Narrative Trouble

Just discovered a giant plot hole that I somehow missed on my second draft. Now back to pen and paper to try to figure it out. At least I can use pens and ink and paper that I love…

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Narrative Trouble

Review: Parker Jotter London Architecture

Before I got into fountain pens and gel ink pens became available in the market, I used to use ballpoint pens for taking notes, and the Parker Jotter was my favourite. It was the first pen I invested “real money” into when I was still in high school, and I still have that purple pen knocking about somewhere in the house. The refills were always a problem, with blobbing, streaking and hard starts something common to all ballpoints, even the Jotter with its “Quinkflow” refills, but you could shade with the pen, which meant that you could doodle in your notebook while bored — a big plus for me.

I switched to fountain pens when I started my BA and my wrist pains got worst than ever, because I was practically carving the words into the page. Since then, gel pens and fountain pens have ruled the roost on my desk, with only a Kara’s Kustoms Render K with a Schmidt easyflow 9000 M in black filling my few ballpoint needs. When they don’t blob, ballpoints are great after all, especially if you want to jot something down and not have to wait for the ink to dry.

But when Jet Pens added four limited edition Parker Jotters, each one celebrating a different London architectural icon (Bronze for Big Ben, Red for Buckingham Palace, Sky Blue for the Shard, and Black for the Gherkin), I knew I had to reopen the ballpoint chapter in my life.

The packaging is stunning, as you can see for yourself:

Not many pens at this price level come in such nice boxes, which makes them perfect gifts (I bought all four pens and intend to give away three of them as gifts).

Ballpoints aren’t much fun for me to write with, because I have RSI problems and they require pressure to use, but they are fun to sketch and doodle with. So much shading with one pen:

The etching on the pen makes it very easy to grip once you start writing or sketching, but it does feel a bit rough on the fingers when you just pick the pen up or fiddle with it. The click mechanism and clip are Parker solid, and colours and design of these pens are fantastic:

The minus is of course the refill, which is smooth with no railroading, but does blob a bit, mostly when you sketch, not so much when you just write with it.

The funniest thing about these pens that celebrate such very British icons, is that they are made in France (until 2011 Parker pens were made in the UK).

If you enjoy ballpoint pens and don’t have a Parker Jotter or like the look of these pens, I recommend these. They are tough workhorses and good looking pens.

If you love London as much as I do, I recommend these.

If you’re looking for a nice gift for someone, particularly an architecture or design student, I recommend these.

For me personally, gel pens and fountain pens will continue to rule the roost.

Review: Parker Jotter London Architecture

Robert Oster Ink is Moleskine Friendly

Either Moleskine have improved the quality of their paper, or Robert Oster ink is magical, but it definitely doesn't suffer from feathering/spidering/spread. There's some show through, and in wider nibs, a bit of bleed through, but nothing that makes it unusable. That's pretty surprising for such saturated ink, and good news for those looking for Noodler's ink replacements.
Tested with fine, medium and 1.1 stub nibs with equal success.

Robert Oster Ink is Moleskine Friendly

Top 5 pens

In the recent Pen Addict Podcast, Brad and Myke discussed their top 5 pens, and that made me think about my top 5 pens. Do I even have a top 5? I never actually ranked my pens until now — I just use them.

After a bit of thought, I came up with this list of my favourite five pens. These are all perfect for long writing sessions, but they’re not necessarily the best for begninners, or for showing off your handwriting, so take that into consideration before you purchase any of these:

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Nakaya Cigar Piccolo Negoro Kise Hon Kataji black/red with elastic flexible medium rhodium nib — that’s quite a mouthful for a relatively small pen. This pen was made to order for me, and I had to wait quite a while and pay quite a bit for it, but it was totally worth it. The nib is a dream, and like no other nib that I own — it’s springy. It isn’t a wet noodle by any stretch, but shows a good amount of line variation, is very comfortable to write with, and is super easy to clean. The most beautiful pen that I own, in a very understated way, it’s the best all-rounder in this list.

