I'm a bit amused by the fact that fiction seems to cling to paper edits. I copy edit electronically, which makes it way easier to flag things for 'I'll have to decide this later' and to search for terms and to - if you absolutely need to - undo an edit and change your mind. (Ahem.)
And you can keep a copy of the original, so that if you screw up royally, you can fix it, which is much harder in a paper edit. I hear writers complain all the time about the sheer amount of time it takes for copy edits to get to them, and the necessity to do them quickly - well, that time would be cut short if instead of a single mss (which you also can't back up easily) you could simply send an electronic file, and it's also easier, if necessary, to go a couple of rounds on important issues - the copy editor queries, the writer replies.
Oh, and nobody gets the chance to input the changes and introduce new mistakes in the process.
So... what are the advantages of paper edits?
For me? I can see them better, both in the physical sense and in the sense of "book flow." Physically, I see different things in the paper and on-screen version. I print out my books and read them in paper form where certain categories of error are much more obvious to me. On the monitor is an eyestrain already. Reading on paper I can tilt the paper, move it in and out, get exactly the angle I need for best visibility in the varying state of my eyesight. Less eyestrain means easier concentration and more accurate reading.
It's also much easier to check for continuity problems on paper than on-screen, both before and after submission. Pages have definition; I don't scroll to them (often overshooting or undershooting and having to make more adjustments), I turn to them. Especially handy for things within 20 pages, where years of experience let me pick up the right number easily. Also, when others in the work stream refer to locations based on page number, I can find what they're talking about. (Example: my agent now reads clients' work on a Kindle, where page numbers aren't even displayed, so when he comments on something, it's by "note location"...which is meaningless to me. So we waste email time or a phone call so I know what he's commenting on.)
Track Changes introduces another set of problems. Do writer and all editors have the same version of Word, in each of which Track Change behaves slightly differently? (A pencil still works the same, no matter if it's an old one or a new one.) Rarely, in my experience. Track Changes makes a visual mess of the manuscript, by inserting all those changes you're so happy about in the midst of the actual text--making it difficult-to-impossible (depending on the size of the change) to follow the flow of the text across the page. In a paper copy-edit, it's very clear what the original text was.
I do edit on-screen--but the stuff I delete disappears from view, making it easier to see how the new version flows. I can print out a page and check it in paper form to be sure the blend is right. (Failure to do this printout check is the commonest cause of "fossils" where changes have been made, in my experience: one too many or one too few words were deleted when inserting the new, and it may not show on screen.) If Track Changes' string of differently colored insertions is in there, I can't ignore it when reading the corrected version...it's sticking out, and the flow is all gone.
And of course there's still the chance someone can input changes and introduce new mistakes electronically. Happens all the time. The typesetting software can do it all by itself--it's quite happy to start a line with a close-quote, run paragraphs together, etc.
It is interesting how things read differently on a printed page vs. a computer screen vs. being read out loud. My final edits are always done on printed pages, and I typically catch several mistakes that I missed in electronic format.
I detest Track Changes, and not just because it screws up our production people who lay the text out for publication. I work with subject matter experts who make comments on technical content, and I ask them to add their comments in a different color text rather than use Track Changes. We're currently experimenting with an Adobe product called Buzzword (http://www.adobe.com/acom/buzzword/
) that adds comments to a manuscript in "bubbles" outside the text. So far everyone really likes it, and I find it to be far superior to Track Changes, if for no other reason than people can comment on the text, but not alter it without my approval.
That would be a decided improvement.
The problem I see for most of us working writers is that every change in software--every time there's something that makes it incompatible with what we did before--imposes a cost in time lost to learning the new system, which was otherwise spent in the actual writing and editing.
I do not want to return to the days of writing with a quill pen or on a typewriter, but I would prefer not to have to learn new tools for the same task over and over, each one making the previous versions incompatible.
2009-08-03 11:53 am (UTC)
Amen. Any document shared between Mac users and PC users with track changes gets (in my experience) utterly screwed up after a while - oh and it also balloons to something utterly ridiculous lime 1Mbyte for a page of text.
And then there are those of use using open office because we use linux...