I wrote the first few chapters of my first novel longhand, with fountain pen on loose sheets of A4 tomoe river paper. As I realized that I would have to type everything into Scrivener before I could even start editing, the lazy programmer within me balked. It was fine doing this with quick drafts, but writing an entire novel longhand was not for me.
I still use pen, pencil and paper a lot in my writing though. I use a fountain pen (anything that doesn’t have a flex or novelty nib will do — from extra-fine to 1.1mm stubs) and loose sheets of A4 and A5 tomoe river paper to work on my outlines, for quick drafts, to test plot options out, or when I’m really, really stuck in my writing. A Field Notes Byline is constantly under my keyboard, horizontally. Yes, I know that the lines don’t go that way, but I ignore them. The form factor is perfect for that, and the ruling is pale enough for me to easily ignore it. I use a Blackwing 16.2 or 24 with it, to quickly capture any ideas that may come up during my writing, to remind myself where I was going with an idea or what I need to fix a previous place, to brainstorm names, etc. It serves as a scratch pad that allows me to maintain my writing flow and still remember things along the way.
So, even if you do all your writing using Ulysses or Scrivener (hopefully not Word), I recommend that you incorporate some analogue tools in your process. You’re bound to find them useful, particularly when you’re stuck or you’ve dug yourself into a hole.
I’ve tried shimmering fountain pen inks (inks with little sparkly bits in them) only once before, when J Herbin first started producing them, and they ruined a Lamy Safari pen and converter with their non-removable sparkle. Over time more and more reviews came out lauding these pretty, shiny inks and saying that they’re completely fountain pen friendly nowadays, yet I kept my distance. No amount of glitter was worth another ruined pen, after all.
Enter the TWSBI GO, which is a a TWSBI nib connected to a toy pen that is so cheap that it practically has “Bay State Blue ready” written on it (I still don’t recommend going anywhere near the stainiest of stainy inks, no matter how gorgeous it is).
The packaging is bewilderingly good for such a cheap fountain pen. A cardboard sleeve over a plastic box that puts the cardboard Lamy Safari packaging (and price point) to shame.
Then you open the box, and laugh. The pen looks and feels like a child’s toy, with its cheap feeling plastic, its light weight and ridiculous spring filling mechanism. It takes the ugly duckling bit a step beyond what even other TWSBI functional but ugly pens, like the ECO, have.
But then you start to write with it, and the silly little body has good ink capacity, is easy to fill, and most importantly, it has a TWSBI nib. TWSBI nibs are phenomenally good for the price, and they come in 1.1 stub sizes, which are super fun to use.
Here’s a writing sample with a TWSBI GO 1.1 stub, which I did late at night when I was pretty tired, and so I spelled TWSBI phonetically, so whoopsie.
The ink is J Herbin’s Caroube de Chypre, which I had bought but not yet used. It’s a light, coffee brown ink with a medium amount of shading and some gold sparkle that is just-impossible-to-photograph-unless-you-pour-half-a-bottle-of-the-stuff-on-the-page-so-you’re-going-to-have-to-trust-me-on-this-it-is-pretty.
Can you get away with using this ink in a work setting? I believe you can, since the colour itself is pretty tame and the sparkle isn’t in your face, but just glints in the light in certain angles.
The pen itself is a paragon of practicality: super light, super comfortable grip, good ink capacity, excellent nib and feed, easy to use filling mechanism. For less than $20 that’s a tremendous feat on TWSBI’s part and it makes this pen a “no-brainer”. Whether you’re a beginner or a hardened collector, you should have at least one of these in your pen case. It’s a great workhorse, good for experimenting with “dangerous” inks (keep well away from Bay State Blue, yes you, I’m talking to you. I can see what’s in your shopping cart), good as a loaner pen to get more people into the wonderful world of fountain pens, and even good for people experimenting with nib grinds. In the beginner fountain pen category it is uglier than even the platinum preppy, but when it comes to bang for your buck, this pen puts all others to shame.
I’m not a huge Kaweco fan, mainly because their practically non existent filling system makes using them something of a pain. Cartridges are sometimes very useful (especially when traveling), but I generally prefer a cartridge based pen to accept converters as well and Kaweco’s Sport converters are a joke. They are difficult to fill and hold less than a drop of ink, and oftentimes come loose, so they’re basically terrible. Kaweco seems to be aware of that because they also make them difficult to obtain. You really have to want the pain to experience it (and believe me, you don’t. Save your money and buy yourself several cups of coffee).
So what possessed me to buy this pen? It’s pretty. There, I said it. That red, that carbon fibre — this pen is basically a Ferrari in pen shape: gorgeous and not very practical.
Look how pretty it is!
The nib is smooth and I was luck enough that it worked well out of the box. I’ve had mixed success with Kaweco nibs, so unless you’re comfortable dealing with baby bottom or flow issues I’d test the pen before buying.
The nib is also pretty handsome, and in this case a Fine, which is closer to a Japanese Medium. I got this pen on a closeout sale in a local art supply store so I lucked out on the nib, since you usually find Medium nibs in non-specialist stores.
I had a bunch of Diamine ink cartridges lying around, so I popped one in and gave it a spin. Here it is with Diamine Woodland Green, a very nice, well behaved ink with some shading:
The pen has a metal body but is not heavy. It can only be used capped (I have tiny hands so trust me when I say this), and despite its pocket size and rugged build, I’d never trust it, or any other fountain pen, in my trouser pocket. That way horror stories of stained pants lie.
Would you enjoy this pen? If you like the aesthetic, and are willing to compromise on ink cartridges, a steel nib and the price, then yes. If you’re looking for a daily workhorse or a practical pen, buy several Pilot Metropolitans, Lamy Safari’s, TWISBI ECOs or even a Lamy AL Star. This is a Ferrari pen — beautiful, frivolous and fun.
It looks like another year without winter here. I drew this during an Urban Sketchers sketch crawl, but since the sun was right in my face and it was blazing hot (31 degrees centigrade), I didn’t place the shadows properly.
Moleskine large watercolour notebook, Lamy Safari medium, Rohrer and Klingner Emma SketchINK, Schmincke watercolours.