Advice, Critique, Editing, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Read, Revision, Writing

It’s not wasted paper!

Although I apparently have too little ego, I have ample stubbornness. I’m obsessed with learning and following grammar rules. (Yes, I admit it.) But I read a lot of how-to-write advice … and then I usually do it my way.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t write true first drafts. I know all the advice books say you should. Even Anne Lamott, one of my favorite founts of inspiration, advises you give yourself permission to write a “shitty first draft.” But I can’t do it. I’ve tried. I’ve kept on typing even though I recognized immediately the opening line of that paragraph was weak or nonsense or just plain stupid. I pushed on, telling myself, I’d fix it later … but later always turns out to be within minutes—or less. I can’t concentrate on moving forward when I know that horrible, black, taunting error lurks behind me.

So, I edit and revise as I go. And still, my critique partners always point out errors and weaknesses to me. That results in another round of edits and revision for that chapter. I do all this in Word. I do read my work aloud and, by doing this, catch awkward bits and some typos. But I don’t print it out. This is because I’m cheap environmentally conscious.

printing-pressAnd I’d never read this novel straight through because I find it tedious to read for long on a monitor. So after I finished my multiple-times edited and revised “first” draft, I broke down and printed it. I began my first run through thinking I’d mostly look for awkward sentences to clarify, strengthen, and beautify. Also, because my word count was a little short, I wanted to find places where I could expand scenes or even add new ones.

What surprised me was that you really can see things in print that you don’t see on the screen. Come to think of it, since most of my critique partners printed out my chapters, I imagine that’s how they caught my unexplained tendency to leave off the end quotes. In addition to finding a few of those they missed, I also found the sort of typos Word doesn’t catch (though for through, for example) and several missing words, mostly pronouns and conjunctions. Although, it seems I’m quite enthralled with the conjunction “but.”

Anyway, my advice is that you read a hard copy of your work at least once before you think you’ve finished it.

20 thoughts on “It’s not wasted paper!”

  1. I’m the same way. I have a need for the first draft to also be as close as possible to the final draft! I’ve been told many writers go through six, seven or more drafts before they publish a novel. I know it would get easier with each draft but still, so many drafts!! And grammar, I love grammar but I usually tend to disregard many comments that don’t seem to suit what I’m going for, which can be bad. Anyway, it’s nice to read other writers’ processes. All the best!


    1. I once made the comment that I have to edit as I go because I’m afraid I’ll die and then others would see a ms with all my sloppy writing. I was sort of joking, but it’s true that I’ve woke myself up at night when I “saw” an error and got up to fix it. I think I’ll stop with the confessions now. 😀


  2. Yes, the printed work is so much easier to spot mistakes. Plus you can look at the whole page and notice all the paragraphs are too much the same length, or too much white space or not enough. these things are nearly impossible to see on the computer screen.


    1. I’m a convert, Tricia. But I’ll never again wait until I’m done with the whole novel to read it in print. I’ll go chapter by chapter. I swear these pages are multiplying overnight!


  3. I need a paper copy to find the things I inevitably miss trying to edit on screen but I try to limit the copies I make. Thank goodness for the computer – can you imagine having to actually re-type/re-write by hand every single draft!!!


    1. Although some authors claim they write their novels longhand, I know I’m too impatient for that. Plus, half the time, even I can’t read my handwriting!


  4. You and I have a similar writing process. A rare once in a while I can get the first draft spewed out on the screen, but I can never leave it alone. I must go back and putter about, even if just a little.

    I like editing on screen. You can move and revise so easily; save a copy and work on that; and then, of course, there is the ever popular “undo” feature.

    But I find I must print something out to proofread it. As most of your commenters have noted, you catch things in print that you miss on screen. I think I’ll call that the “blip effect” — as in you just blip over the errors on screen.


    1. If I write something and not revise it, that would most likely be dialogue. But even though that always comes to me first, it doesn’t always come to me whole.

      Yes, I’m a convert to printing. Though, like I said to Tricia, I won’t wait until the end to print it out the first time. I think only three pages ended up without a single red mark. It was mind-numbing to enter that many changes at once.


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