Yesterday, I printed out Rising and put it into a binder for editing. As you can see, I killed a small tree in the process. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a total granola-munching, tree-hugging, hippie, artist-woman. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where trees are valued more than gold. But I have zero guilt over my choice to edit on paper.
Printing this novel for editing purposes was a conscious decision. I’d started editing on-screen, and I realized how disjointed and awkward it felt. I wrote it as several files, one for each chapter. That means there are 27 separate documents sitting on my hard drive (and backed up in quadruplicate, because I’m paranoid) that make up the whole of this novel. How does one get a sense of wholeness from so many disconnected pieces?
I tried putting them all into one file. It almost felt like I was getting somewhere (See Pro Tip, below). After going through and fixing formatting inconsistencies (shudder), I started looking through the first chapter. It felt impersonal. It still wasn’t working for me.
I’m not an e-reader. I guess that might make a difference. I like the feel of an actual book in my hand. When I walk into a book store, I take a moment to step aside (so as not to get run over by those coming in behind me), close my eyes and inhale the fresh-print smell. I am filled with a sense of joy, belonging and appreciation. It’s like coming home.
Editing on-screen presents another host of issues as well, mostly in terms of squirreling off to the Internet when the process becomes unpleasant. This paragraph sucks — oooh, look, Facebook! I can’t believe I missed a plot hole that gaping — hey, cat video!
After some deliberation I decided, for editing purposes, I would print my novel. I hopped on to the Kinkos website — because my printer sucks — and I uploaded my entire text to their print order queue. After a few clicks, and electing to pay the extra $4 for them to 3-hole punch it for me (mostly because I really am that lazy), I set my pick-up time for the next morning.
The moment I saw my manuscript printed in full was another of those that hit me hard and left me in awe of this process. Holding 230+ pages in my hand — a book that I wrote — was an emotional charge nearly equal to that of penning the last line. It became real, tangible and concrete. When I sat down with my manuscript, neatly tucked into a 3-ring binder, with my stack of post-it notes and my trusty stylus pen, the sense of dedication and desire to edit was overwhelming. It felt so much more right than when it was just on screen. I was editing a book — not a document. I was holding a novel — not staring at a computer.
I made it through the first 50 pages yesterday afternoon/evening, adding written comments and post-it notes galore. I found myself engrossed, and even enamored with the process. Distraction was minimal, and I was able to move around the house, finding comfortable places to cozy up to my book with pen in hand and coffee at my side. My cat curled up next to me on the spare-room bed and together we tackled chapter after chapter. And now I carry it around the house with me like a child would their favorite blanket. The sight of it fills me with intense joy. Having it in sight, marked off with the last page I’d read, encourages me to finish the process.
I’m sure more editing will happen on screen; after all, I do have to input the edits I’ve made on paper. I have resolved to only print the manuscript once. I have also promised myself that I will keep it forever. Some day, off in the future, I’ll have a shelf of these — first draft manuscripts printed off and hacked to pieces with post-its and pen marks. They will be a visual reminder of past accomplishments, encouraging current and future efforts. If I’m not throwing them away, then they are not a wasted energy. In fact, they are energizing. They give me a sense of concrete realism that cannot be felt on screen.
Pro Tip: Did you know, you can easily combine multiple documents in Word? Using the “Add Object” menu item, you “Add Text From Document” and then you just select every document you’d like to concatenate into a single file. If they are named sequentially, it just pops them all into place. Pretty slick!