Where the Pen Meets Paper

Sorry, everyone, I’m not feeling terribly well. So this is a blast-from-the-past, but you’ve likely never seen it before. It was written 3-4 years ago for another blog, not my personal one. 

A Blog, longhand.

I usually compose on the computer. Normally, looking at my writing blog, you all see a rough draft, essentially. I type it, scan it, and press publish. Here on ASM, you see a slightly more worked draft, but still not rewritten. I type into the WordPress box, and you get my train of thought, derailments and all. Rarely, you get one of what I consider my scholarly attempts, where I compose in a wordprocessor, research, add either citations or links, go over for internal consistency and grammar checks, and then post. Just what every English comp. student is taught to do, and so few people actually adhere to.

This post is something different. I don’t have access to a computer (I’m in class. Composition class, as a point of fact.) so I am writing longhand. I find when I compose in one medium and transcribe to another I add, delete, and generally change the text. When I take the time to compose outside the blog, those posts, to me looking back at them, look very different than the impromptu posts. I suspect by the time this particular text makes it to your computer screen, it will have been substantively altered.

When you write, capturing the urgency of the moment, your own voice and style, happens in the first contact of pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and with each re-working of the text, some of that is polished away. Yes, taking the rough edges off is a good thing. Re-organizing your thoughts may make an essay more readable. Finding internal inconsistencies will improve your story. However, taking it too far will polish away what is uniquely you, and leave behind something so bland your reader will walk away untouched by your emotions.

For that is the point, is it not? To convey to the reader some sort of reaction. In a story, to evoke a connection, some sense of your character’s humanity that reaches out from the page and whispers to them. In an essay, to create a philosophical thought. Not a knee-jerk sense of repulsion, although that can be a powerful tool if paired with some explanation of your reasons behind making your readers angry. Whatever you write, it is you, and however you draft your writing, be it paper, quill pen, or keyboard, let some of that which is essentially you, remain in the completed work. It will be richer and more powerful for it.

Since this is short, and you may want to read more… Or to see how I’ve handled some very emotional topics, check out this collection of space opera stories. (I really suck at self promotion, sorry.)

warp resonance cover

Five Space Opera tales, short stories and novellas with a foreward written by Peter Grant.

Tamashira has a dilemma. Stay with the ship and crew she knows, or risk being stranded on an unknown planet forever when the warp node goes out of resonance. Really, it’s not a hard decision to make. But then a girl is kidnapped and she must face her past or have a death on her conscience. Lira is a space scout. Like the mountain men of old Earth, she explores and blazes trails. But her duty has taken her to a very settled planet, to retrieve a young woman, and it’s no milk run.

Lissa looks to the stars, excited to leap off the Earth and into her destiny. But first, there is someone she has to see one more time.

A lonely young woman on a faraway planet tends her family and wishes she had someone to talk to, other than family. High above in a courier ship, a ship’s officer is about to learn how content she really is, even if she doesn’t feel that way…

Susan is not afraid of bugs. But when she makes a second contact with aliens, that lack of xenophobia might not be enough to keep her alive. The cat is, she learns, sometimes smarter than the human.

From the foreword by Peter Grant: “There is occasionally – all too rarely – a moment that comes when reading something new, a sort of mental frisson, when one realizes that one’s reading something special. This isn’t just another run-of-the-mill book or story, but something that is reaching out of the page and grabbing one by the throat and dragging one into its world and storyline, absorbing, entertaining, sometimes even enthralling. That’s what happened to me the first time I read Cedar Sanderson’s work. It was her novel, “Vulcan’s Kittens”, and I’ve never looked back from there. She’s one of the few authors whose work I’ll buy sight unseen, knowing that it’ll intrigue and challenge me and make me think.”
Twisted Mindflow Cover
Or if you haven’t already picked up a copy, there’s a free ebook at my website, Twisted Mindflow. It’s a sampler of seventeen short stories (some of them very short).



  1. Yep. That first back brain to paper, or electrons, is often the best. Both when the words flow effortlessly, but even the like-pulling-teeth writing days produce my best writing.

