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On writing: editing with paper and red pen

March 18, 2014 16 comments

Recently, I’ve spent almost all my time editing a short story (this one here) and have gone through numerous revisions. I think the story and writing have improved dramatically, so I’m happy with my progress. But as I was about to begin my umpteenth editing session, I realized I was getting sick of staring at my computer monitor for hours on end. Still wanting to make progress, I decided to try a little editing the old-school way. Yep, I printed the story, grabbed my red pen, sat down at my desk, and started marking away.

2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 19
(Photo by Nic’s events)

I think it was helpful to look at the story differently, i.e., on paper rather than glowing letters on a screen. And it was fun to run that red pen all over the pages as I found various types of errors and problems. But I must confess, though, that the overall editing session didn’t feel as good nor did it feel as complete as my normal computer-based editing. I felt constrained, as it seemed to limit the speed at which I could write down my thoughts, and if the scope of the changes became too large, the method became unwieldy.

So while I was happy to try my hand at editing via paper and pen, for me it just wasn’t as productive, though I suppose if you consider that it did let me keep revising my story when otherwise I’d probably have just stopped for the night, it did, in a small way, allow me to get more done. Not sure if I’ll resort to it again in the future, unless perhaps I find myself ready to stab my computer monitor because my eyes are burning from too many hours of endless edits (that have followed a full day of programming on the same computer).

Anyone edit by hand much? How do you like it? Any of you refuse to resort to the old way of doing things and stick to just their computer? Tried the red pen on a larger project, like a novel? How did it go?

–dp

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