the penman shipwreck

For any of you living in a cave, or who have been ignoring much of what I say on my blog, here’s a little reminder. The First Evah Penman Shipwreck is about to launch ! In this contest, we’re stepping away from our computers and writing a novel by hand, the old fashioned way, like God and Ernest Hemingway intended. From January 1st to January 31st, we’re writing our novels down on paper using pens (or pencils, if you’re an eraser freak). Then, at the end of the month, we’re mailing our notebooks / papers / napkins to Lori – who is judging this contest – and she’ll determine the winner.

There’s still time, if you want to sign up. Run over to the Penman Shipwreck section of Castle Debacle, read up on it real quick (I used small words) and email one of us. You’ll have the time of your life, I swear.

Why on Earth would someone be so silly as to write with Pen and Paper, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you why.


Because it’s a natural method of writing. Because it’s how all the greats did it. Because you haven’t done it in years and years and you need to get back to the roots of writing and become one with the ghosts of the masters. I’ll tell you why I’m doing it. It could get sappy, so skip to the end if you don’t care.

Not long ago, Pete was talking about handwriting, and his growing disdain for writing solely on the computer. He was waxing philosophic about the tactile process of writing by hand, how he’d taught himself stamina and technique, and improved over the months and years. His talk made me long for the days when that was all I had – pen and paper – having come upon computers in my early 30’s. I remembered long, amazing summer nights sitting in bed with a small lamp illuminating my notebook, my hand cramping up holding that pen so tightly because I was too excited about the words flowing out to stop and go to bed. The smell of ink penetrating my nostrils, the sound of the pen moving over the paper, even the weight and feel of that notebook in my hands.

See, I’d stopped writing by hand long ago, when I discovered the joys of my own PC and began writing fanfiction, then left that and started writing my own work. Years after that, I had elbow surgery and couldn’t really hold a pen for longer than a few minutes. But that’s old news, I’ve mentioned it before and how the PT told me there was no reason why I couldn’t retrain myself and use pens again with comfort.

Which is why I’m gonna go for it. I purchased a very nice pen that’s easy on the hand, found some web sites that help teach you better handwriting and techniques to cure bad habits. I’m giddy with the thought of writing my new novel Ether in this big 5-subject notebook. Sure, I’m going to be transcribing it into the computer as I go, since you do need breaks during handwriting. But I feel like a geek at a Star Trek convention!  Shopping for Pens was a joy. And notebooks – I’m going joyfully nuts over notebooks.

There’s something primal about a leather-bound notebook, and writing in it. Remember that one Indiana Jones with his dad? Remember that old journal he had, with all the maps and notes and researched information in it? I couldn’t take my eyes off that thing. Every time one of them whipped that puppy out I was enthralled. The idea of carrying around a leather bound journal with notes and ideas and quickly jotted-down thoughts gave me happy-shivers !

Cath once made me two notebooks, they’re delightful. And I’ve recently discovered the plethora of leather bound notebooks and journals that Barnes & Noble sells. I’m not sure I can describe it, really, but something about sitting outdoors with a journal and a pen, and writing words in a novel, or notes and ideas that just popped into my head – something about that makes me feel closer to those greats. Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Clements, the poets like Keats and Shelley, and just about every writer you can think of who penned their novels literally using pens. It’s a tactile thing. Almost a reverence, if you will.

I’m aware how different it will be, writing by hand versus writing by computer. I’ll be slower, perhaps somewhat frustrated in sections, angry at my penmanship early on, and disgusted at the lack of spell check or the delete button. But I’m also confident this will give me a new insight into writing, make my brain work a bit differently, cause me to be more considerate of words used and give me time to really contemplate what’s ahead.

I’ll have to stop frequently to rub Aspircream into my hand, and work out any kinks. I’m confident, also, that I will lose the word count contest, probably to Pete, but that doesn’t matter. What matters to me is relearning how to write by hand. Regaining a confidence in using a pen, and losing my fear of long sessions with a notebook and a dictionary.

This is one of my Mount Everests, and I’m excited to be starting the climb soon. I’m excited to be carrying around a big 5-subject notebook, and my new pen in its lovely green case. I’m excited about leather journals and notes I can jot down, with little maps and things no one else will have to see (until I’m famous and they’re published as a collection of works by the Great Author). I’m excited about what this will teach me, how it will change my ways of thinking and writing. And I’m excited that it has inspired others.

I know Ed isn’t joining the competition this time around, sadly, but I’ve heard him say he’s inspired to return to Journaling again. I wish Mary could play, but she’s busy prepping some queries and working hard to finish a novel – we’ll get her next time. I’ve heard many rumblings and wistful memories spoken of a desire to return to handwriting, and I’m sure that’s making Pete smile really wide. I am too.

I’m so excited, I spent the better part of yesterday writing Pete a handwritten letter, and will hopefully conclude that today and get it mailed to him.

The Penman Shipwreck – a return to innocence, a nod to the masters, and a freakin’ good time to be had by all.

8 thoughts on “the penman shipwreck

  1. “But I wasn’t being disdainful,” says me as I read. And then I think. “Are we being honest? No. I was being disdainful.” Alas.

    I AM smiling widely. I cannot WAIT. I’m giddy with anticipation and counting down the days, and it’s not to Christmas this year, but to January 1st, when I start handwriting for one month and do nothing else. I have not had the courage to entirely abandon the computer and write only by hand, believing that my word count and productivity will suffer. I have an idea that it will improve: that I will write more consistently and more steadily by hand than by computer, and that will leave me with a larger overall result. And yet, my courage fails. Penman Shipwreck is an excuse to be brave for a month.

    I am giddy. Giddygiddygiddy. And reading this article talking all about the love of writing by hand just makes me happy. No, happier than that. No, happier. Keep going.

  2. I will not be an official participant, but I will be doing the “play at home” version. I intend to try and write as much by hand and pen as I can. I will scribble in my notebook daily. And of course I shall be cheer you all onward!

  3. *cracks knuckles*

    ….*is disqualified because he just CRACKED THE KNUCKLES ON HIS WRITING HAND*

    *is very stupid*


    You two act like you aren’t going to write me into an early grave. Fat chance. You’ll both outpace me by miles.

    I’m thinking about trying something really wild with the New Novel I start early on in the Shipwreck. I’m thinking about….about….I can say this….about…..”outlining”

    Don’t. Just don’t look at me like that. I hate it when you judge me….

  4. Under der table, ‘e says! Under der table! Ha ha! Oi, listen, oi could outwroite Ed wif two hands behind me back, s’truth!

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