I’ve been thinking about the way I work and have decided to have a go at working from a paper copy of the manuscript. When I’m engaged in developmental editing I rely solely on my memory to pick out inconsistencies, which is peculiar, because while I can remember the intricate details and back-stories authors put into their characters and plots, I often forget to pick up the one item of shopping I went out for (usually bread, milk or sugar).
One of the reasons for doing this is that I have a few manuscripts that are book ‘ones’ – and while I’m not presumptive enough to assume I will be assisting these authors with additional volumes in the series (although it would be great if I was) – I like to cover all eventualities. As a reader, inconsistencies bug me, and while I am adept at seeking them out in a single book, I need to prepare for the possibility of editing future books and maintaining that consistency through the series.
Another reason is complexity. I pre-read all the manuscripts I work on and have a few that I feel are quite intricate and complex. Even before opening them up in a doc. file, I know there are plot threads I need to pay close attention to, not only for ease of readability from a new reader’s point of view, but the subtleness of foreshadowing, their effectiveness as red herrings and their interaction with the story as a whole.
And with all that said, I have armed myself with printer ink, printer paper, coloured gel pens, a lever arch file, note paper, character sheets (from a writing magazine subscription from years ago), highlighter pens and post it notes. I even managed to track down a fantasy themed pencil case. I’m not sure if you can see it clearly in the photograph, but it has unicorns and fairies on it.
And on a final note, the author whose manuscript I printed has been made aware of my new approach. I take confidentiality very seriously and shall destroy the paper version with the use of a shredder, and the husband (who just happens to work down the local dump recycling centre). I treat all manuscripts as I expect my own to be treated – as top secret (for my eyes only) documents.