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Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

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November 5, 2003 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I'm a college student wasting all my time by trying to write a novel instead of studying. Which do you prefer—a word processor, or the laborious process of hand-writing everything? Typing can keep up with my scattered thinking, but handwriting seems much more personal and creative.

Dear Laurel,
You use both means, if you're smart. A computer is a fabulous tool for pouring your thoughts onto the page, moving stuff around, wrestling a first draft into shape, and then you print it out in triple-spaced typescript form, which lets you take up the stuff line by line and word for word, and apply your ear to the writing. You will see all sorts of things on paper that you couldn't see on the screen. Then you type your pencil corrections onto the screen file and this will stimulate further revisions. And you work on-screen for awhile and then you print it out again. You go back and forth. Seeing your novel in these two modes, going back and forth, is stimulating to the rewriting process, and that's where the good things happen, my dear. Some of those dear old Beat poets believed in the "First thought, best thought" theory and you only need to read their Collected Works to see what a dopy idea it is 95% of the time. Enjoy your novel writing and good luck to you.

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