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Topic of the Week: Killing Trees

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! This week our topic gets down to the nitty gritty details of our process.

wandereringray  asks:

Does anyone do all their editing on the computer and not print pages out?

I'm curious as to how many of us print out our mss and at which stages. What do you notice on paper that escapes you on screen?  Do you read your story aloud?  Do you have a system for paper edits?  How many different color highlighters are involved?

And what about fonts? Am I the only one who actually works in Courier 12-pt from beginning to end? Do you work in one font/format, then change it prior to submission?

These questions may seem mundane, but I think they offer just as clear a window to our creative process as the more lofty issues. They address the different ways in which we process information, which I find fascinating. 

Leave your answers in the comments below.  Also, please send more ideas for Topic of the Week to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com, or I'll have to start making up my own.  In that event, things will get weird, I can assure you.

--Jeri Smith-Ready


( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 5th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
Oh no. I always print pages out. I hate trying to edit on the computer screen.

After I finish every draft, I print out the whole manuscript, read through, circle typos, make notes about what needs to be added (usually description), places where the text needs to be smoothed out, and any stuff that isn't consistent (like hair color, eye color, etc.)

I even have my own little copy editing symbols, like ME for "more emotion" or MD for "more description." Only one color highlighter is involved, usually a purple fine-tipped Sharpie. :-)
May. 5th, 2008 12:45 pm (UTC)
Different WIP, different font.

Have never had reason to print out a WIP, mainly because I'm not that far along yet, but if I manage to talk my parents out of another laptop this summer, I might never need to.
May. 5th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC)
Interesting question!

Paper vs. screen: for my first two-four drafts (depending on the novel), I don't edit, I rewrite. So I can do that all on the computer: I open up two windows in Word--one with the previous draft for reference when needed, and one to write the new draft in--and off I go.

When I get to the line editing stage, I have to print things out. I find when I'm reading off the screen, my eyes tend to skim, and I miss things like typos and awkward sentences much more easily than if it's on a piece of paper in front of me. I also like marking up a paper, and then entering it into the computer, because that forces me to consider everything at least twice. :)

Fonts: I work in Times 12-pt the whole way through. I just find it easiest to read. When I print out for revisions, though, I sometimes shrink it so it's two manuscript pages per printed page, in order to save paper.
May. 5th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I don't use highlighters--just pen (preferably red, as blue can sometimes be missed amid the black).
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(no subject) - jer_bear711 - May. 5th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 5th, 2008 01:14 pm (UTC)
Each time I finish a chapter (I work with chapter files, only consolidating into a full novel file after a couple of drafts), I print the damned thing out. I see different things on paper than I see on the screen. Can't see typos as well on the screen, can't see some stupid things like repetitive word usage.

Mark up the paper, using glaring red ink, with the same margins and double line spacing you'd use for submitting, and for the same reason -- space to shove in a whole paragraph if necessary...

And then I print it out clean and hand it over to Wife for the acid test.
May. 5th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
I work chpater files too, though I add each chapter as I go to the complete manuscript draft, but I write in separate chapter files.

May. 5th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
I mostly work on screen these day - didn't use to like it, but I've got a numbe of tools now that make on-screen editing easier than on paper. With paper I find that I might mark up things, but then I get lazy and find typing in every change overwhelming. So I ended up marking things on paper and directly correcting them on screen.... and now I've eliminated the 'hold things in hand' stage and just work dirctly on screen.

As for fonts, I notice a weird trend that every new project seems to demand its own font and colour. I'm a little weirded out by it, but it helps me to keep the tone and style consistent when I change projects, or change between writing one and editing another, so I don't fight it.
May. 5th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
I can edit/rewrite a little on screen, but when I need a second draft (or third, or fourth), I always print out and read from paper. It just reads totally differently in my mind. When it's on screen, I tend to skim. I don't when it's on paper.

I envy people that can edit on screen. :)

As for fonts? I worked in Courier almost exclusively until about last year, and then I just started changing everything to TNR.

- Jill Myles
May. 5th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
I work in Courier 12-point from beginning to end, too. And I usually print out after the first round of edits, after I've taken a break from the story. I notice typos better on paper, I catch wonky sentences more easily--actually I notice everything more clearly on paper. But I generally only do one printout. I make notes on it in pen, then make the changes on the file at the end.
May. 5th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
I tend to print (two pages per sheet of paper) and work from that while revising. I usually start after the first draft, when I need to see the whole thing end-to-end. After that, I might not print again until I've made two or three more rounds of revisions/line edits/changes.

