I do 99% of my writing on my laptop. I know that writing by hand is worthwhile and can trigger creativity in an entirely different way than happens when you type, but my handwriting is atrocious and inefficient so I just can’t. My kindergarten teacher failed miserably when teaching proper pencil grip and it’s too late now for this old dog to learn new tricks. I jot down notes on paper, and make lists of character names and other info, but for the actual composition of my books, I type it all.
When it comes to editing, however, there is nothing like reading through a manuscript on paper. I love trees and hate the price of printer toner, so I usually only print a draft once every few months, but it is really worthwhile. Before I hit print I do a few rounds of editing, re-writing, and proofreading on my computer. Then, when I either think everything looks great (ha!) or I’m simply bumping into creative walls, I print the sucker out, grab a bright red pen and get to work. One of the bonuses of growing up with an editor mom is that red pen doesn’t phase me. I know it stresses some people out, though. Go with green. It’s soothing!
That’s what I’ve been up to this week. I have a newly printed draft of my No Man’s Land manuscript and I’m reading through it and jotting down notes as I go. It’s fascinating how differently my brain processes the information when it’s on paper. Already I’ve decided on some significant changes that hadn’t occurred to me before, and I’m noting some trends that need to be remedied. For example, I’m trimming dialogue all over the place. My characters are just as talkative as I am, apparently, and while I glare holes in people’s heads when they accuse me of talking too much or too fast (Maybe they just don’t talk enough, ok? Or maybe they listen too slowly! I grew up in New Jersey! I can’t help it!) I can see when it’s problematic in a book. Redundant sentences that slipped through in the first few rounds of edits now seem glaringly obvious. I found a few scenes that I want to trim and then smoosh together, too. I’m even toying with adding a new character as a foil to an already existing character. I’m going to let that percolate for a bit before I attempt it, though.
I haven’t yet sought out an agent so I don’t have an editor or an agent who can read through my manuscript and offer feedback. It’s just me, especially right now when I’m between classes. I want this story to be so polished that you can see your reflection in it before I send anything out to agents, so I need to be extra diligent now. In January I’ll get back to class and reconnect with my writer posse and I’m REALLY looking forward to that, but I know that 99.9% of the work is on me and me alone. Polish, polish, polish. Proofread, edit, proofread some more.
I’m lucky in that I actually really like editing, both my own work and other people’s. I guess I get that from my mom, too. However, it’s one thing to write “this part is too wordy!” or “up the intensity!” on a page, and quite another to sit down with my laptop and an inch thick stack of pages littered with red ink, and actually get to work fixing it. I might just wait until after Christmas for that fun step. Each round of edits has its own little joys and frustrations, though. At least when you’re in the paper round of editing, you can get a pedicure while you work. Just sayin.