Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I Retype Manuscripts (Holly Schindler)

Yeah, retype. Yeah, the whole thing. Retyping a manuscript is actually one of my tried-and-true revision techniques. I Tweeted about the technique, and even recently suggested to a fellow author that she retype her work-in-progress, when she asked for my input.


I retyped both A Blue So Dark, my debut, four times before it finally sold…And I retyped Playing Hurt, my second novel, even more…probably about five or six times, before selling it…


To be fair, retyping works for me, in part, because I’m a really fast typist. Reeaaaally fast. I often retype passages (even when I’m not in the midst of a novel-wide retype) because it’s faster to type than cut and paste. (I was actually a pretty good typist even before I went to high school…I took keyboarding as a high school student basically because it was a way for me to get an “A” for study hall—I could type up my assignment in 15-20 minutes, then spend the rest of the class period on homework…)


By retype, though, I’m not simply doing secretarial work. I’m editing and revising as I go. And I don’t retype every time I revise. Only when I need to do a global revamp. Here’s why:


* It forces me to think about every single word. You’d be surprised at how forgiving you are when you’re simply re-reading. But if you have to retype, you’re really critical of every sentence. (Even a fast typist doesn’t want to spend hours retyping something that’s too wordy or unnecessary.) That makes this technique fantastic for authors who need to significantly reduce the word count on a given manuscript.


* By moving through the manuscript at a slower pace than I would if I was simply re-reading, I also have light-bulb-over-the-head moments about the order of events. After typing a chapter, I can suddenly realize I need to bring in a chapter from the back…Or take the next chapter in my manuscript out, hold it for the end. And, because I’m retyping, I add sentences to help with the flow—the reordered chapters feel more like they belong, rather than cut and pasted.


* Retyping helps reconnect with a “voice” of a book, after a long absence from a manuscript. I recently retyped my current middle grade (which is in development at Dial) in order to reconnect with a younger character and to complete the global changes my editor was after.


I’ve also found that retyping really helps to focus my mind…Sometimes, I think I’m also encouraged by the rat-a-tat of keys, the drum beat of productivity… What about you guys? Any other retyping fanatics out there?

15 comments:

  1. Hi Holly, I haven't done this, but it sounds like a GREAT idea. I've recently finished my first ms and have begun the revision process. I'm astounded by how much chopping and moving I'm doing! Perhaps your suggestion will help! Thanks.

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  2. I don't retype, but I used to love typing in rough drafts I'd written by hand. I learned so much about my story.

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  3. Wow, I never considered this before. I can completely see the truth in everything you are saying . . . I just don't know if I can do it lol. But I may just try it on this WIP. Thanks for giving me a fresh idea to ponder :-)

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  4. WOW! I do this same exact thing - several times, but I thought it was some kind of OCD thing. LOL I find that retyping gives me a clean start and I will always notice more errors/clunky sentences than if I'm just reading it. In fact, I have to force myself to STOP doing this after the 4th or 5th time. Haha - glad to know I'm not the only one and that it's actually a GOOD thing! :-)

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  5. I don't retype, but there have been a lot of times when I've written pages by hand and when I type them up on the computer, it gives me a more critical look at them and I can tweak as I go.

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  6. I think this is a BRILLIANT strategy.

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  7. I'm a playwright, and I use this technique too! Though, I haven't thought of it as an actual 'technique' before...just me being, me (read a bit controlling, freakish about it all, whatever you like, insert [here].

    Anyway, I find that it really helps to fine tune! Another 'technique' I use is reading it aloud. Since I'm writing plays (and started as an actor) I enjoy playing with the characters and it also helps me fine tune & sculpt, more effectively, what the characters are saying, emoting, conveying, etc. I have a novelest friend who also reads his books/stories outloud. Hearing it outloud, really reveals a lot!

    Retyping it ALSO reveals a lot! Wouldn't complete a script without it! Cheers!

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  8. This is a fantastic idea! I'd never heard of this...never even considered it. I hate doing revisions. Makes me sleepy. But that is because I am totally tuned in to the tap-tap-tap of keys and revisions...well, not so much. I am going to try this on a short story I'm working on. Seriously, I feel like a light bulb just went on in my head.

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  9. This actually horrifies me! LOL. I am not a good typist. What I do sometimes is listen to my book (chapter by chapter ) on a talking reader program. Free Natural Reader is a free download. Same concept. (less work :)) Listening to someone else read the work makes you re-think (and picks up typos)

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  10. Janet--I think I horrified my fellow writer when I suggested the technique! :) But it's a technique that's been really good to me...I'm THRILLED to hear some of you will try it out!

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  11. What an interesting technique! I will keep it in mind. Thanks for explaining how it works for you.

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  12. It does seem like a lot of extra work, but apparently it really opened up lots of your story to you. Will have to keep it in mind-- maybe for the next revision? I'm just in my frist at the moment...

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  13. This sounds like an effective technique. I'm not a *brilliant* typist, but I might give it a go some time for the more awkward sections.

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