I tend to favor paper for the portability. While it is inefficient and somewhat eco-unfriendly, imho, it's also the only way I can fit edits into my schedule without becoming a total recluse that never leaves the home office. I can carry paper to appts, lunch, etc., and mark it up during my daily downtime.
May. 5th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
PS: Garamond or TNR, 12 pt. I only put it into Courier to (1) mail it out or (2) boost my sense of accomplishment about the length of the project. (TWSS)
May. 5th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
I change the formatting when I start each edit pass -- mainly the font and spacing -- to force myself to see things new and not what I expect to see. I always make the final proofreading pass on paper for the same reason only more so. I go to Courier 12 double only at the very end.

I personally dislike writing with text that's double-spaced, because I want to see as much as possible on the screen. Make that strongly dislike. Even in slap-it-out first drafts, I don't write linearly through a given scene, but jump back and forth as I fill in its flesh. The scenes, I need to write in order, but within a scene, the reverse.


Edited at 2008-05-05 10:36 pm (UTC)
May. 5th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
I never work on paper until I get edits from my editor. I learned to edit on-screen in my old job, where I was editorial director for the region and therefore editing work of people in multiple offices, and that translates fine for my own work. My agent also does everything on the computer. I haven't printed a manuscript in years. I tend to drown in paper even without printing things (it spontaneously seems to come into existence in my house), so I try not to add to the clutter in my house, plus I cringe at the idea of using that much paper. I'm cheap and/or green ("green" is a nice way of saying "frugal" these days, so I've embraced it).

I do change fonts. I like writing in Courier 12 because I can read it easily and I can judge length for pacing. But my agent hates it, so I switch to TNR for her, and then do the next round in that font. And I read the whole manuscript out loud in the final stage, so I know I'm not missing anything. It's amazing what I discover doing it that way.
May. 5th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
I work exclusively in Times New Roman. All other fonts look weird to me and it's hard for me to tell how long the chapter is at a glance without checking the MS "word count".

I do first round edits on the computer, then print the entire MS out on paper. I do change it to single space before I print it to save on paper though.

I print it out because there are glaring things I see on paper that my eyes just skim over on screen like repetitive words/phrasing too close together, typos, etc.

I pick a very bright pen color (and will change this with each MS) to do edits so I don't miss them when I go to enter them into my file later.
May. 5th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
Great question!
I used to do all my editing on-screen, but I've learned that there's definitely some merit to printing it out once I've finished a draft and polished it up a bit.

First, I let the draft sit for at least a week without looking at it. Then I take the whole thing and single-space it, put it into 9 pt. Arial or some other easy to read font, then set it up in two columns and print it on both sides of the page.

I find this is really useful because it forces my brain to see the manuscript in a new and more forgiving light (because it looks almost like a Real Book now), and I can see the actual problems and flaws much more readily. Then I read it over with a red pen in hand and underline/scribble notes and corrections as needed before transferring those corrections into the computer.

If I'm writing fantasy, I use a book-type serif font like Cambria or Sylfaen.

If I'm working on SF or anything more conspicuously modern, I use a basic sans-serif like Arial or Franklin Gothic Book.

I find that using a font that matches the "mood" of the book helps me to get into that mood when I'm writing and revising. On the other hand, if I'm getting sick of a particular scene and am tempted to over-edit, changing the font is sometimes all I need to trick myself into seeing it more objectively and find out where the real problems are.
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May. 5th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
Nearly all of my edits are on-screen. If I have to print something out, it usually means it's so flawed it needs to be re-written from a completely different angle.
May. 5th, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
Duh, forgot half my answer. Forgive me--my ravaged body insisted on sleeping 18 out of the past 24 hours, and I'm just starting to feel human again.

I work in Courier 12, 25.9pt spacing from start to finish. However, I also keep my file at 110% magnification, some days even higher. (If my glasses are in the shop, it's closer to 250%.) I hate having to go back and change formatting, so instead of fitting myself around a font, I make it fit me.
May. 5th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
I print every chapter out, but I do ALL my editing on the computer. I hate editing hard copy anymore. Much easier for me to see what needs to be done on the screen. Copyedits and page proofs are a different matter, of course, but for revisions and my personal edits--computer. :)

May. 5th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
PS: font: Times New Roman 12 pt start to finish. Period. I hate Courier and hate reading it.
May. 5th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
I work in Times New Roman 12-pt. single-spaced, because I like to be able to scan back up and see as much of the book as possible (within reason).

When I go to edit, I actually print out what I call a "miniscript:" 8 pt. font, single-spaced, full-justified, half-inch margins, both sides of the page. You can get about 120K words on about 40 pieces of paper. I punch holes along the edge, stick in some small rings, and poof! A highly portable manuscript.

So long as my vision holds out and my handwriting remains microscopic, anyway.
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