Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.

–T.S. Eliot

To Red Pen or Not to Red Pen

To “red pen” or not to “red pen”, that is the question that bothers me quite often. There are authors who swear by the editing process where they take a printed hard copy of their work, cover it with red ink edits, and then use that to make their next revision.

I personally can’t stand doing this. So many editors and authors have said how this method is the only true way to get a good edit on your work that I have tried over and over again to edit my prose this way.

I can’t. I just simply cannot do it. The neck strain alone from looking back and forth between the paper copy and my laptop monitor is enough to make me raise the white flag and beg for mercy. I realize that if you are working from a hard copy, you can’t copy and paste, which is a terrible thing in revisions (“That sentence is OK, I’ll just drop that in there verbatim” … 30 minutes later your “revision” looks like Frankenstein and smells worse).

Even with the temptation to copy and paste from the marked up version (which I do in a Word processor) to the new version, I still can’t bring myself to use paper.

This is the sole reason why every device I own is either widescreen or can be rotated or otherwise coaxed into a widescreen mode. When I revise, I have my blank document on the left (is that because I’m left-handed?) and my marked up draft on the right.

I use the draft copy to keep my place and to see all of my notes while I’m typing. I don’t allow myself to copy and paste (this requires a heaping truckload of discipline, which I normally lack) and I type from scratch, only using the draft material and the notes on the right as a reference.

It is possible that some editor diety may reach down from the sky and smite me for not using printed drafts and red ink, but I just can’t do it. When you edit, do you use two documents, type directly in your draft, or do you feed chiropractors everywhere by constantly panning back and forth between your monitor and the paper draft?

  • steve

    Kevin, your prose flows, even in draft form! You are your own worst critic, as are we all. Write On.