Thursday, May 15, 2008

No Substitute For Words On Paper


No, this isn't going to be one of those posts that says "Books are dead," or "The Kindle is going to replace traditional books." It's not even going to discuss the merits of the Kindle or the Sony Reader or any of those things. For that, by the way, check out this posting. Now that I have your attention, I want to mention the practice of doing a final edit of a manuscript on a print-out, instead of in an electronic format.

I know that many editors and agents now prefer their submissions come electronically. When I began this writing journey, less than four years ago, proposals were made in hard-copy, sent via snail mail, and were always accompanied by the traditional SASE, the return of which always produced a cold sweat. In my supply cabinet, I still have a few of those soft plastic report covers I used for this purpose. How times change.

I guess there may be those among us who still do drafts in longhand. My old Royal typewriter has long since disappeared, but there are probably even a few authors who use such an instrument. However, now the writing method for most of us is the computer. But when it comes time to do that final edit--the one in which I look for repeated words, inconsistencies, even using the wrong name for a character--I want to look at the words on a sheet of paper. While I mull over some options for my writing future, I'm putting the finishing touches on my latest novel. I'd polished and polished it on the computer. Then I spent twenty bucks and emailed it to Office Max to have them print out a manuscript. In going over it, I've found a number of errors that simply eluded me when they were viewed on a monitor, even a big-screen one. I don't know why this is, but I can attest that it's held true every time I've done it.

You may or may not choose to follow my example in this, but I wanted to mention it. It's not as important as some of the other "rules" by which we write: keep point of view consistent, avoid passive voice, minimize speaker attributions. But when you're trying to produce a manuscript that will bring forth the "standard rich and famous contract" of which we all dream, every little bit helps.

3 comments:

Deb said...

I am so with you on this. Even when I crit my crit partner's work, I have to print it out or I'm gonna miss a swackload of goofs.

Maybe it has something to do with right brain/left brain? Or possibly the cortex uses a different path to process words on a screen, sitting up before our eyes, than on paper, spread out on table or desk?

You're the MD--what's your theory?

One More Writer said...

When possible, which is most of the time, my critique groups does hard copy critiques. And I print out my own work to edit it, too--once after the first draft and once before I send it off. It is amazing how different it is on paper!

One More Writer said...

When possible, which is most of the time, my critique groups does hard copy critiques. And I print out my own work to edit it, too--once after the first draft and once before I send it off. It is amazing how different it is on paper!