Editing with my red pen

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I’ve just been reflecting on my editing technique. At the moment I’m working through a printed copy of my book manuscript and marking changes with a red pen. I often do this when I’m trying to work up some written work. It’s just struck me how old fashioned this probably is – using a pen and paper is probably in some way ironic given that its a book about emergent media forms. I suppose that there are newer ways of editing that might involve track changes, or other forms of virtual notation. I probably should be using my laptop or an iPad. I do often edit on screen but I always try to do a paper based edit as well. There is something about the materiality of the process I think. I see the writing differently when it’s printed. Somehow it helps to get a bit of objective distance on the writing. But I think it’s more that the paper edit enables a clearer sense of the spatiality of the writing. For example, its easy to see straight away how long a section is, or how short it might be. So you get a sense of the linearity and the balance of the piece. Having it inscribed on pages that you can look at together somehow makes this much clearer. I find this makes it easier to see where the unnecessary stuff is and helps me to see where I need to build up the narrative. For some reason I also find it easier to to much closer reading of the text, often working over passages to try to get them to work.

So, I think there are specific values in getting out my red pen and working with a printed document. Maybe this is just habitual and might be a product of the older media I have got used to working with. But having red inscriptions on printed paper seems to give a different material and sensory insight into the work that I find useful. This might just be an example of the type of mixing of old and new media that happens in everyday practices. When it comes to editing I find that materiality matters. But I don’t expect that this works for everyone.

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One Response to Editing with my red pen

  1. anacanhoto says:

    I, too, like to use print + pen to edit. In my case I think that the change in format helps with the change in role: screen = produce; paper = editing.

    Ah… our minds are funny things.

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