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By any means necessary, by Donald Hounam

It’s about weight.

I used to stumble around west London with a 17-inch Mac laptop (courtesy of the day job), which was fabulous in every respect except one: it weighed more than Donald Trump’s ego. After a while I realised it was doing my back in, and that’s when I started using notebooks.

For a while I favoured WH Smith school exercise books on the grounds that they were dirt-cheap and therefore completely non-precious — unlike, say, Moleskine notebooks that made a sound like a vacuum cleaner going through my wallet every time I crossed out a page. Subsequently I progressed to Paperblanks: a bit naff, but more affordable than Moleskines.


This particular spread is from a draft of my first YA fantasy story, Gifted, about halfway through the sequence of rewrites.

The first page shows a revised map I drew of the area around the cathedral in Doughnut City, my version of Oxford. The two lines in purple (what was I thinking ?) ink were added later, for a possible subsequent book; I tend to think in dialogue and I have scraps of paper all over the place with little snatches like this. The broad crossings-out on the second page indicate that the material has been transferred to the computer.

I prefer to write with a Pelikan fountain pen, reverting to pencil for maps or when the ink runs out. The purple and turquoise inks are from Pelikan; the grey is Gris Imperiale by George & Co, from a lovely range in their shop on the Rue du Bac in Paris. I rarely use the strong colours now: recent Paperblank notebooks tend to bleed through…

The thing about a notebook is: it flows. My thought process are chaotic, and on a computer I find myself hopping madly from one application to another, swapping documents in and out. With a notebook, I’ll just stick stuff down as it comes to me: plotting, maps, description, dialogue, jokes, notes, phone calls from the man who’s coming to fix the boiler… I change the margins or dive for a different colour; I draw boxes, asterisks and arrows. I can come back later and sort it out…

At the moment, rather sadly, I’m not really using notebooks. It’s for purely practical reasons. I moved down to Canterbury three years ago and commute to London two days a week. I no longer have my own workstation at the office; instead they gave me a MacBook Air — light enough to carry — and I plug into an external monitor.

This means that I have to drag the Air up and down on the train with me and, since I don’t want the added weight of a notebook, I currently write almost everything straight to computer.

A novel, like the Revolution, is a tricky business, beset with difficulties, that has to be effected by any means necessary. I miss the immediacy and flexibility of handwriting. But my back thinks otherwise.

I tend to hoard old notebooks. I know it’s stupid: they’re a fire hazard and I never look back at them. But then I don’t really regard notebooks as documents of record; they’re simply a surface upon which the thinking process can be conducted and, riffling through my back pages for this post, I notice that most of what I wrote was crap, anyway.


DH mugshot

Donald Hounam

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Donald Hounam grew up just outside Oxford. He toyed with medieval history at St Andrews University, and wrote a PhD thesis on apocalyptic beliefs in the early Crusades. He threw paint around at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford, then found himself in Dublin where he threw more paint around and reviewed films until his flatmate set the building alight one Christmas, whereupon he scuttled back to England and started making up stories.

He is guilty of two novels featuring forensic sorcerer Frank Sampson: Gifted (2015) and Pariah (2016).

One comment on “By any means necessary, by Donald Hounam

  1. Mark
    December 6, 2016

    Por eso tienen miedo cuando alguien les amenaza con una mala crítica de
    manera intencionada en Internet.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on October 26, 2016 by and tagged , , .

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