Revising on paper or computer

Revision update: I buckled down yesterday and jumped in. More today.

I’m a computer hound. I have a laptop, and it’s like my good and trusty friend. It’s always with me. If I go on a trip, the computer is packed. When I went to the Austin SCBWI conference a few weeks ago, I stayed overnight with some friends and took my computer just in case. I didn’t end up using it, but I felt better knowing it was there.

My love for my computer isn’t because it’s a portal to the Internet. I’ve never been one to spend hours on Facebook or watching videos on YouTube (although, I do occasionally catch up with TV shows on Hulu). To me, my computer is my writing tool, and that’s why I love it — and feel lost without it.

So, when it’s time to revise my manuscripts — like I’m doing now — I find it hard, unnatural even to work on paper. I start on paper, but I usually end up getting back on the computer long before I’ve gotten to the end of my printed manuscript.

But working with paper on a revision has it’s benefits:

  • It allows you to see your work in a different way, as a reader instead of a writer.
  • It’s easier to make notes in the margins without doing actual changes.
  • Making notes instead of actual changes, allows you to think about the issue twice, once on the paper and again when you go back to your computer to input the revisions.

Still, for me, working with paper is hard. I wrote a blog post about this same subject last year, and although I stand by what I said then and say now, I always want to jump back onto the computer. That’s why I was amazed when author Lisa Graff, at the Austin SCBWI conference, said her revising strategy is:

  1. go through the manuscript on paper
  2. open a new Word document and retype the whole manuscript with changes
  3. print and repeat until she’s satisfied.

It works for her, and ultimately, every writer is different and must find what works for them — but, if you don’t try other things, how will you know whether it works for you? Of course, Lisa was an editor for five years too, so she knows a thing or two about revising. Maybe there’s something in this paper revising after all.

What about you? Do you prefer working with paper or computer when revising or writing your first draft?

Write On!

5 Responses

  1. Vonna Carter says:

    I always write my first draft on the computer. For efficiency, I also make most of my changes directly on the computer, but it feels friendlier to write my revision notes on a print out while curled up with a soft throw in winter or or sitting under the trees on a sunny day.

  2. beth says:

    I do a combo of both–so if I get an idea for a scene, I can add a ton of words easily with the computer, but I could add little things on the paper.

  3. Vonna, yeah, reading on paper on the couch or under a tree is nice. Doesn’t feel so much like work. 🙂

    Beth, that’s kind of what I do too, except that I keep getting drawn back to the computer.

  4. Andrea says:

    I used to do all my revisions on paper. But for my current WIP, now on draft #2, I’m using the computer. I’m cutting and moving around big sections of text. Maybe after I get draft #2 done, I’ll go back to a paper version. But if I know I’m going to be revising a lot, I can’t stomach the thought of wasting so much paper.

  5. I know what you mean, Andrea, I hate wasting the paper. 🙂

What do you think?