Thursday, July 31, 2008

Paper Edit/Screen Edit

Taking a short break from the paper edit of my seventh story, as the underused handwriting muscles in my fingers are aching after their first proper workout in ten years - about as long as I've written so much by hand. (I can't believe I used to write longhand for three hours straight when taking exams...I'd never be able to manage it now.)

I thought I'd explain my editing process properly, in case you were wondering about all this paper edit/screen edit business. When I finished my first draft I put it away for four months while I started a new job. This helped me to get some perspective and to cast a more critical eye over my writing when the edit and second draft came around.

I printed out each story (double spaced, one side of the page only) and held them together with paper fasteners. I read through the entire manuscript once, and then looked over each story again before I edited it.

I found that editing the story on my laptop didn't give me enough high-level perspective, for example how the plot flowed overall, if the characters developed smoothly over the entire story and so on. So I began to do 'paper edits' on the back of each page, where I would write notes on the plot and characters, rewrite sections and parts of dialogue that I didn't like, and generally anything that came into my head when I read through the story. I found that I could move scenes around easier that way and if I thought of something that should be covered earlier it was easy to scrawl a few directions on an earlier page.

Then when I've finished this part of the edit, I do a full rewrite onscreen using the paper version as a guide. It does stretch out the edit and rewrite time, but I'd be lost and frustrated if I didn't do the longhand work first; in fact, it took nearly a month of frantic trial and error to figure it out, and without it I'd be bald from all the pulling of hair.

What's your favourite second draft strategy? Do you do all your editing and rewriting by hand? Or do you go straight to your computer and work it all out from there?


tobytheteacher said...


How goes it?

Editing... pretty similar to you. Print things out and then work on paper - usually with a black, fine ink pen - very cinematic, in my opinion. ;)

Then apply everything on the computer - would occasionally change things (from paper edit to the type up), but not often.

Poetry slightly different. I would sometimes start and finish on paper. Sometimes start on the computer and finish on the computer. Sometimes start on the computer and then print out.

Tend to walk around the room a lot when I edit as well - so paper helps. Cheaper to drop paper than a laptop ;)

KAREN said...

That sounds a very sensible way of doing things, to me. I find I have to 'trick' myself when I'm editing in order to see things I've missed. My favourite way is to put the word-document into 'reader view' on the screen, so it looks more like a book!

I might give the handwriting a go though - like you I very rarely do any these days :o)

Angie said...

My process is similar to yours so far, except that I wrote most of the novel freehand (talk about hand cramps!), so I'm doing a 'light' edit while typing it up, and then I print out each chapter and do a full edit with pen.
I get the feeling that my process could change depending on the book I'm writing though.

Yvonne said...

Toby, wild horses couldn't drag me off the sofa when I'm editing on paper! Prostrate all the way.

Karen, I never thought of using reader view, good idea, must try that.

Angie, wow you wrote the whole novel freehand? Fair play!

HelenMH said...

I'm still only a third of the way through the first draft, but I'm starting to look forward to redrafting and editing. It's so useful when other people share their tips on what works, so thanks for that.

Pretentious Writer said...

Your method does sound like the sensible approach - it's the one I fully intended on doing. I even printed out the whole thing with that in mind. In practice though, I seem to have resorted to just going through the whole thing on the screen. The pile of paper is sitting next to me right now in fact. I think I just prefer the immediacy of changing things as I go. I got into the habit while writing the novel of using a Sticky Notes type program to record things to change, ideas etc and I've carried on using that in the editing.

Yvonne said...

Helen, glad you're looking forward to it; I'm sure you'll do a great job when you get there.

Pretentious, and I had all intentions of editing directly onscreen, I even got OneNote to help! Strange that. I don't edit and rewrite everything on paper, most of it is notes - but it does help clear my head and lets me focus on the big picture.

Anonymous said...

Gosh that sounds like a lot of hard work but also the most sensible way, nice and clear.
Do you use red pen? in teacher training we were told not to correct/comment with it but I always like red pen for mistake and changes :) I used purple instead quite funky!

Annie Bright said...

Hi Yvonne

I agree, I think you can often see things on paper that you wouldn't see on the screen. Also, my partner reads through my drafts. I won't allow him to comment on my stories, our marriage wouldn't stand it! But he spots typos like 'of' where I should have put 'off', which I miss because I've got so close to the story I'm now reading what I think it should say rather than what it does say.

jen said...

I put the draft down and wander off for a couple of days, if I can. Most of my writing is for work though, so it's not always possible!

I try to print things off because I also find that it slows me down a little and makes me read every word on the page. Plus there's something therapeutic about using the red pen :-) But I'm also a fan of Word's Track Changes function when I need it.

Yvonne said...

M&T, I'll probably use a red pen when I do a final read through for grammar/spelling/syntax errors, it's very satisfying!

Annie, that's a great idea must try that. Another typo catching trick I learnt was to read each line from the bottom of the page to the top - so that you read each sentence seperately, not for meaning.

Jen, I'm the same, I love to have a break from what I've written. Track Changes is really handy for shared work, I've used it a lot.

Fionnuala said...

God, where do I start? I've just finished editing my book (took four months to write and eight to edit!) After the first draft I left it for three months wrapped up in tissue in a pretty box (my gift to myself.) Then I went through it with a pen, marking out ovious cuts changes etc. Then I made them, then followed lots and I mean lots of changes, additions deletions, chopping, paring down, re-chopping (all on screen)yada yada.....In between I read a book on editing myself into print. That meant I went over it all again. Seeing the wood from the trees became a problem.

I hate editing!
I love writing - that initial splurge...its the surgery I loathe.

Yvonne said...

Fionnuala, my editing and rewriting has already taken longer than the first draft, like you I love the writing but hate the nit-picking. Though the fact that you've put so much work into redrafting and reworking the novel makes me think that it's in pretty great shape. It's hard to be so critical of your own work but I think it pays off in the long run.

Lane said...

I like your method and doing something similar now after scrapping different ways. I can't be doing with the endless scrolling back and forth on the screen and like to see it all spread out in front of me. Does make for a bit of a mess though:-)

Yvonne said...

Lane, that's exactly what happens to me, I just can't take it all in when it's onscreen. My scrawl is pretty off-putting though!

Tam said...

I use a similar method to you, Yvonne, except my printer has died and I forgot I needed to print off my teen novel at work ahead of my week off so hubby is being given strict instructions on printing it off and bringing it home on Monday. He has left my writing on the printer before now (he went back for it luckily) so it will be a tightly controlled exercise this time round...

Hope you have as much fun as possible in Birmingham :-)