    1. i dunno, some of my old notes are… in need of editing.

      But then i have stuff dating back to high school. They used to tell us to get composition books and then never get us to use them….

  2. Even the mind-to-fingers process loses something for me. What I really need is mind-to-paper (or sometimes mind-to-video, I’m seeing the scene so vividly).

    Most of my “polishing” seems to be trying to get closer to the original scene in the mind.

      1. Ack! You weren’t supposed to see that!

        (turns red and dies of shame)

        1. Now, how could you imply that I ever have such thoughts that the world should not see? (I’ll wait while you wipe up the refreshments…)

          I should have added “with remote control…”.

  3. I was wondering if the editing process is why humour doesn’t often work on the printed page. Because it’s gone through so many massages that the jokes all ‘make sense’, but are no longer funny. Everyone can understand the joke, everyone can understand what was supposed to be funny, but hardly anybody laughs.

    The handwriting to typing process is why I love computers so much, when I was writing by hand and then rewriting it by putting it in the computer (or just doing a good copy for school) all of the life and bounce of the words would be gone by the time the second copy was done. Moving to computer for both allowed me to preserve the bounce and just clean up the mistakes without cleaning up the life. Like the difference between an office that is clean and an antiseptic office which gives you the feeling that no one could ever work there. Or even sit there for five minutes without getting the creepy-crawlies.

    Art is similar in that many times the sketch has way more life than the finished product but is not structured enough to be professional and the trick is how to preserve that life and that bounce while making it look professional. As in all things, I do it the hard way by scanning and fixing the sketch (in terms of proportion and evenness) in hopes of preserving the life and gaining the professionalism. The problem is that fixing the sketch takes more time (sometimes much more) than just redrawing the sketch would have taken. But I’d rather have the bounce than have it easy.

    ‘Cause I’m stupid. And Irish. Which is pretty much the same thing (my favourite quote ever is from an Irish Boxer named Billy Conn who had dominated Joe Louis for most of their fight and was on his way to winning the championship when he decided that he didn’t want to win on points, he wanted to knock Joe Louis out. Billy opened up and started throwing and Joe Louis just saw an opportunity and stepped in and knocked out Billy Conn, retaining the title. After the fight reporters basically asked Billy how he could do something that was so stupid and Billy said; ‘What’s the use of being Irish if you can’t be thick?’. The first time I heard that story I laughed but I also nodded because part of the joy of living, and being Irish, is being unwise because where’s the fun in not faceplanting from time to time? You might have to be Irish to get it.)

    1. Being half-Irish (thereabouts, converging lines), I do get that. Fortunately, the majority of my faceplants have been metaphoric ones, so I don’t have the stereotypical Irish nose…

    2. “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
      For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

      ― G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

    3. Know that feeling. Best joke in the my first outing almost disappeared in the second draft. If my co-author hadn’t taken umbrage at my leaving out *her favorite character’s* best line…

  4. The worst is when you’ve written something brilliant and impassioned and the computer crashes, and by the time you get back to re-create the lost work, the magic is gone. In part, because you were thinking on the fly (Pantsing) and when you go to re-write, you already know the ending.

    1. This was part of what kept me from writing for a long time – if I told myself the story, all the magic was gone when I was trying to write it.

      1. That’s why I don’t outline except in the most sketchy half a page of bullet points, and tell myself it’s just suggestions, including the cool HEA.

        1. I get you. Although I have the opposite problem – I’ll have a rush of scenes, far too much to write out completely in one session. I’ve learned that I have to get them down, now, in at least a vague form, or they’ll disappear forever. With something on the page, I can recall them, along with the feeling, later.

          That’s longer works, of course. The shorts that I’m doing are mostly getting drafted without any preparation whatsoever. Which means later going back and filling in where I’ve put in {main guy name} or {village} or {season}…

          But my method of going at the novels would almost certainly appall a “pantser” – I’d even describe it as “a**l” myself. It is, so far, working, though.

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