Tag Archives: by hand

Editing: Better as a Hand Job

First I apologize for the gap in posts. I started a new job which always presents time challenges, then a dear friend died, then I got offered a short contract on the other side of the country, starting this week. There was hardly time to breathe let alone blog.
I wrote the final sentence of my completed draft about a month ago. After a one month break, the time has come to begin the big story edit. I need to do the first big edit myself before handing the manuscript off to a different set of eyes. This will officially become the third draft, having designated the post-NaNo run-through—where I made notes in the margin and took a year to complete the big gap in the second half of the middle third—as the second draft.

I started a few weeks ago—okay, I started over a month ago—when my boyfriend and I planned a camping trip that provided a perfect opportunity for a few hours a day without distraction to peruse the draft and make notes. Only trick was: I’d have to do the work by hand. I printed out the first part in its entirety, double spaced, and took a pen. The camping weekend was a rain-out disaster. I did some work on the manuscript while we were sequestered in the tent, but only got so far as halfway through the prologue before misery prevailed and I read a book instead.

Part of the lesson there was don’t expect to get any work done while spending time with someone who needs a lot of attention or whose miserable state of mind can so easily effect one’s own. That part I already knew. The second part of the lesson did not reveal itself until this weekend.

Having printed a large chunk of my manuscript for the camping trip, and finding myself heading out to Vancouver for a film job, I threw the pages into the suitcase with everything else, figuring I would have time to try again. The first week here I’ve been too exhausted in the evenings to do anything, but yesterday I found myself with a whole day to kill, and after a hike in my favourite park to a view I seek out every time I’m here, I took the manuscript to the beach. Pen in hand I began where I’d left off in the tent, making notes on the pages, noting character changes, points of arc I’d missed an opportunity for, details that I’d added later that tied into the beginning chapters, and highlighting a few awkward sentences I need to fix. Most importantly, I found myself so reinvigorated by the story and its characters that when I decided I’d had enough of sitting on the grass on a towel and headed “home” (a hotel suite), I sat down at the desk and worked away for another couple of hours.

It struck me as I worked that making the edit notes on a printed manuscript made a huge difference in the process. Something about working with a hard copy removed me far enough to grant me a wider perspective. I could turn the pages and write on the back. I imagine working with a hard copy instead of on the laptop is akin to printing out a drawing I’ve been working on and hitting it with a red pen for corrections. There is just so much more one can see with the whole than when nose to word (or line) within a screen space.
I will have to transpose the notes and rewrites back into the digital manuscript (which will become the third draft, officially), but the process is worth the extra step.

I am out with family today and more hikes per the pacific north-west life, but I can’t wait to get back to those pages!

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