I don’t really like talking about my writing. I find it embarrassing, somehow. As though writing a novel is a weird little quirk like practicing 80s dance moves by myself in my backyard every day. Worse, though. Because one might assume a certain level of 80s dance expertise after five years and I have nothing to show for my odd little hobby.
However, part of the reason I started this blog was to chronicle the writing process, as much for myself as for anyone. And this weekend, I made a Big Step. I printed out my manuscript.
All along, I’ve been working on my novel in Scrivener, doing all the writing and all the edits digitally. I’m grateful that I’ve spent the majority of my career working remotely, because I feel very comfortable with reading and editing documents on a computer. I might say that I vastly PREFER working on a digital document, in fact.
But there are definite advantages to editing a physical object. You can manipulate a print-out in so many ways – and I’ve finally reached that point, where I want to be able to scribble notes on each page, and physically move chapters around and examine pages right next to each other. For all I know, Scrivener makes these things possible in a digital world, but I am not familiar enough with its functions. So printing it is.
My manuscript is a BEAST. It is 150,000 words at this point, which – 1.5-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman font – amounts to 520 pages. (I have no idea what this translates to in terms of pages in an actual book. I just know that books in my genre are typically 80,000-150,000 words.) My little home printer would probably burst into flames if I tried to use it to print such an enormous file, so I called around to see where I could get the best deal on printing and wound up at Staples.
I learned three things during this first printing experience.
- Printing is expensive. Staples was the best deal I could find and it costs 14 cents per page which amounts to a lot of money. I plan on printing the manuscript again at some point, hopefully after I’ve cut 30,000 words, but I definitely need to be choosey about how often I do it.
- You can, apparently, have your manuscript hole-punched WHILE printing it. I did not know this and subsequently hole-punched the thing myself, twenty pages at a time, so I could put it into a giant binder for safe keeping.
- Even double-sided, a 520-page print-out is a big, heavy thing and maybe next time bring something in which to contain it? (The giant binder was not with me at the time.) We had errands to run after our Staples outing, and I held the document on my lap in the car like a wriggly puppy who may at any moment leap out of the window.
I had many simultaneous and opposing reactions, seeing my manuscript in physical form:
Emotion #1: Pride. I did that. I wrote all those words.
Emotion #2: Discouragement. That’s it? That’s what I spent the last five years of my life on?
Emotion #3: Energy. Okay! I have something to work on, let’s get to it!
Emotion #4: Overwhelm. OMG, there is so much work left to do.
(Okay, okay, there was also Emotion #5, Impulse Buying, which had quite a while to develop while I stood in front of the printer, cranking out page after page, and scanned all the aisles of wonderful products that would surely make editing both breezy and fun! Post-it notes! Colorful pens! Wite out! Rainbow-hued paperclips!)
My daughter was, at first, impressed.
“Wow, Mommy!” she said. “You wrote all those words?”
“Yes,” I said, chin raised, chest swelling with Emotion #1.
“How long did it take you to write all those words?”
Instant deflation as Emotion #2 sets in. “Five years.”
“WHAT? It took you five years? I would have thought it would take one year, not five.”
Me too, kiddo. Me too.
There is only direction, and that is forward. So I will try my best to tamp down Emotions #2 and #4 and get to work. Because there is much to be done.