In this post I am going to discuss the virtues of using Paper versus using a Computer to plan, write and edit your story.
Now I have to admit that I use paper to do the vast majority of my planning. I find that it is a very versatile medium for getting my ideas sorted out. Over the years I’ve used notebook (of all sizes), lined and plain paper. I’ve bought little post it notes to massive sheets of paper the size of my desk. Currently I’m finding artist’s sketchbooks with hardback covers the best place to plan.
The reason I love paper so much is because I find it easier to take notes on paper. I seem to have been born of the generation between computer’s being a useful device to learn how to use and the the generation where using computers comes second nature. I don’t find writing notes on a computer screen very helpful, but in all fairness that’s because I’ve not grown up doing it.
I do however see the virtue in using technology as part of planning, but the majority of the time it is using my mobile phone rather than a laptop or PC. It is very rare that I don’t have a small notebook with me to jot down ideas, but there are sometimes when I am just not able to to get my notebook out (usually when I’m doing sardine rehearsal on my commute) at which point making a note on my phone and emailing it to myself has become a godsend. I also used to make voice recordings of my ideas, when I used to walk to work.
If you do prefer making notes on your computer though, I can see the advantage of it all, as storing and organising your ideas would be easier to do and it takes up less physical room (oh the cupboards I have filled with notebooks; I dread to think about it really). It purely depends on what works best for you.
Now when it comes to writing, there is an undeniable truth that these days if you want to submit to a literary agent or to a website, then at some point you are going to have to type up your story. One of the best practical skills I ever learnt at school was how to type. As tedious as it might be to do, I highly recommend trying to find a touch typing course as it will make typing your story a great deal easier and less daunting.
However, I’m not an advocate that you have to write your story for the first time on a computer. I regularly draft my stories on paper and then type it up later. Deciding how to actually write is very dependent on mood for me; sometimes my muse wants to write on paper and then switch to computer. Sometimes I’m writing on the computer and get completely stuck and switch to paper to work it out.
To get your story written, do what feels right for you for the creative part and then if you need to type it up later.
Now when it comes to the editing phase, you should have a computer version to edit at which point you have options, and to spot everything I actually use both paper and various technological devices in order to do my editing.
Any changes that happen will happen on the computer, for which I recommend you use track changes in order for you to see what you have changed, and to save all versions of your story. That way if you do make a change, and then later change your mind, you still have an e-copy of your original somewhere for you to easily retrieve. Trust me this has saved me a lot of tears in the past.
However, I regularly edit away from my computer. For shorter pieces and important submissions, I do print it out on paper to read it and find any errors. For novels I actually download a copy to my e-reader (I have a Kindle, sans keyboard) and I read my novel on the e-reader and highlight anything that needs changing. I have found so many sentences that didn’t make sense; words that weren’t the right word to use but weren’t technically spelt wrong so they didn’t flag up; sections that were just not needed.
I can’t recommend enough reading through on an e-reader as I really find it a very helpful medium, especially in the modern market, where e-readers might end up being the medium a lot of you audience reads your work themselves.
In conclusion there are a lot of advantages for using a mixture of paper and computer/e-devices to produce your work. My best piece of advice for you though, is for you to do what feels most right for you.