Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pen and paper

Over the years, I've gone from longhand drafting and editing on paper to drafting and revising on screen. Cutting and pasting is certainly easier on a computer, although it took me some adjustment to go from physically marking up a manuscript to editing wholly with a mouse and keyboard.

But the other day, I was working on chapter breaks and calendar dates in a manuscript--trying to pin down when every scene must take place, and identifying the arc and natural stopping point for each chapter--and it drove me batty, trying to do this on screen. Finally I printed out the whole manuscript, so that I could feel the heft of a chapter, flip back and forth easily, spread many pages out at once, mark and cross out things, more easily than I could on the computer. It worked so much better for me, for this particular manuscript.

Sometimes the tool we pull out of our writing toolboxes is the old-fashioned one, the one we haven't picked up in a while.

6 comments:

  1. I still prefer doing this on paper. Not the cut-and-paste stuff, but the big picture stuff.

    "Track changes" drives me nuts; but, unfortunately, it's the new professional standard. When someone makes long notes in the bubble, it can really screw up the pagination.

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    1. Track changes is OK for one round of edits. But after a few people have gone a few rounds with a manuscript, it gets impossible to read. I've done copy edits where I had to keep switching back and forth between showing and hiding the markup to see what the net result was!

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  2. I so agree with you on this. I have to have the paper and pen in hand, go to another place besides the computer and think the time line through. I don't understand why it's different, but using pen and paper must activate a different part of your brain.

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    1. I find if I'm focusing on one thing or proceeding linearly, I can use the computer. But if I need a lot of back and forth or spreading out, it's easier to have physical pages.

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  3. One of the most intense and useful editing sessions I ever experienced was when my husband completed his first novel several years ago. We worked together on editing it. It went through several iterations, but the session I reference was a "final" (if not a "final final") in which we sat on opposite sides of a conference table, each with a hard copy of the manuscript, legal pads, sticky notes, pens and highlighters. I also had my laptop with the manuscript on screen for quick checking of word repetition, etc. We took turns, and read the entire novel aloud. The process consumed several days, and was incredibly helpful (not only for the improvement of his manuscript but I learned so much as editor and writer). I love on-screen writing for first drafts and always for short, flash pieces, but your description of how it is sometimes helpful to "feel the heft of a chapter" is right on.

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