The joy of editing

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicOne of the least pleasant tasks for most writers is editing. Once the story or novel is finished, authors are done with it. But editing a finished work is an important part of the process. It’s not enough to run a quick spell check, a manuscript takes careful and thoughtful consideration. One thing I do to help me with the editing process is to print out a copy and break out a trusty pen.

I know some people will be shocked by this. Yes, I understand the advantages of editing on a computer, and believe me, i do a lot of that as well, but there are specific reasons that I use the printed page as well.

The first reason is that I find more mistakes this way. The human brain is trained to process information in different ways. While I can correct the majority of my errors on the computer, there are some that slip by. The majority of the reading I do on the computer is scanning, and that is how I process information. Editing is not scanning. You need to look carefully and slowly. Paper helps accomplish this.

I also find that the story becomes more alive for me. I grew up with paper books, and while I love eBooks, the physical nature of the paper helps me to make the worlds I create more concrete, more real. I find that I can not only find basic grammar and spelling mistakes, but I can also find blocks of dead or dull writing, and make them stronger. There is an immersive quality to writing on paper that just doesn’t exist on the computer.

There is an environmental concern, yes. I try to purchase recycled paper,  and it goes into the blue box. I also try to reuse pages, printing on the other side, or finding another use for the pages to help offset the expense, both financial and environmental.

So, when will you be able to see the fruits of this editing? Stay tuned for some announcements soon.

If you have any editing techniques that help you, feel free to share them in the comments.

  • I edit on paper too. As warped as it sounds, I like seeing red marks all over the place.

  • Oh I print out stuff too. It is helpful to scribble on the paper.. works for me. Staying tuned..

  • I've never printed out for editing, but I know I'll have to do that for my novella/novel length works. For my shorter works, not so much . I'm big on jotting notes and scribbling so I have a method of writing down lines and scenes and even doodling thumbnail images (storyboard style). I have my own weird organization that works for me but would baffle others. I have missed some obvious errors and such so it helps to have a couple of people to do proofreading. For the most part I do everything myself because I'm a control freak.

  • Hmm… Thus far I've mostly been doing my editing via computer but I can definitely see the advantages to editing something you've got in your hands.

  • veronicagiguere

    I have to paper-edit as well. The best trick that I got for editing comes from my mother, a journalism professor and mad mistress of copy-editing skills. She always advised me to stop and read backwards, since our brains skip over common words as we process and fill in the blanks due to the ideas that are presented. When we read backwards (start at the last paragraph, move up the page) we engage in a technical investigation of the work.

  • I do the same thing. I love to edit by pen, and I even carry a notebook along so I can take notes about things that don't fit in the sidebar. I actually kind of like editing, but not right after I finish a project. I need at least two weeks to let it settle before I pick it up again and get to work on it.

  • I tend not to edit on paper, for the same reason I don't take notes on paper…. I am absent-minded as hell and lose and misplace things all the time. It's aggravating and time consuming for me to try and hunt down where I left the latest cash of papers.

    For me, reading aloud has always been my go-to editing tool. Whether it's reading to someone else, or recently for recording, hearing the words spoken helps me identify repetitious language, awkward phrasing and unclear description. I think it really helps the flow of the writing.

  • I love the reading it backward idea, Veronica! I will have to try that sometime.

    Morgan, I usually print and edit in one great swoop, so I don't have piles of papers around. Trust me, with two kids in the house, piles of papers never stay still for long!

    Thanks everyone for dropping by and commenting!

  • The reading it backwards idea sounds cool, I may try it. I do not print out my stuff to edit. But I do read it aloud, and I read it aloud to somebody else, either my co-author (sometimes we take turns reading it aloud) or to my wife. Occasionally I will print it out to read it aloud so I can be away from the PC to do it, and I may jot down what I find in that case.

    Aside from what I'll call “concept editing” where looking for inconsistencies and more major things that don't work, my other big tool is a list of a few dozen words or phrases I search for. The verb to be among other things. This can take a long time for a long work, but by doing this I catch the vast majority of awkward wording problems, as well as fixing “weak” writing.

  • I love editing! I am a way better editor than fiction writer, though.

  • I'm the same way – I need to edit from a hard copy. It feels like editing on-screen only allows me to see through a tiny window into the story, whereas editing on paper allows me to delve deeper into the story.

    I almost said it gives me more of a panoramic view – but that would have been lame 😉