Typing Up My Chicken Scratch #WriterProblems

The first draft of my fiction manuscript is done. Yes! But it’s handwritten, across four notebooks, totaling 378 pages. The next step of the process is typing everything up. Panic. And breathe.

Pretty-looking notebooks on the outside, writer-gobbledygook on the inside.

I had a feeling it was going to be rough, converting this draft from chicken scratch to a lustrous Times New Roman, Word document. I was right. It started off as a mental slug-fest—and sometimes a snooze-fest.

If you’re in the same situation as me, or you’re contemplating writing your first draft by hand, here are some options for typing up your handwritten manuscript.

Some of these companies charge by the page or provide a cost for the entire page count. A simple search for “manuscript typing service” on Google will provide results with prices ranges from $.80 per page to $7.60 for each 10 pages.

  • Get a virtual assistant

This service could be handy for a lot of tasks, including typing your handwritten manuscript. Virtual assistants are independent contractors who work exclusively online or remotely. There are even VAs who specialize in working with aspiring authors. This article gives great tips on how VAs can help. Prices can depend on your budget, from $10/hour and up.

  • Use a software dictation program

I was pleased to see that there is a dictation program already installed on my MacBook. You can access it easily through your Word document > click “Edit” > scroll down and click “Start Dictation…”

I tested a few paragraphs of my manuscript to see how it would work, and whether it would save me time.

Here’s the before and after:



It may be a little hard to tell, but there are formatting errors and issues with detecting my speech pattern. Also, I didn’t say some of the commands correctly, like “Tab key,” which are reflected in the outcome. By the time I cleaned everything up, it took 02:43 minutes. When I typed it myself, without the dictation tool, it took 01:52 minutes. That time included a little proofing along the way, too. Results may vary with a different dictation program, but I thought this was an interesting experiment to mention, nonetheless.

  • Get an intern

An ex-coworker-friend suggested this gem idea to me. Contacting an undergraduate creative writing program or placing an ad on a university website may get the help you need to type your handwritten manuscript. And it may be less expensive than going the virtual assistant route.

  • Make your kids do it 

If I had children, putting them to the task would be a good option. And if they’re not interested in helping, it could be a strategic parental tactic.

You: “Junior, it was your night to do the dishes, and you forgot. As punishment, you have to type 10 pages of my handwritten manuscript.”

Your kid: “Nooooo! Mom, you are so mean!”

Well, that’s what I would do. *Says the person without kids* (Related article: Being a Mom vs. Being a M.O.M. (Mother of Manuscripts))

  • Grin and bear it yourself

Typing your manuscript can be okay after all. It builds muscles in your fingers. Besides that, it gives you the chance to edit as you go. Along the way, you may even create a second draft in the process.

What steps did you take, or are you taking, to type your handwritten manuscript?



Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

3 thoughts on “Typing Up My Chicken Scratch #WriterProblems

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