Why Editing on Paper, with a Pen, Matters

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YEA! The webcam flipped the image, but…. still, YEA!

Today, I am cracking open my brand-spanking-new proof copy of “The King’s Sons,” sent from CreateSpace with its place-holder cover. Woot!

The thing is, though, this isn’t so much a “proofing” as it is one last real edit. Because I’ve always done at least one real edit of each of my novels on pen and paper, and not the screen. Why?

  • First of all, it’s really fun to get the book in the mail! Or to print it from Kinko’s. (For me ordering from CreateSpace is actually cheaper!) I mean, come on: you took the time to write the thing. You’ve sweated through a few edits already. Congratulate yourself and give yourself extra momentum to keep going with that thrill of seeing it in print for the first time before you’re done editing. You deserve it!
  • People say you read different from the page than from the screen. That you’re engaging a different aspect of your brain that will focus on and notice different things. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can say from experience that things that have never bugged me in previous drafts, I’ve noticed as problems when the book was printed. Also, it’s easier to notice typos in print, at least for me.
  • I feel accomplished pulling out the red pen. It feels substantially more like I’m doing something and making progress than altering a document on the computer does. And sometimes, just feeling like you’re accomplishing something makes all the difference.
  • It’s different!!! Well, the book’s not different, but it feels different seeing it on paper. Believe me, that’s no small matter after you’ve edited the same novel six or seven times in brief succession. You are so sick of it you want to scream. When you need to keep working on the sucker, a change in format can give you just the boost of willpower and energy you need to go through it one. more. stinking. time.

Generally, I order at least two proof copies. The first is to read and mark up for edits. The second, once the edits are made, is to use for a proofing. (I’ll send that one to my proofer too, generally.)

So that, at least, is why I make sure to really to a full edit with pen and paper at least at some point in the writing process before release. I recommend it to everyone, even if you’re not planning to upload to a paperback-on-demand program. It’s really helpful. If you plan to stick completely to e-books, it’s still helpful for the quality of your draft!

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21 responses to “Why Editing on Paper, with a Pen, Matters

  1. Pen and paper for me too, even when I edit the work of others… it’s so much more satisfying than inserting comments etc in a document (although I sometimes have no choice but to do it digitally – yech) πŸ™‚

    • I totally understand! Pen and paper just feels so satisfying. Personally, I do digital comments during a first read-through just because I have so much stuff to mark up I don’t know that i could fit in all on a printed page with the text, haha! But I always pull out the pen toward the end of the publication process.

  2. This is a good recommendation, and I completely agree. Congratulations on almost being done! The cover looks gorgeous, despite being backwards, haha.

    • thanks!!! I’m excited. It’s a fun cover–the mountains are a big setting in the book–and the real one designed by Brad Covey that I plan to reveal on April 1st is even cooler πŸ™‚ He is amazing.

  3. I haven’t edited pen to paper in years. I feel guilty printing out on paper. But it’s true you read differently on paper. And holding your manuscript does help you to feel you’ve accomplished something!

    • Ah, yes, using paper like that isn’t a choice to make lightly, I totally agree. I HATE wasting paper. I hadn’t really considered it that way, I admit, but now I’m glad I only order a printed version at the end of the process. I wouldn’t except it really does help me see problems with the text I don’t notice on the screen.

  4. Editing with paper and pen is a must for me! I just finished my first on-paper edit of IXEOS: Rebellion. I’ll probably do one more on-paper edit later in the process, because I definitely find more issues that way. I tend to start skimming when I’m tired and reading on the computer (maybe my getting-old eyes, or just some ADD creeping in?!). I don’t consider it wasting paper – I’m WORKING, and it’s important stuff. It’s not any different than anything else I’d print out for a job, to me. You could always make the font smaller to save some pages, and Scrivener has a lot less pages for the same doc than Word. (My current draft is 164 pages in Scrivener and would probably be over 200 in Word.)

  5. It’s true that holding an actual book in hand seems to make the typos and errors pop off the page. With our book we printed out each chapter so our proofreaders could use a pencil or pen to mark the corrections. Great Blog!

    • Thanks! πŸ™‚ Appreciate you stopping by! I don’t know why the PAGE makes everything bad pop out, but it does. The screen just can’t manage that.

      • I’m such a screen person. My living is made from working at the screen, eight hours a day, five days a week, and has been for more than two decades. So I’ve reached the point where I see flaws just as quickly on the screen as I could on paper. It’s just a matter of what your brain is used to. Besides which, it feels like sacrilege to me to markup a bound print book, even if it is a proof copy. πŸ™‚

        • It’s so funny how people see things differently, haha!!! I have no problem at all marking books. I guess that comes with being a grad student in literature…. I could never be organized without taking notes in the margins. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Michael! It’s always great to see how people approach things differently than I do πŸ™‚

  6. I edit on paper and digitally, and they each have their advantages and disadvantages. I always find things on paper that I don’t see on-screen, but editing on-screen is so much faster.

    • I totally agree!!! On screen is faster….And paper helps me find stuff. I definitely make sure I utilize each method at some point before release. Speed is definitely the benefit of on-screen.

  7. The printed page enables me to see more of the manuscript at once, and that seems to help in editing. (To visualize a whole page on-screen, I have to shrink it down to the point where I can barely read the type.) It’s probably why I don’t like to read on-screen either; I like the shape of the whole, even if the “whole” is only a random unit (i.e., the conventional size of a printed page). But like some of the others, I feel guilty about printing out reams of paper (even though I do use both sides), so I often end up editing on-screen.

    • that’s a great point about viewing the whole page, Joshua!!! I would never, ever have considered that, though it definitely makes sense. Thanks for sharing your perspective πŸ™‚

  8. P.S. I agree with Alex: backward or not, the cover is gorgeous!

  9. Hi Victoria, yes the red pen. i have to edit/review/proof on paper, i just cant do it on screen.
    made similar thoughts on a recent blog of mine. check it out http://wp.me/3dY0e
    great minds think alike
    keep writing, for you know you have to

  10. Pingback: The Pros and Cons of Writing Fiction on Paper First | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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