Sunday, February 01, 2009

The iPod and the cellphone and the YouTube that we know

May just be passing fancies
And in time may go
But the book is here to stay

Or not.  My editor tells me this is the last time the company will let her send me a marked manuscript.  After this, all corrections will be in an electronic file, and I will have to respond to them electronically.  
I write on a machine, I rewrite on a machine, but until I have a paper copy in front of me, I don't see the infelicities of style, nor the flaws in the narrative arc.  I need paper to see where I am in a book, either as a reader, or as a writer.  Is this action appropriate at this physical point in the story?  I can't tell in an electronic universe.

I think the blogosphere and 24 hour web news makes us sloppy as readers and as writers, and that going to a strictly electronic book will make books sloppier, less carefully written, less carefully edited.  
My editor  told me that I needed to learn to live in the present, not in the era of the illuminated manuscript.  
What about you?  Agree?  Disagree?  Am I a dinosaur , or someone with a valid point about the word on the page?


Sara Paretsky

14 comments:

Eileen Kavanagh said...

I completely agree. Maybe this helps to explain the proliferation of grammatical and proofreading errors, even in major books published by major publishing houses. I write a lot (I teach legal writing), and I don't see structure and detail until I see hard copy. I've tried using electronic comments on student papers and find that method to be far inferior to marking up a hard copy. At least I have the option of printing out drafts. I also find the attitude that those who prefer print are somehow luddites who just have to get with the program. This discussion seems to be going on all over from the reader's point of view (the death of print book review sections, the relative merits of Kindle-style books vs. print books, and the like); now it's hit the writers, too.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

I completely understand what you're saying, Sara. Yet when my editor sent back the marked manuscript of my first novel, I was shocked. I guess I just assumed it would come back to me electronically. That's the way I wrote it and that's the way I figured it would be edited. Also a major nationwide shipping company lost the original marked MS, which is probably still floating around out there somewhere.

That said (is that a phrase that made Barb's list in the last post?) when I was doing the revision I really came to appreciate the feel of real paper and the care of penned notes in the margins. And if the next one comes via email I will certainly print it out and make my own hand-written margin notes, which will probably kill the same number of trees.

I won't miss the sixty dollars it costs to overnight a manuscript brick, though.

Julia Hempway said...

Students are into gizmo these days and putting your lessons into electronic gadgets keep them update to what you teach. I wonder when will the time come when essay and other school papers will be electronic files.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Sara, I, agree. Especially for the final read-through of a complete manuscript to edit and fix. With the whole thing in my lap, I can tell where one part is in relation to other parts, how far from the end, how long a section is, all that good stuff.

jnantz said...

I don't think you're a dinosaur, I just think you have one way of working (a way that a LOT of authors prefer), and they want you to change. Me personally, I am fine seeing it on the screen. But I know many writers who are better than I (published novels, for one qualifier), and they are just like you.

So, to sum up, I think it sucks what your publisher is making you change to, but I don't know what you can do about it besides piss and moan (which I would be doing a lot of, were it me).

Meredith Cole said...

I was shocked when my first book came back with the revisions on paper--I guess some houses still do it that way, while others are becoming completely electronic. I can see that staying electronic would be a money saver (and a tree saver), but I wonder, too, if it allows for more mistakes that way.

Dana King said...

I've wondered for some time why corrections aren't done electronically; it's so much easier to incorporate them, and to get what the author wants.

Here's how I do the final edit of anything I write, and it will work for your situation. Print the file they send you, mark it up, then go back to the computer and make the edits there, preferably with tracking turned on. This gives you another chance to make sure the change you noted in writing is what agets sent out, and they'll have no excuse for not getting exactly what you wanted, since it's on the actual document they're probably going to use when it's time to print, whatever else they do to it to make it a book.

Anonymous said...

Your reaction sounds reasonable to me, Ms. Paretsky. I see it the same way, from the other side. I edit - technical papers, often for non-native speakers - and I really prefer to make my comments on paper and fax or overnight the hardcopy back. That way I can be sure that my clients don't just click "accept" without really thinking about the change.

Libby Hellmann said...

Not a dinosaur. No way. I HAVE to print out the book along the way for the same reasons people have already mentioned... flow, action, narrative, even dialogue looks different on paper than it does on a screen.

I mean we READ on paper, don't we (at least until Kindle takes over the world? The arrangement of the words on the page.. the space between them.. it all contributes to the experience. I would never send in a mss. without "seeing" it in advance on paper.

You know, we may have a quorum here, for perhaps the first time in the Outfit's history...

Kate kst said...

Add me to the list of people who prefer a paper to an electronic format for editing. At various stages of the writing and editing process, I have to print it out to check on pacing and flow. In addition, as a writer, editor and teacher, I regularly find errors on a hard copy that I've missed on the screen.

Having wondered if I'm a dinosaur myself, it's comforting to know that if I am, at least I'm running in a great pack.

Mark Combes said...

I'm a semi-Luddite on this subject. I've got all the gadgets and I'm comfortable using them but it's hard to beat the feel of turning that piece of paper. Especially when you are on a beach with a margarita in the other hand.....

Steerpike said...

I feel for you, Sara. While I can get behind using a machine for quite a lot of my writing, I find I really benefit from being able to sit down with a red pen and a stack of paper... at least when it comes to editing.

It seems like technology just hasn't invented a system that works as well as a red pen and paper; maybe when they do it'll be easier for us. Until then, hang in there. The trees, at least, are thanking you.

Sara Paretsky said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's interesting, and even reassuring, to know that even those of you who grew up with computers till like to see the printed text for good editing. I worry--about everything--so maybe I worry unduly about sloppy writing, but I know my top-of-the-head posts never read well when I print them out and read them...and put quadruple that for a novel done only into a machine.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more!