper and a pen in your hand that is comforting. It slows down the process enough to allow you to think the details through. I always use a pen, not a pencil. I do not want to be able to easily erase what I’ve written. This is not a time for editing, but for allowing unhindered expression to come forward. I can not do this on a computer due to my fast typing speed. Lately, I’ve been favoring the notebook method over using Word on the computer to outline.

When starting a notebook, I will put the name of the novel at the top, the year I started working on it, and what volume this notebook is. Sometimes there is only one volume, sometimes there are more. For my first novel, I barely had any notes at all. Most of my ideas were in my head alone. Now I find that there is more value in putting the ideas down on paper as best I can. A novel can stretch out over a few years time in the the writing of it. That is a long time to remember tiny details.

My novel’s beginnings are a scrawl of different things. Mind maps where a central character or scene is at the center and I ask myself “what if” questions and then write down ideas as they come no matter how strange around the central idea. Most of these “what if” scenarios are cast off as illogical or too far fetched. Ideas that I like, I highlight, but otherwise simply leave them in the notebook. I sometimes will write down narratives of scenes that have come to me. I don’t go into details, that will come later with the writing of the novel itself, but I try and capture the essence of what is percolating in my subconscious.

I start doing “interviews” of the main characters as they come to me. It is a method that I learned in a creative writing class last year. I make a note of the character’s physical features and find an actor that he can be loosely based on. I begin to formulate the personalties and emotional and intellectual goals and ideals of each character. I write down phrases that would be common to them alone, gestures and other habits that help make the character his own person.

Since I write science fiction and fantasy novels, I find it helpful to rough out a map of the land I’m writing about. Nothing of great detail, enough so that I know where everything is located and can have a good idea as to how long travel time is between the different locations in the story. If I decide that a map will be useful to the readers later, I either will create a better one myself or hire an artist to draw one for the book.

At this point, I open up a file in Scrivener and start to set up the project. In the research area, I create files for the character sketches, the location descriptions and decide on keywords to represent each character, location and special object. This helps me to track information during the revision phase of writing. I also like to print out this information to fit into my writing filofax journal so that I can take my research information with me when I write outside my home. I consider the Scrivener files to be the master copies and my filofax the copy. When I update the information, I update Scrivener first and then print out a new page for the filofax. I like to use the filofax since I don’t have to worry about electricity or waiting for the information to load up in a computer. What I need is all there organized in my writing journal without distraction of the Internet.

Once the research information is in Scrivener, I start an “outline” file in the research area. I write a short paragraph of each scene of the novel from beginning to end based on the highlighted areas of my mind maps from the notebooks and the short scenes that I’ve already written down on paper. The master outline is one file in the research area of Scrivener and a copy is printed for my filofax writing journal. At this point I’ve closed my paper composition notebooks and am working completely in Scrivener.

The final step, before I begin drafting, is to take each outline paragraph and create a separate file for it in the drafting area. I will give the scene a title, write a short synopsis of it in the scrivener card and then paste the entire description paragraph into the document notes section of the inspector. I also label and put in the status of the newly created file.

Every writer uses a different method to create their novels, this is the way I cobble together mine. I consider Scrivener and my filofax writing journal to be the key elements of the system. Scrivener organizes my research and novel information and the filofax is its backup shadow that comes with me everywhere. Together, they form the backbone of my creative process and help to make writing my novels easier.