I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, December 13, 2010

When revising your manuscript seems too daunting (Part 1)

I hit a wall in my revisions recently, a great big high one. I stared at my computer screen for hours, knowing I still had heaps of revisions left to do but not able to bring myself to continue. I tried to pass off my mental block as a one-off event, only to find myself in the exact same position the next day. And the next.

Eventually I admitted defeat, closed down my computer, and went for a walk. The change of scene worked wonders and I came up with a plan of action that has since helped me immensely. I thought I'd share it with you over the next few posts.


Step 1 - Time to print out my document and start working on paper. 

Some of us prefer to do all our revisions on the computer. If this works well for you, that's great, there's no point trying to fix what ain't broke. But, if you're like me and find your focus narrowing to an area the size of your computer screen (minus the toolbars), and often tunnelling in until you can only concentrate on the sentence you're revising at that particular moment, you might need to print out your document and start working on paper.

I've found that the shift from computer screen to paper immediately broadens my perspective, enabling me to look at the manuscript/part/chapter/paragraph as a whole rather than revise sentence by sentence. This has obvious benefits to my manuscript, particularly when I'm focusing on "big picture" revisions rather than line edits.

When (or if) you make the shift from computer drafting and revisions to printed-out revisions is up to you. After I finished my first draft, I found I had a lot of scenes and paragraphs that needed moving around, and I did most of this on the computer. Once I had my manuscript structure in place though, revisions on paper became a must.

How about you, do you revise on the computer or on paper? When do you make the shift?

Next Revision Step: dividing your manuscript into sections...


PK HREZO said...

I only print it out if I'm having trouble identifying what's not working. Otherwise, all revisions are on the computer.
I think it helps immensely to have the paper in hand for edits ... it helps you view your story in a nw light. I've also heard that printing the chapters in a different font helps too.

Tessa Quin said...

I'm so with you on the block. I keep putting my revisions off. The plan is to rewrite one chapter of BoB, and then use the rest of the vacation on my Icelandic MG and see if I can get it published afterwards. I've made a list of things to do before Christmas, it's long, but I know I'm just trying to postpone the revisions.

I suppose I just have to dive into it. It's so hard to start, but I know that once I'm there, I love it.

Stina said...

When I wrote my first novel, I printed out each draft. Very very expensive considering I ended up doing 15+ drafts on a 100 K + word novel.

Later, I learned to do the majority of my editing on the computer, but I usually print off the ms for the occasional draft, especially after I've finished the first one, for the reasons you listed.

Great post, Rachael. :D

Su said...

Mostly on the computer, because I would use an entire forest if I started printing.

C. N. Nevets said...

Ideally, I try to do both. How's that for a non-answer? They feel different, though, and I tell myself that means I'm getting different perspectives and different insights through each. It might be a lie, but it's one I believe.

Joanna St. James said...

I am planning to do my revision on the computer (my muse hates that) then I will do edits and other minor stuff on the paper copy. I have to do this because my revision includes a major rewrite, altho' if the muse keeps on balking I might just switch to paper.

Bast said...

I print out my manuscript as I finish each chapter. That then goes into a binder. I don't look at it again until I've finished everything and then waited a month. I would never be able to edit on a computer. I need to have it printed out.

Colene Murphy said...

Great plan! Seeing it on paper usually ALWAYS makes a huge difference in working on it. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Here, here but since my novel is in verse I can do it verse by verse without lots of printing. It is definitely more creative to write away from the computer.

Hart Johnson said...

TOTALLY have to work from hard copy! I can only conjure about 60% of my attention to a computer screen... it's not enough. I do a little of the new WRITING at the computer... making notes like 'write scene where XYZ gets caught doing ABC'. I also am inclined to write 'this chapter needs to be redone, but not until I've rewritten ending'-- because I don't think editing is as linear as writing, at least for me.

Christopher said...

I always like to edit on paper. I just feel happier with paper in my hand and more focused on what I'm reading. Little boxes pop up on the computer when I'm trying to do stuff trying to distract me. Take that trees!

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

Oh, I use the computer and print-outs. For some reason, I spot different things in each format.

And for some reason, I always miss something too. Thank goodness for critique partners.
The enigmatic, masked blogger

Golden Eagle said...

I'd print out my novel and read it that way . . . except it's long, and would take up a lot of paper and ink. :P

Melissa Gill said...

I've started doing some editing on a computer, by I'm very tactile and I need the hands on, pen on paper markings for some parts of my revision process.

Abby Minard said...

I like paper copies as well. I just merged my 2 crit partners' marked up copies of my own ms into one, and have started with post its and notes etc. It's so much easier having it all layed out in front of me. Nice to know I'm not the only one!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I revise on both the computer and paper. I usually do my final revision before sending it to my editor on paper, then as I make the corrections on the computer, I tweak again. It's a circle. ;)

Anonymous said...

I prefer working from paper for line-editing but also like to switch back and forth

Kiki Hamilton said...

Interesting post and timely as I'm just starting revisions on a WIP. I do all my revisions on the computer because basically I'm too lazy to make notes and have to retype them into the draft. But seriously - I change and add so many things it would be a nightmare to try to make sense of the scribbles on the page! Plus I can type faster than I can write!

Adina West said...

For the MS I've been working on most recently I've done all revisions on screen, but seriously, if paper costed nothing and there was no environmental cost I think I'd have been much likelier to print it all out! There are times when I found it hard to work on the computer, but I don't know whether printing it all out would have brought more clarity or not.

aisyahputrisetiawan said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)
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