Thursday, November 11, 2010

There’s Something About Paper

I just picked up my manuscript draft from Kinko’s -- the first time I’m reading it on paper. It’s a great feeling to hold my book in my hands, even if it’s an early draft.

I mostly revise and edit digitally, but I print out my manuscript at a couple stages -- late, when it’s very close to complete and I need to be able to proofread, and early, when I need to see if the whole story flows and holds together.

I relate to the information differently on paper. There’s more distance -- I can see the words more as another reader would, for one thing. For another, it’s easier to flip back and forth, highlighting words or expressions I’ve used too much, looking for plot or character inconsistencies.

Plus I need something to donate to future scholars who want to study my collected papers, right? And it’s another kind of data backup -- if my computer crashes, at least I’ve saved one version of my story.

But mostly I get excited to pick up a paper manuscript because it looks more like, well, a book. There’s something about paper -- reading from a printed page hits a different part of my brain. It seems more real, whereas digital media seems more negotiable -- easier to put aside, easier to scroll and skip ahead. But I digress -- this isn’t an e-book discussion. :)

How do you use paper when you revise and edit? Are you all digital? Do your paper drafts have so much cutting, pasting and color-coding that they look like preschool art projects? Or are you even one of those old-school scribes who drafts in longhand?

And for paper enthusiasts, a link to Holly Lisle's legendary One-Pass Revision Method! I don't use it, but I admire those brave enough to try.


  1. I totally agree that it feels like you read with a different part of your brain when it's on paper. I see typos and bad sentences that I'd read a million times on the screen and never noticed. I love printing my MS, but I absolutely HATE transferring the paper edits onto the computer. It's grueling, but worth it!

  2. Just like you hear more problems when you read it aloud, the printout makes it easier for me to catch typos and dropped words. I also hit on something recently that helped me with pacing: I took different colored post-its and marked the edges of the pages, color-coded for romantic scenes, paranormal scenes, mysterious clues, etc. This really helped me see if there was a balance of all the elements, or something that I wanted to emphasize more.

  3. Cheyenne, I hate transferring the edits too! Drudgery, although it's better than going back and forth between two digital copies, trying to put edits from one version into another. And even worse than that is toggling between programs, like Word and Scrivener.

    Well, no one said writing was all inspiration and book signings. Or if anyone did say it, they were an idiot.

  4. I'm loving Angelica's idea of marking certain things - that's a great idea!

    It's funny how you can read something so many times on a screen, but when it's printed out you notice completely different issues.

    I usually print the entire thing out a few times. The first time is when I've finished a few drafts but need to SEE how it is on paper (that helps me find holes and whatnot in everything. The second is when I think it's close to done but I want someone to read it and give me a perspective on what I may have missed, and the last is when I'm completely done.

    Kelly, I bet picking that MS up all printed out and ready to go made you feel so accomplished! (Even if it was an early draft!)


  5. I haven't really used paper yet--I printed out my VERY detailed 50 page outline and that was extremely helpful to make notes on, and I did print out the first 50 pages of my manuscript's first draft for my niece to read and holding it in my hands was very cool, but I haven't printed out the whole thing yet . . . but when I finish my first draft completely this weekend, I think I may just do that. Thanks for the idea

  6. I do this, though it's pricey at Staples. *makes a mental note to check out Kinko's copy prices*

    I'm totally with you on this one, Kelly. It feels different seeing the words on paper. I notice typos even after several drafts on the computer. It's like magic. :)

    Going to check out that link right now. Thanks!

  7. I only print out once or twice, Katrina, and I think it's worth sending it out to have a crisp copy, rather than using my smudgy mangle, I mean printer. I don't cut it up -- just mark it, so I like to get a coil binding. Plus printer ink is so expensive, I'm not sure how much more it costs to send it out... I get it printed double-sided, but usually single or 1.5 spaced to save money and it's about $!5.

  8. Ooh, diff spacing to save money. That's smart. I got it printed and spiral-bound (an MG novel that's only 130-ish pages) and it cost nearly $40! I'm thinking I need to check out Kinko's! Thanks, Kelly!

  9. Similar to you. Early draft, late draft. That first pass of edits, I love to use good old-fashioned red ink (and sometimes purple, green, blue, and orange as well).

  10. I do pretty much everything digitally now. It's just easier (and cheaper). Thanks for the awesome Holly Lisle link. :-)

  11. BTW, I got a refurbished Dell laser printer 1720 and that thing is super fast, prints double-sided, and the cartridges last a long time. My brother recommended it and it is a lifesaver whenever I have to print out all 300+ pages for an agent or what have you. Easily beats the cost of Kinko's or office store. Can't wait until all submissions are digital!

  12. So glad I print out my MSS. I had a TERRIBLE file corruption with my first novel. Luckily, I had a nice printout with my revisions right there, ready to be retyped.

  13. Yike, LVW! How did the retyping go? I would think it would be a great gut check for whether certain things work or not...

    Angelica, I could use a laser printer. Right now I have an inkjet and I try to save all the ink for printing out very expensive Disney and Dora coloring pages.


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