“You’re not gonna be interested in this: I do the first draft longhand, the second draft I rewrite longhand on a clipboard, then I type it once, then I retype it, then it sits for at least a week or two, and I redo it, and then I type it again, and not computer retyping, but starting all the way at the beginning and totally retyping it off hard copy. Why, you ask? Good question. […] For me, I have to do it like that because I’m so scared for the first couple drafts – like if I think they have to be anywhere close to as good as the last draft, I get so scared and full of that kind of narcissistic terror that I can’t do it. So I end up trading a lot of drudgery time for the freedom to kind of be crummy in the first couple drafts.” - David Foster Wallace, on his writing process
Like many of you, I prefer to work on paper, and this includes editing. This year I've been working on a novel draft, and for the two years before that I was in an MFA program, so I've had plenty of experience editing (and editing, and editing...). And obviously I like to use pencils during this endless process.
Here's my standard editing procedure: I print out a hard copy of the document, read through it and make corrections with a red writing utensil, enter the changes into my computer, and cross off completed changed with a highlighter. If I'm being totally honest, I also skip all the difficult corrections (I'm a frequent user of the edit, "Make this better"), which is why it's handy to know which ones I've done already and which I will avoid via complex procrastination techniques.
Because I'm constantly layering printer ink, red corrections, and highlighter, it's important to limit the amount of bleeding and smearing. I've found that it's best to combine pencil and ink: either red pen with highlighter pencil, or red pencil with highlighter ink. Which combination I pick usually depends on where I am in the writing process. During earlier drafts, when I am anticipating making big changes and inserting whole sentences or even paragraphs all over the place, I opt for writing in red pen because the tip is smaller and it stays smaller. It's good for really packing in the edits. In later drafts, where I (hopefully) only have small changes to make, I switch to red pencil. The red pencils get used up faster than my red pens, so it makes me feel like I've made a lot of good editing choices. Plus there's nothing like striking through an entire page with a fat red pencil to inject some drama into your writing process.
To help you guys, I did a few smear tests. Up first, I checked how all of our red and combo pencils held up under a highlighter:
The Caran d'Ache 999, while my favorite combo pencil, is water soluble, so it's not surprise that it smeared a lot. You'll find that there's a trade-off between how pigmented the pencil is, and how well it highlights. The Tombow VP, Musgrave Harvest, and Kita-Boshi Vermillion stood out to me as having a good ratio of color and highlight-ability. I used a Caran d'Ache Fluo Line for this test.
Then I subjected several different types of ink to the Caran d'Ache and Koh-i-Noor highlighters:
As you can see, highlighter pencils do a fantastic job marking ink without smearing it at all. And at the bottom you can see why highlighter pencil on pencil isn't such a great idea.
Not included in these tests, but among my favorite editing tools are the Milan Highlighter/HB combo pencil, and of course our own Editor red/graphite combo pencil. These are great for editing on the go and keep my pencil case a little slimmer. I especially love The Editor for when I'm editing a piece and another paragraph or scene pops into my head. I flip over the piece of paper, flip my pencil to the graphite end, and I'm ready to go.
I'd love to hear how you edit your writing and what your favorite editing tools are! Let me know in the comments.
My current editing kit: Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen in 0.4mm Red (I also love the Pilot Juice and UniBall Signo RT); Caran d'Ache Couleurs Fluos in Yellow; Kita-Boshi 9351 Vermillion; Caran d'Ache Fluo Line Highlighter; CWPE x Caran d'Ache The Editor Pencil.