Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day One: Necessity, Platinum Preppy with Heart of Darkness

As I began to write my novel, the power was still out. It was cold, I was bundled in several layers, and limited to natural light. Under the circumstances, I abandoned my careful plans to begin with a special pen, and decided to snatch the first pen I could lay my hands on that was already inked, likely to give me little trouble, and - most important - easy to replace later if the adverse conditions caused me to drop it or somehow damage it. With those criteria, the choice was a simple one. I reached for my Platinum Preppy filled with Noodlers Heart of Darkness ink.

With pen in hand, I sat down and started to write. I was perched in a chair by the window, writing by the last of the afternoon light, then by a battery powered LED headlamp strapped to my forehead. It wasn't the ideal way to begin a novel, but with my trusty Preppy in hand, at least I was able to do so. Heart of Darkness, as I already knew, flows very well, and goes onto the paper in a smooth, dark line. I found this darkness especially helpful, since I was trying to see what I was doing in such limited light. Even in the cold, I had little trouble with it drying on the page, although I did wait a few seconds before flipping a completed page over.

The pen was easy to grip, and the nib was nice and smooth and wet, so I had as little trouble as possible. It is the "Noodlers" variant eyedropper filler, which is included in the box with the Heart of Darkness ink. In most respects it is identical to any other Platinum Preppy, save for the fact that the internal fitting that accepts a cartridge has been removed, an o-ring has been added to seal the barrel, and Noodlers somehow obtained these without the usual labeling, so the barrel is completely clear. I prefer this, as it makes it very easy to see the ink level at a glance.

I did have one interesting experience in these conditions. I've used eyedroppers, and never before seen the behaviour I've been warned about, where as the ink gets low, the warmth of your hand causes the air in the barrel to expand and excess ink to flow out of the pen. As it happened, the ink was very low when I began, as the barrel was less than a quarter full. The air and the pen were very cold. My hand may have felt chilly, but it was at least thirty degrees warmer than anything else... One reason I believe that I usually don't have any trouble even when an eyedropper filler is getting low is because I usually tilt the nib up in the air every time I pause to think. On this day, huddled against the cold, I failed to do this.

If you've read this far, and read the horror stories about eyedropper fillers "burping", you no doubt imagine that I ruined at least one page of my manuscript. I hate to disappoint you, but even under such "ideal" conditions for an inkatastrophe, all I noticed was a swell of ink atop the nib, and the line it lay down was a little heavier. Of course, as soon as I noticed this, I tilted the nib up to let the ink drain back into the section, then continued. I had a few moments when the nib was covered with a thicker than usual film of ink, but no real problems at all. Even at forty degrees, clutched in a much warmer hand, the dreaded eyedropper filler, scourge of so many fountain pen lovers, failed to foil my novel writing efforts. The moral of the story: if you write a lot, and develop practical habits, such as tilting the nib up in the air whenever you pause, as well as observing the way your pen is behaving, you can avoid a multitude of problems.

The final result was a word count of 1,755 words in all. As anyone who is familiar with NaNo probably already knows by heart, if you can manage to write 1,667 words each and every day of November, by the end of the month, you'll have 50,000 words. In other words, despite being miserable, I was able to meet my goal, even to go over by a tiny margin. I was happy to call that a victory. (And, yes, I counted all the words. It obviously wasn't possible for me to type them in to get a word count, and it turns out counting them is considerably faster, too. Once I'm more caught up, I may begin typing in what I've written, but for the time being, I'll be hand counting the finished pages. As long as you count each page, instead of waiting until you're done for the day, it is a manageable chore.)

My conclusions are simple. Heart of Darkness is an absolute essential to have around. I felt this way before I began my adventure, and the experience of seeing just how well it shows up on the paper even in the worst light has only strengthened my conviction that this is an ink no serious writer should ever be without. As for the Preppy, it isn't the most fun or exciting pen to use, and there's nothing special about it, but it holds enough ink to write multiple chapters without refilling, it is cheap, durable for the price, and even more reliable than I dared to hope. I'd hate to be limited to using nothing but a Preppy, but it's a very good pen to have around for situations where a better or more expensive pen might be at risk. It's also a great pen for clipping into your shirt pocket for taking notes under any and all circumstances. If you lose it or break it, it is easy enough to replace, after all.

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