On Writing Longhand | Speed of Life Blog Tour | Guest Post by JM Kelly |

October 12, 2016 / 0 Comments / Blog Tour, Guest Post

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Hi friends, hope you’re having a great Wednesday! Today I’m excited to be part of the Canadian blog tour for the just released YA novel Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly. I’m proud to be welcoming J.M. to the blog to talk about writing this novel longhand. That’s right, J.M. wrote this whole book, about two sisters trying to raise a baby while one also tries to realize her dreams of getting a degree in automotive restoration, by hand!

Not only does the writing process sound interesting, but I’m also fascinated by the concept and themes of this book. Sisterhood, being in a tough family situation, and a girl doing untraditionally gendered work in the trades are all things that trigger, “YES!” in me.

Read on to find out more about how Speed of Life came to life!

Guest Post Mostly YA Lit banner

by Speed of Life author

JM Kelly

For years I heard about authors writing entire novels longhand and the idea always appealed to me. What didn’t seem so fun was typing it up afterward. If you’re John Irving, you can hire someone to do that for you. But that’s also assuming your handwriting is legible, which I was pretty sure mine was not. Especially for an entire novel.speed-of-life-book-cover-jm-kelly

I also worried that I’d lose track of what I’d written and be unable to easily check on facts or character traits I created. As I work, I often find changes are necessary through the bits I’ve already written, either adding or removing a thread, consolidating a character, or killing one off. I just didn’t see how I could do that writing longhand.

One day, after thinking about Speed of Life for a couple of years, the story gelled and I was ready to start writing. I sat down to the computer and wrote the first two chapters as usual. But on the third day, the story started coming to me fast when I didn’t have access to my computer. I grabbed a notebook and began to scribble. Later, I typed it up. I was about to keep going on the computer, when it occurred to me I could try my dream of writing longhand and just type up each scene after I wrote it in my notebook. So that’s what I started doing. And Crystal’s story began to flow like water through a gushing hole. I couldn’t write fast enough.

Instead of my usual hard-pressed-to-get 1500 words per day, I was pumping out 3000. Then 4000, 5000, and even 6000 words. It seemed like the break I had from the story while I typed up each scene gave my brain just enough rest time to carry on as soon as the words were in the computer.

I started carrying a notebook everywhere I went, which was very unusual for me. Instead of dedicated hours of silence and solitude, this story didn’t seem to mind worldly distractions and just kept coming at all times of day and night. I’d always thought I needed absolute quiet to write, but I found myself writing on the couch after dinner while my husband played guitar and sang, I wrote on the ferry with people all around me talking, I even stopped halfway home on my way from the farmer’s market and wrote a scene while perched in the sunshine on a rock in a field.

Thirteen days after I started, I had written a complete novel. I began to revise. My whole career I’d had to cut words, pages, scenes, whole chapters, but this time, I actually had to add scenes. By day twenty-one, I’d revised it and sent it to my early readers. They had almost no notes for me at all. In fact, most of the things they pointed out were simply typos because I’d been typing so fast.

The book eventually sold, and it went through extensive edits like all good manuscripts with great editors do, but honestly, it’s closer to that first draft than any of my other published books are. And while it was a crazy ride, it was also a lot of fun.

Since then, I’ve written another YA and that process ended up being a mixture of both longhand and writing new words directly on the computer. I tend to turn to my notebook now whenever I get stuck. And it seems to help me work out where the story’s going (or going wrong!). This new YA didn’t come nearly as fast as Speed of Life, but I think it had less to do with whether I typed it or wrote longhand, and much more to do with the book itself. I’ve always felt like Speed of Life was ready, waiting, fully-formed for me to snatch it out of the air and get it down in novel form. Perhaps if I had been busy, someone else would’ve grabbed it.

I find writing longhand satisfies some tactile need I have to scratch out words on paper, something I’d been missing when I quit journaling after almost fifteen years, but it also makes my writing much tighter. I’m sure that’s because if you have to put a pen to paper, you tend to be a lot more judicious or your hand will feel like it’s going to fall off. I basically wrote my books the same way for many, many years. Now I’m writing both longhand and shorthand. Maybe someday I’ll speak into my computer and let it do the work. All I’m saying is, for me, the process is ever evolving and it’s best not to get too attached to any one way of doing this writing thing.

And yes, for the record, I did write this blog post on notebook paper first.

The Book Mostly YA Lit bannerOn Writing Longhand | Speed of Life Blog Tour | Guest Post by JM Kelly |Speed of Life

Author: J.M. Kelly
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast Books
Publication date: October 11th 2016
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by.

Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies—and gets in—new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister.


About J.M. Kelly


J.M. Kelly loves the rain, which is good because she was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. She spent her childhood with her nose in a book, often in the backseat of whatever old car her dad had at the time. She’s worked as an actress, a Minor League Baseball souvenir hawker, the Easter Bunny, and various other not-so-odd jobs. Now she mostly writes novels, but she still dabbles in sketch comedy, nonfiction articles, and teaching writing to both kids and adults. She recently wrote and starred in her first full-length play, along with her husband. J. M. Kelly also writes for younger children under the name Joëlle Anthony. Visit her here.

Thanks so much, J.M. for taking us on your longhand writing journey. I’m so amazed by how fast the writing flowed after you moved it to longhand! As a crafter, I admit that I love handwritten letters and notes – and I agree with you that it gives you a tactile, in-the-moment-ness that sometimes you don’t get from a computer. I might have to try this…

SPEED OF LIFE came out yesterday. Are you interested in reading it? Are you into sisterhood books? What about books with girls doing pretty badass trades? Do you ever write longhand – be it a novel, short stories, letters or notes? Hit the comments and let me know! And don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the Speed of Life blog tour!

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