Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Writing Process: Paper Versus Screen

I recently finished the third draft of my upcoming fourth Shalan novel. Unless I'm seriously mistaken, it's one layer of polish away from being ready to meet the public. It won't be coming out until sometime in June, but the inside of the book will be ready in a week or two. And I'm really excited. As I said with In The Shadow, I think this is, in all humility, my best work so far. And one reason I think it's an improvement over previous books is a change I made in my drafting process.

I've read since I started writing books that editing and revising should be done on paper; it's much more effective that way, everyone seems to say. But I didn't buy it. How in the world is printing it out and looking at it on paper any different in terms of editing than doing it on the screen? And doing it right on the computer is so much more convenient because when I see a problem, I can fix it right then and there, whereas paper requires that I mark the issue and then go back to the computer later to actually make the change.

But then, on a whim, I tried paper editing. It was actually even more than a whim. It was almost an accident. I don't mean I fell onto the paper manuscript with a pencil in my hand and got some editing in my book (the image of the old you-got-chocolate-on-my-peanut-butter Reese Cup commercials keeps playing through my head). But I printed out the manuscript for a friend who wanted to read it on paper. I wasn't going to see this person for a couple of weeks because she lives in Wheeling, so I had it lying around. Then one day, I thought that I would test this whole paper vs. plastic (See what I did there? Because computers are partly plastic? Huh? Anyway...) idea and prove myself right.

I was wrong. Reading and marking it up on paper was a COMPLETELY different process. Don't ask me to explain the science to it, but I saw things differently on the actual page than I did on the screen. And more than seeing them differently, I actually saw things that I didn't see before. I found two major plot holes that I had missed on the first and second draft, as well as some places where major characters needed further development. As a result, unusually, the book grew by almost 5,000 words on the third draft--and that's including cutting out a lot of deadwood, so it actually grew in terms of actual useful words a lot more than that. And I believe the result is a much more satisfying final result with all the questions answered and a group of well-rounded characters--even the lesser ones. I hope you agree.

Another benefit was the cleaning up of a lot of the prose. I eliminated almost all dialogue tags, leaving them out or trading them for actions that I hope make the book move more briskly and also fill it with more action to go with the dialogue. And for some reason, reading it on the page--I think it's the fact that I can see the whole page at one time and notice things like this--causes me to see when I'm using the same word too often and when a word just isn't the right one. So I fixed several instances of that.

So, on my fourth book, I'm still learning so much about how to be an author. Now, if I can just learn the secret to getting people to review my books...


15 comments:

  1. It doesn't make sense, but I found it to be true as well in my dissertation. When I read it on paper I found things that I never saw on the screen. I think there's also something about the tactile nature of pencil and paper that makes the process more satisfying. Deleting a really bad sentence isn't the same as making a big, thick line through it.

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    1. Yes! There's something about the physical act of marking out things really that's more satisfying.

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  2. There are documented physiological distinctions in the brain between paper and digital editing. Each has its benefits.

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  3. I sure wish there was a way to get more reviews too. Lol.

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  4. I sure wish there was a way to get more reviews too. Lol.

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    1. The secret is to connect with readers.

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    2. And what's the secret to that? So many questions.

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  5. I agree about paper. Because I used to write everything on paper, I had difficulty composing on the computer at first. I guess email fixed that. I can do some editing on screen now, but for true revision, I have to see more than one little section at a time. Like you, I see different things, too. I'm glad to know my need for paper copies isn't just an old-fashioned habit.

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    1. I'm old enough to clearly remember the days before writing on a computer, but once I got one, I thought I was finished with paper editing. I was so wrong.

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  6. Great post! I don't seem to do as well on paper. Then again the very first short story that I ever wrote was published so it was sorta luck. I am finding writing the "first novel" much more difficult. As for reviews. I was very big with reviews at one time. Even had a radio show called Book Talk. However, a few bad authors and trolls drove many of the reviewers away! Same with all of us that were Beta readers. All of us left Goodreads 2 years ago. Goodreads is mostly author for author support. It is sad in a way but the readers were not respected and many were hurt so they stopped. Too many were attacked online via their blogs or social media and some were by those "Paid for" review site. After all, regular readers were free. It is still a very sore subject among many readers.

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    1. It's a shame that a few bad eggs have made it hard for all of us. I've tried to reach out to people who have told me, personally or via email or this blog that they enjoyed my books and asked them to write reviews. That's been my focus. I've just not been as successful as I need to be. I'm trying to build a tribe, but it's slow going.

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  7. Well better to build relationship in a slow meaningful way than rushed. Hey do you want to do a Bible reading challenge with me next month? I sent you the Pin. Maybe others online might join us.

    Oh did you know that more readers go on Pinterest than Goodreads and other sites.... Most of us have reading boards!

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    1. How does an author take advantage of that?

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