This week I printed out ‘Novel 2’ for the first time. It took me right back to early last year, when I printed out ‘Novel 1’ for the first time. I posted a blog back then sharing reasons to print your work in progress. This time I’d like to focus not so much on the reasons why you should print your work, but the things you’ll notice when you do.
Ah typos. How is it they’re able to crop up so often, even after several edits? Sometimes, when you’ve been editing on a screen for so long, you simply get used to your wrong spellings or other mistakes. Reading through your work in print is like looking at it through a whole new perspective, and allows you to notice these errors more easily. You can circle them in your red pen (or a different colour, if red looks too harsh!), and go back to edit them on screen once you’ve finished your print read through.
I thought I’d gotten better at spotting clichés, and perhaps I have. But again, when reading on screen there were words and phrases I was so used to seeing, I was blind to the fact they were either weak or overused. Something about having the words on paper in front of me, as if I were reading a real book, helped to spot unimaginative descriptions, and forced me to consider new ways to word these sentences, so that they were unique to my story or my character.
Ever read something and found yourself jarred when two words very close together are exactly the same? Yep. It really takes the reader out of the natural flow of words, and forces them to look back, thinking ‘have they already said this?’ For example, I spotted that I’d used “waited” and “waiting” within the same sentence. Somehow I’d missed it before, but reading on paper made the proximity of those words glaringly obvious.
Again, I think it is easier to skim read when you’re editing on screen. You know the story after all, you picked the words and planted them in that specific order. And so it can be easy to miss sentences that are too long without a pause for breath. Reading your paper copy makes it much easier to spot your missing punctuation, and will help you tighten up your sentences.
How Much You’ve Written
It’s not all typos and bad spelling and repeats of words and a lack of punctuation. Holding your words in your hands make you notice quite how much you’ve written. Sure, you can see the word count on screen, or you can scroll through the pages and watch them flicker all the way down. But seeing the thick pile of paper, feeling its weight, really gives you a sense of accomplishment. Your print copy is physical proof that you’ve written a novel, and it’s something you should be really proud of.
What do you notice when you edit by putting pen to paper? I’d love to hear your experiences of printing your work, so drop a comment below.