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Parker 51 — I have quite a collection of these vintage classics, and I have yet to be disappointed with one. They somehow manage to make my handwriting really good looking, and they are fun to write with (though a bit of a pain to clean). Not the prettiest of pens, but I love their sleek looks, and they are workhorses.

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Franklin Cristoff Model 66 Stabilis Antique Glass with a 1.1 stub converted to an eyedropper pen — this pen is gorgeous, comfortable for long term writing, helps show off ink (both because you can see it sloshing around and since it lays down a significant line), and makes even the simplist handwriting look great without going overboard in terms of line thickness. It’s also super simple to clean out (though beware of staining inks), and the nib is a stunner, especially for a steel nib.

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Ti Arto with a Uni-ball UMR-85N refill— this has now become my daily journaling pen, and although it isn’t a fountain pen it is comfortable for long writing sessions, mainly because it has a relatively thick barrel and is relatively light for a machined pen. It writes well on all types of paper, including Moleskines, is relatively cheap, and accepts a dizzing array of refills. This is a pen that I don’t mind slipping into my pocket or tossing into my bag — it’s built to last and can take the punishment.

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Lamy 2000 Fine — this pen is not without faults, as the little metal prongs that hold the cap in place can get in the way of your grip, and my old 2000 is cracking in several places (ugly-fixed with superglue), but I still love it. The gold nib allows for just enough line variation to make it perfect for both writing and sketching, and the capacity is just fantastic. I’m also a big fan of its understated looks, but if you’re looking for something with more zing, this may not be the pen for you. I also bought another one, in extra-fine (after my old 2000 started cracking), and I have to say that its nib isn’t as good as my old 2K. So I’d recommend it, but only if you’re willing to tune it (either yourself, or take it to a nibsmith), if necessary.

These are my workhorses, and at any given time at least two or three of these are in use. Experimenting with pens in nice, but when you’re working on writing a novel or have a good chunk of writing to do, the snazzy wet noodles and music nibs give way to more dependable choices that are also always a joy to use.

Top 5 pens

Biweekly Routine

Routines and rituals are important, and one of the signs of a craftsperson is their care for the tools they use. This is true for any kind of maker, whether your craft is storytelling or leatherwork. Every two weeks I try to go through this routine, to make sure that the things that I use when I write are there and in order when I sit down to do my writing.

Clean keyboard

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Some computer keyboards harbour more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat, research has suggested. 

A BBC News report published the findings of a consumer group Which? on keyboard hygiene, and not surprisingly they were shocking.

Since your keyboard is one of your main, if not your main writing tool, taking 10-15 minutes every two weeks to clean it doesn’t seem excessive, yet few writers do so.

Here are the keyboard cleaning guides that I use:

PC World: How to Clean Your Keyboard – simple, informative, easy to follow advice on how to clean your keyboard.

Rispter Guide: Cleaning Keyboards – funny, and with plenty of pictures. Also, much more thorough than the PC world guide, and geared towards mechanical keyboard maintenance.

Check backups

You can read up here on how to backup your work. Once every two weeks go over your backups and check to see that everything is where you expect it to be.

Organize notes

Take a few minutes once every two weeks to go over your notes, file or throw away those that aren’t relevant anymore and make sure that you don’t have any loose notes scribbled on envelopes or post-it notes around the house.

Organize file names

If you for some reason work with Word and not with Scrivener (why?), and keep several versions of your work in different files, take a moment to make sure that your file names haven’t gotten out of hand, and you still know where everything is and what everything is. File names “My novel – old new new version 2” — I’m looking at you.

Check notebooks, pencils, pens

Check your notebooks, pencils, pens (fountain pens or not), to see what needs to be refilled soon, reinforced or replaced.

Update Scrivener project metadata

Take some time to fill in character names and short descriptions, places information, references etc. in your Scrivener project’s Characters, Places or Research folders. This information is important to keep on hand for long projects, and is especially useful to keep bundled together with your writing — mainly for search purposes (“where did I reference X character?”).

Biweekly Routine