Come On, All You On-Screen Editors, Tell Me The Secret!

Posted on 22nd January, 2016

I am in the final stages of editing my novel and I have a question for other writers. Screen or paper? I wrote a post some time ago about how I love the physical act of putting pen to paper and how for me, writing (as opposed to typing) is part of the creative process.


I've never composed straight onto the screen even though it seems to be the norm these days. Even during NaNoWriMo, I don't, which means I will never experience the jubilation of uploading my NaNo novel to have the word count verified. (Mind you, I've never achieved the magic 50,000 words, but that's another story.) For me, it's pen to paper every time. Composing directly onto the screen just doesn't work for me; but put a pen in my hand, and off I go.


When it comes to editing, I print out a copy and use it for the first round of edits. I write all over that paper copy as I make changes or add notes. There are crossings out, additons, arrows, notes in the margins, notes on the back of the sheet. I can do all that because I'm working on paper.


How do all you on-screen writers cope at the editing stage? Doesn't it curtail your thought processes?


After that first major edit, I then transfer those changes onto my screen copy. Subsequent edits are done on the computer unless there is a substantial piece of rewriting to be done and then I print out that part, because rewriting, just like the original writing, is better done on paper.


Here's another question for the on-screen editors: If you want to do a substantial re-jig of a scene or a chapter, how do you cope? It's so much easier to flick to and fro through sheets of paper than to scroll up and down a screen... isn't it?


Is it me? Or are there others out there who prefer to work on paper? Do leave a comment and tell me about the process that works for you.


(My friend Jan Baynham is also busy editing. She blogged recently about what she has learned so far from the process and last week she welcomed the first of several writer friends to her blog to discuss their own approaches to editing. Jan's blog is here.)


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Comments (9)

I write straight onto my PC. I try to take the NaNo approach of just typing and not trying to edit as I go (although I often have big gaps between writing with having a full-time job as well so I do often have to go back and remind myself of what's happened so far and can't resist a little edit along the way). I work on the PC until I think I'm pretty much there and then I like to print off a version (cringing at the tree abuse) and dig out my coloured pens. I didn't consciously plan that that's how I'd write and edit. It just became a bit of a habit
I know what you mean about reading your work aloud, Jen. It so happens I was doing that only yesterday. It can make a big difference. Thanks for dropping by.
I edit on screen as well as on paper, changing between the two depending on where I am in the draft and writing process. For developmental edits (plot, character, pacing, etc.) I do a first big pass using pen and paper and then transfer those changes into my electronic copy. For the more minor copy edits, I work on screen.

An integral part of my editing process, though, whether it's on screen or paper, is reading the entire manuscript aloud. I catch so many issues that way, minor errors as well as major inconsistencies in both characters and dialogue.

As you and others of said, writing and editing do come down to individual preferences. When you find what works for you, stick to it!
It's all a question of individual preference, isn't it, Wendy. I know you are an on-screen writer. I wonder what it is about the paper process that makes me love it?
I never edit on paper - everything is done on screen. I use the 'navigation pane' tool in Word to toggle between chapters which I think is easier than wading through pages. I'm sure we all have our different ways which we find easiest.
I know what you mean, Jan, about not seeing typos on-screen - I believe this is a common problem. Mistakes stand out far more obviously on paper, for some reason. I was pleased to link to your blog - your editing series is well worth a look.
I prefer to write straight onto the screen and do insert comments about points to come back to or research. However, I need to print out the first draft in order to start editing properly. That's when I use different coloured pens and highlighters, post-its and the like. When proof-reading, I find it impossible to see mistakes on screen so I agree it had to be a paper copy every time, Sue. Thank you for the link to my blog.
One of the features (I won't call it a drawback) of working both on paper and on-screen is that you have to make sure the edits all end up in the right place! Thanks for your comment, Evie - you made me laugh!
I'm exactly the same - I have to print out my first draft and edit on paper. The further along I get in the process, the more confusing it gets! I end up writing notes on paper and changing things on screen and promptly forgetting what I've done :)