Thursday, September 26, 2019

God Bless the Clipboard: Continuing the thread (my own)

My post from two weeks ago drew five comments, some conflicting, which, as a former columnist, I love. So….

I’m going to continue that thread.

This week, when I hit roughly the halfway point of my manuscript, I hit pause –– and then Print. I printed 175 pages, got my colored pencils and clipboard, and went over what I had written to date.

I was, frankly, amazed. I’ve gotten in the habit of composing at the keyboard and listening to the mechanical voice (a man’s when the voice is mine, a female’s when the voice is Peyton Cote’s) read the text to me. This works well for many aspects of editing –– finding missing words, spotting reduncies, stumbling over (and cutting down) long sentences.

What it doesn’t provide is the chance to read the book. Really read the book. My agent said in passing that she thought my second Peyton Cote novel, Fallen Sparrow, “wasn’t as tight” as the first book [in the series] Bitter Crossing. I didn't think much about the comment –– until this past week when, once again, I went back to the hardcopy, clipboard, and my colored pencils.

I realized something this week. I knew I was editing the manuscript, even revising extensively. However, I told someone the book “comes alive on the clipboard.” My best writing happens –– slashing, scribbling, drawing arrows –– when I recline on the couch. The book literally comes alive on the clipboard.

Why? I’m not entirely sure.

What I do know is that, pencil in hand, I’m reading the novel –– reading as a reader; not reading the novel as a writer, as I do on the screen. There’s a difference, and it’s a big one. On the screen, I read as a creator. I’m thinking about ways to make the book as I read. Holding the pages, I’m a reader, and I edit and rework the text in that vein. I don’t know if this makes sense, but it’s not “work mode.” I’m reviewing the pages from outside the creation process. My graduate school professor Rick DeMarinis used to say he “poured a glass of wine and sat down with the pages.” I know what he meant. Now.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

John, I would love to know more about your colored pencils and clipboard method.