Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

White Paper

Before the advent of the computer, most words appeared typed or written on white paper.  Perhaps ivory paper was easier on the eyes but rarely did one use coloured paper.  When I began submitting stories, publishers required pages to be typed in pica (12 point) and a font that resembled today's Courier.  Lines had to be double-space with no more than two errors (corrected with White-out or softly erased).  For someone like me who was a poor typist, it took work to get a manuscript to this level of perfection.  Inevitably, my final proof would reveal mistakes which I would ignore in order to get the manuscript into an editor's hands.

Computers changed all that.  One can choose any font of any size and style, colour can be added to any document and, gone are the days when you submit an entire manuscript to a publisher.  Most still require paper versions but only the first few chapters and some will even consider electronic submissions.  And who reads bound books anymore?  E-readers have changed the book industry as much as computers once did.  I, for one, have embraced the idea that I need only pack my Kindle when traveling.

But, when one is writing even on the white screen of a computer, one misses things.  I always print out my manuscript to edit one version with a pencil.  The eye sees things differently when the page is printed.  You can catch spelling mistakes, awkward phrasing, and even glaring repetitions that you don't spot on a computer screen.  It also gives you a chance to be a reader.  I often take a stack of chapters to a comfy chair and edit them away from my desk.  Just a change of scene and sound of shuffling papers can evoke a different mood and allow for better storytelling.

The eye likes white space around black letters.  Why do you think books with dialogue are more enjoyable than those with solid text?  So the next time you write something, print it out.  See how it looks to your eye.  Opening up passages with dialogue, create single sentence paragraphs, allow 'air' to flow around your writing and you'll be surprise how quickly you will see how to improve your writing.

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