Why does what you’ve written take on a different character when you print it out? Yesterday I printed out what I’d written of The Black and the White so far (about 18 000 words) as I wanted to get back into the book after an enforced 10 day layoff caused by the play, my Mum’s 70th birthday and attendant visits, then sorting out the Ultimate Frisbee Freak for university and taking him up on Sunday.
So, I printed out the words I’d written and proceeded to read them.
Now, you need to bear in mind that, of the (at least) two kinds of writer I am not of the ‘get it down fast and dirty but get it down’ variety. I find it impossible to move on to the next chapter until I’m pretty satisfied with the one I’ve just written. In theory this should keep later editing to a minimum. It doesn’t. I don’t know whether I’m a) a perfectionist b) inefficient c) indecisive or d) all three but, anyway, these chapters that I’d printed out had already been scrutinised, read aloud, cut, augmented and polished. Each had at least four versions of itself saved in a folder marked ‘chapter x’.
And still there was work to do.
Things which I would have expected to notice first time round – infelicities of style, repetitions, saying things twice, confusing paragraphs where I knew what I meant but the poor reader would have to be telepathic to grasp – suddenly leaped out at me.
Was it the ten days’ distance from the words?
Or just that it was printed and not in ‘first draft’ mode on the screen?
Or perhaps I’m being unduly self-critical and not allowing myself the luxury of writing myself in to the book in peace without expecting it to be instantly satsifactory.
I know that lots of longhand first drafters say that when they type up what they’ve written and see the words appearing as print onscreen, they immediately see what needs to be changed, rewritten etc. The change from scrawl to ‘clean text’ seems to be part of the editing process.
So, should I routinely print out my chapters once I’m happy with them on screen?
What does everybody else to in this context?