Editing: Straight to Screen (Or, Editing Work you Never Paper Drafted)

ploughed through that strange double narrative, and managed to speed through Dib’s Universe, book three, and the very last book I ever hand wrote.

I started writing at twelve, when I didn’t have unlimited access to a computer or laptop to write with. All of my early novels (of which there are five that will never see the light of day, the first three Space and Time novels I just edited, a novel about a walled city, Against the Elements and I think that’s it?) were hand-written, in notebooks, and then on lined paper. I had a lovely green Parker pen that a friend of the family bought me, and I would sit at my desk or on my bed and write all day, if the mood took me.

For my sixteenth birthday (yes, sixteenth – I had no friends and wrote a lot), I bought a third hand laptop off a friend, and the first novel I wrote on it was Eugene’s Vortex, the fourth Space and Time novel.

There are a myriad of advantages to writing straight to screen:

  1. Continuity – not just between pages, but between entire novels. It’s so easy to check up on a capitalisation, or a previous important section. What I’m finding, four chapters in to Vortex, is that I’m way more accurate with that sort of thing. It’s easier to scroll up, or control-f something like a key phrase than sort through reams of paper.
  2. Unlimited space to mess up, rewrite, edit. On paper, I was concerned with the ink and paper consumption, and the tidiness of the thing. On screen, no worries.
  3. You can write faster, for longer. I don’t know about you, but hand-writing a whole novel plays havoc with your hands. My novels definitely became longer when I had the joys of Microsoft Word.
  4. Keep it secret, keep it safe. I’m a paranoid writer. I don’t want anyone stumbling across my writing when I don’t want them to. Password protect, baby.
  5. Editing is way easy. Honestly. Utilise that Track Changes tool.

But I’m also discovering the biggest problems with writing straight to screen. The first is that with all that space, I ramble. My tautological phrases have doubled, probably because I’m not thinking hard about the right word or phrase. It’s almost like I just put every phrase I liked down and thought, ‘I’ll pick one later’. What I find is that the right phrase is often there, nestled in a bunch of other, exactly similar phrases, and that’s taking up a lot of edit time.

Typos, obviously, are a curse here too. There are lots of ‘me’s instead of ‘my’s and ‘he’s instead of ‘her’s and that is something you have to comb for, excessively. I also think maybe that I got obssessed with the synonyms tab on the drop down menu, because there are weird words in there that I would never use now.

Editing is about paring down, and unlike the first three books, I’m adding a lot less and taking out more, which is a good thing. There is definitely a big step up from Universe’s word count to Vortex’s.

But I’m enjoying these Space novels a lot. These are my favourite characters and it’s funny seeing how accurate my descriptions of them are continuously. It’s a learning curve!

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