Experiments in Perspective - The Printout

Again we’re continuing my little experiment on ways to gain perspective when editing, specifically by working through the series of methods proposed by Susan Bell in The Artful Edit, today is number 1 in the list, The Printout. This one came up because I recently finished a short story in entirety and felt like it was a nice constrained piece to test this method out on, it has had about a month to sit before returning to it (that will probably become a normal for this series because I really hate immediately re-reading, I think The Big Break has ruined that for me).

The biggest benefit I’ve found of the Printout method is simplicity, there’s no special programs you need (or optionally decide to use), just a good pen and some tea, and a printer too I guess strictly speaking, and a computer, and all of the software needed to actually get to the point where the story is printed onto pages to edit. So maybe not so simple but once you have the pages you’re good to go. Unfortunately because of the simplicity I have a feeling there’s isn’t going to be a great deal to talk about.

I’m not sure the printout gave me as much of a step back as time or reading the story aloud did, realistically it was good to go back through it all but really primarily what it made me do was finer editing, grammar, spelling and the like. Stepping away from the computer to do it was probably the most helpful as it allowed me to shift around when it go uncomfortable in one position meaning I could get through the entire editing session in one afternoon instead of breaking it up and invariably getting distracted by a video game, conversation with my housemate or otherwise wasting my time and not getting back to it. I think what I’m going to find is that a lot of these perspective gaining methods work better as a collective than as singulars, perhaps the combination of break, printout and reading aloud will prove most beneficial, the ability to scrawl in margins and hastily add grammatical marks when reading might make them a highly functional combo. But for me, at least, the Printout brought no great perspective revelations.

The printout as an editing tool has, however, made me want to learn copyeditor’s marks (there’s a post on NY Book Editors about copyediting marks here) as I’ve quickly discovered circles, boxes and lines through words lose their meaning when you start attributing different edits to different box and circle shapes, and my rectangles start looking like ovals when I go too quickly but that’s a whole different problem.