Writing Tip #79

Write neatly. Last week, my 14-year-old son Griffin came to the rescue with a terrific writing tip. This week, my mind is on the copy-edited manuscript of Baby Grand, which was given to me on Thursday to go through, so as I sat down to write today’s tip, drawing a blank, I thought I’d solicit ideas from my two oldest children, who had the unfortunate position of sitting with me at the dining room table. Without missing a beat, my 13-year-old daughter Helena suggested I tell writers to try a new genre. Great idea, but I covered this already with Writing Tip #47. Griffin, with a mouthful of cereal, suggested I tell writers not to be afraid to cut or edit their manuscript. Already discussed in Writing Tip #24.

Then my teenagers lost interest in me and left the table before I could pester them any more. But, lo and behold, my 9-year-old son Jack came barreling down the stairs, so I asked him what he thought I should write for today’s tip. He thought a moment and said, “Make sure your writing is neat.” God, he is adorable!

But, you know, he’s right. This is a problem that I have. I’m one of those writers who likes to pull off the road to jot down ideas, and I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t been able to read whatever it was that I had jotted down in such a frenzy, because my handwriting was too sloppy. Several writers in the Long Island Writers Group lamented the same thing when we met this month. I can only imagine how difficult it is for all you novel writers who still draft on yellow legal pads or notepaper. I don’t know how you do it.

What I do now instead is type those ideas into my phone, instead of using pen and paper. I find I have a better chance of deciphering what it was I was trying to remember. But, yes, there are those times when my phone isn’t handy, so I go back to the tried-and-true pen and paper — or crayon and napkin, whatever’s available. But, as Jack said, that only works if you can remember to write neatly enough. So I try to.

Where do you jot down story ideas? Do you use pen and paper or an electronic device?


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