Why You Should Probably Edit On Paper

Okay, let me rephrase that – because I don’t like telling people what to do. This is why you should probably try editing on paper. If you’ve tried it, don’t like it, and don’t want to do it again – that’s fine. You do you.

I’m used to the screen. Hell, I practically grew up on a screen, being a millennial I’m used to that burning sensation of blue light scratching my retinas, and I like it that way. Every waking moment I’m locked onto a screen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the robot overlords made sure I am at night as well.

Anyway – my point is – I like working on my screen. I draft on the screen, and I usually edit on the screen. It’s fast, it’s more organized. No funky handwriting I need to decode (because believe me, it is very funky), and I have everything saved in the same place. People say you working with hard copies help them catch other mistakes they don’t see on the screen, but I fix that by reading out loud. (You don’t really realize how many spelling mistakes you’re even able to cook up, until you read out loud).

But I’m the kind of guy who’ll try anything twice. So I printed out my latest manuscript, and went in to edit by hand.

It’s awful. Let me say it right here right now. It’s slow, it’s annoying, it’s disorganized. I couldn’t find good ways to sit, I couldn’t get comfortable, and I was suddenly made aware of the fact that paper isn’t backlit.

It was super annoying.

But I just finished my edits today, and here’s my conclusion: it feels much more effective. I’m not saying it’s more efficient, because it took bloody ages. But it feels more thorough. When I edit – I can quite remember which number draft I was on at the point when I printed it out – but I usually make very many passes. Very, many. I can go through my whole MS only caring about one thing, and then I’ll save it as “Draft no# (next number)” and then I’ll do it all again. And again. And again. It’s kind of like sanding wood, taking a little bit of the top at a time.

But on paper I felt like it was much easier to do huge chunks of work at the same time. Going through my manuscript now (the one I’ve printed out), it feels like I’ve solved so much more than what I usually do on the screen. And now, I haven’t gotten this far yet, but I imagine putting all these things to work on the screen will be easier as well, because I have this huge stack of notes next to me.

(Oh, there’s another thing: working on paper made much more inclined to just pick up a few pages and edit, during time when I probably wouldn’t have bothered turning on my laptop. So there’s that).

Again, I’m not going to tell you what to do. If you’re my generation and as comfortable as I am on a screen, I think that’ll do just fine. But from now on, I’m doing both. Several, quick rounds on screen and then at least one gargantuan pass on paper. It works.

[Edit]: As I’ve started writing up my edits, I’ve realized that having them on paper and then typing them in has given me an extra filter, to reconsider myself if you wish. Because now I have on the screen the old version, and on the paper the changes I want, and I can be all like: “Hmmmmm, actually no.” Or yes. Depending. But this is actually very helpful.

2 thoughts on “Why You Should Probably Edit On Paper

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  1. Interesting post—you make a lot of good points. I’m a big fan of pen & paper. I’ve scratched away in a daily journal for decades. Lately been thinking of investing in a fountain pen. But I like to write & edit onscreen as well—I think that they are both valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, much of it comes down to what we’re more used to. I think younger generations tend to be more comfortable in front of a screen, (not saying that’s a given). I was surprised at how even though I felt going through my MS by pen was slower, it felt like I did more work, in a sense.

      Like

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