Writing 1st draft in Scrivener or notebook?

I’ve had much better luck composing first draft in longhand, using a fountain pen than in the computer. In the past I’ve tried keyboards. How do you work, and do you think composing first draft using a keyboard can be successful?

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It’s the only way to decipher what I wrote. So, yes.


Since you ask, as far as I am concerned, writing (a first draft, or whatever) solely on a computer is unthinkable.
…Just as much as writing (a first draft, or whatever) solely longhand would be quite a puzzle. (I can do it for a short story, but anything with the complexity of a novel is a no go.)

The way I go about it, I outline and develop my ideas using Scrivener, but when it comes to making sense of a chapter (the flow of it - the transitions from an idea to another mostly), there is no question in my mind that I get far better results doing it longhand.

As a matter of fact, my whole process is based on a back and forth between computer and longhand.


My take on things is that if you’re stuck, try something else. Some people love writing on keyboards, some people hate them. I just finished something for which I:

  • created a hand drawn concept map in Goodnotes on my iPad,
  • started the first draft in Scrivener on my computer,
  • got stuck, drew a sketch of the thing I was stuck on, wrote text about that sketch
  • then went back to Scrivener
  • then got stuck again and doodled around another sketch
  • and then finally finished the draft in Scrivener,
  • before using pen on paper to markup the second draft
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I’m glad I asked the question. I don’t know if I can make that process work, but it sounds very interesting. thanks.

Took me a good while to make it a seamless process…

  • Numbered paragraphs. (So that I have a correspondence between the editor and my printout. – So that I don’t waste time searching for a specific spot.)
  • Label color coding for status of my chapters. (So that, among other things, I know what is currently being “processed” away from Scrivener – and why.)
  • The proper print method. Mostly for partial prints. Whenever I don’t print the full chapter (while preserving the paragraphs’ numbering).
    Etc etc.

(Who knows ? I might one day make an elaborate post about it all.)

We did a webinar with Mary Adkins back in February and she talked about writing her first drafts out longhand and then bringing them into Scrivener later. The replay is unfortunately no longer available, but longhand, especially for early drafts, is certainly a respected method. Do what works for you!


Well, that’s indeed pretty unfortunate (you got me interested).
Can it be watched or read elsewhere ?

I believe the replays of our webinars are only available for about 30 days after the live session. The ones that are available can be found here.

For me, it depends on what I’m working on. For two novels, I started the first draft with a notebook and fountain pens while I was trying to figure out the key characters and what each project was about.

Admittedly, neither of those projects has been published. One was the first novel I ever attempted, which became the proverbial “desk drawer project.” However, it served its purpose in teaching me a lot about how I write and why.

The second fizzled on me when the pandemic took reality into a place that made my attempts at being provocative and pushing the envelope look really absurd and childish. I’m still trying to decide if it can be saved.

But, I learned from both that writing by hand helps shut up my internal critic, who wants to focus on things like polishing each sentence when I’m still trying to figure out who my characters are and what I’m actually writing about. (I’m a pantser, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

For shorter works where I don’t need to be as emotionally empathetic with my characters, I can often rough out a first draft on my computer. That’s particularly true if it’s a writing assignment for a writing class or for submission to a themed anthology.

But if I write the first draft on the computer, then I’ll print a draft and edit by hand.

I recently acquired an ergonomic, mechanical keyboard. I haven’t tested it for my actual writing yet, but I can already tell that my typing speed has improved thanks to its keyboard design.

Writing anything using a keyboard is successul for me as I have fine motor control issues which result in handwriting that is illegible and not just for readers but for me. A Jackson Pollock drip painting is more legible. I never write anything. Even my weekly shopping list is typed (albeit into Apple Numbers)! Because not only do I have dyslexia — the fine motor control is a facet of that — but also dyscalculia which means I regularly mix up digits. If I can get away without having to transcribe numbers I will. And these days I make much use of the OCR features in macOS, iOS, and iPadOS to get around from copy-typing quotes from books or journal papers.

I will never ever revert to using pen and paper — other than to put a tickmark on my repeat prescription coupons.

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I am a bad typist and retired physician so longhand and solely typing were out. I dictated using dragon and finished 140000 words in 60 days working straight. I spent over a year thinking about it adhead of time building my sci-fi world first rewrite underway and using reg ex search lists for errors or words like very , actually, start to etc. get errors when dictate or develop stock patterns but easier to see once down. Each scene take baseline snapshot the ones as edit. Used scapple to keep character and scene details consistent in story

I bought Dragon Dictate and a high quality microphone. I had high hopes for it. But the number of typos was disappointing. How was your experience with accuracy?

Why? They should all be kept as a valuable resource.

They’re live webinars, so they’re not intended to be available long-term; they’re designed for live participation with the replays made available for re-watching or anyone who missed the live session. We do a week of webinars every month (about 5-10 webinars each month, I believe), so when the new webinars start, the last set of webinars get pulled. If you’re interested in catching them, I’d make sure you’re on our email list and/or following on Instagram so you don’t miss the webinar announcements.

The accuracy was good but you have to actively correct it as well. I created list of sound alike words (four vs for} grey vs gray, etc as went. Remember for first draft will go thru again and modify. So some errors not a big deal, rewording as rewrite with typing not dragon to correct. Dragon to get draft down and allow me to flow with ideas. Much easier to dictate two to three thousand words in 2 hours or so then struggle with typing. Finding reg ex searches allow me to find problem words, use this formula to create lists that can modify easily.
as long as keep this form can exchange words between vertical iines and create multiword searches with ease.
this one finds extra spaces left behind by edits

Are you able to transfer notes from Goodnotes to Scrivener? Looks like they have drag and drop. But what do the notes look like in Scrivener? An Outline?

Thank you for the explanation. Call me obtuse but I can’t fathom why past webinars can’t be archived for more than a month. Such a valuable resource.

I have switched my email so that I will get updates from L&L and be able to view webinars of interest.

I would second keeping the webinars longer as long as on current version or do a you tube channel like pro writing aid and users can decide which to watch


Where can I learn about the Webinars?