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The Process of Processing

July 1, 2013

I have been thinking about my process as a writer. I know this topic has been discussed several times in the past here on this site. I am going to focus on a couple of items today. My process for  and moving toward all digital writing and editing of a work.

It seems that as time progresses we evolve the tools available to us for writing. However, having the technology available does not guarantee that we will use it. Why is that? Is it ingrained behavior, that it has become such an integral part of our process that we refuse to change. Is it simply a matter of preference, we like it that way so we do not concern ourselves with updating our methods.

In this digital age do many people still write their works in progress on paper? I do not. Even at the time I learned about writing in school MS-Word came on a set of 5-1/4 inch floppy disks. Everything was by hand, written on paper and maybe, possibly, typed up on a typewriter.

How far we have come. I use a program I wrote for myself to create the outline of my idea. It allows me to create the story’s structure, main characters, conflicts, motivations, virtual corkboard and write scenes. In fact this piece of software is where The Ignatius St. Eligius series comes from. Well, the first draft anyway. Once I have the rough draft of a chapter written, I save it out to a MS-Word file (or insert any word processing software here.) There, I do a fast pass over the text for spelling, grammar and paragraph formatting.

This brings me to my next question:  Of those people who use a computer for their writing, do you edit electronically or print a hard copy and grab a red pen? Sadly, I engage in the deforestation (albeit at a slower rate since I use recycled paper) of the of woodland creature habitats. I cannot help but print a copy, and start reading the chapter, pen in hand. Again, this is ingrained from when I was in  school – It is learned behavior. I make notes, I strike out text, highlight sentences that need to be moved/changed and add new pieces. After that, everything has to be entered in the Word document.

Generally, I try to only print one copy of the chapter. Recently though I found myself printing three copies of a short story as I went through the editing process with an actual editor. (Side note, working with a kind and fair editor is a blessing. I learned immediately and the overall quality of the piece went up several notches.) Having those paper drafts laying about made me consider my process as being flawed.

I mean we talk about the digital age and paperless offices. While it is true, we have entered the digital age and are firmly ensconced there. The paperless office is still something of a myth. It’s all unicorns and rainbows as my home office can testify. For me seeing the words on paper and reading them in very near book like format (i.e. on paper) allows me to visually understand what I am proof reading. I can sort out little issues and big with a couple of marks from my red pen. Going completely digital would require me to learn the proofing tools in MS-Word (or other word processor.) I am not complaining about learning, nor am I incapable/unwilling. It is simply that I prefer to work on paper for my editing process.

Several months ago, I posted about an online text editor called: Draft . It is a totally online editor with versioning capabilities and the ability to save copies of your work to cloud services like Evernote.  The downside of Draft is that it requires a modern browser, which I do not always have access to. I like Draft enough that I intend on writing a complete work on it, and will also come up with a review. It is a tool designed to remove paper from the equation, make the writing simple and focused. Draft has features that are focused on improving the process of writing and tracking changes to shared documents.

There’s the rub though, I do not share documents. Well, so infrequently that I might as well never share documents. I can think of two at the moment. After working away on Draft, which has no real text features other than spellcheck, I came to realize that I need something somewhere in the middle, perhaps. I do need to do more testing and research with Draft. My thought being that I can use Evernote to organize an outline and characters and Draft for the main writing. In that way, avoiding paper altogether.

Anyway, let me wrap this up by saying: Your process is your own. If it works for you, great! If you want to seek out change, awesome. Whatever you do, as long as you are able to write and follow your own process then it is working for you.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and reading along. Feel free to pop over to the comments section and weigh-in on your process and what you like / dislike about it.



From → Writing

One Comment
  1. Funny how ridiculously varied the creative process can be. Example, mine could not be more different. I only make dead-tree versions if I know someone who wants to read my stuff but has no computer. I write in long stretches in a mad haze until the outer rims of vision start shimmering, and I have to check my driver’s license to remember my name. I “edit” the words past, present and future mentally every waking moment, and I praise be that I have no editor, because I write entirely for fun these days and couldn’t handle even the most politely-worded “Perhaps you should consider removing this scene?”

    The creative process is wonderful. Write on!

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