When I completed the first draft of my third of the forthcoming After Earth prequel novel, I noted this on Twitter and Facebook which launched an interesting discussion with a variety of peers from a wide swath of my professional life.
The argument boiled down as to whether or not printing out the work resulted in a better reading and polishing experience. Most argued in favor of investing in the paper and printer ink because there was something unique about seeing the words in cold print rather than on the screen. They said they found more errors and things to correct in the subsequent drafts.
Now, I haven’t printed out any of my work in well over a decade. It used to be I would submit my freelance assignments printed out, matching the style requested from the publisher. Then I was asked to submit the manuscript as both hard copy and on a floppy disc (remember those?). Then came the day I was asked to merely email in the file. I haven’t looked back.
The dialogue on my Facebook Wall was an interesting one and given my respect for those advocating for printing out the manuscript, and my own trepidations about delivering as good a draft as possible for something so new, I decided to take the plunge. My third of the book weighed in at 133 pages and some 36,000 words. Late last week I printed it out and over the course of the last seven days, I have been reading through the pages, my red pen at hand. I found typos (despite spell check, lesson learned), I found missing words or the wrong words, and places where I needed to flesh out moments or exchanges.
I always fret over my dialogue, wishing I had the gift of skilled writers like Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, David E. Kelley or others to infuse characters with distinct speech patterns and personalities. I also needed to ensure that the way I wrote After Earth differed from how I wrote Star Trek where I have done the bulk of my fiction writing. I was also concerned that I hadn’t written anything of this length since the Iron Man novel which I wrote some four years back so yeah, there were some butterflies.
While I read through the pages and made my notes, in some cases the rewrites were there or just notes to myself about changes to be made. Meanwhile, I was trying to pay particular attention to the shows I was watching for relaxation, listening to how the characters spoke.
I have now keyed in all the changes, growing the book by about 2000 words, taking out bunches and putting in a whole lot more, which I think has done to improve the overall feel of my section. Right now, Michael Jan Friedman and Peter David are wrapping their thirds and I eagerly await the first cut of the entire novel to see how well things work together.
Meanwhile, this was an invaluable writing experience and editing refresher which I suspect is one to be repeated in the future.