Saturday, May 7, 2016
My Writing Process: Paper Versus Screen
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...