Monday, February 4, 2013

Tired Of Printing Out That Manuscript???

I'm a writer. That means I write. But there are a lot of other things that go into writing a novel. Sure, there are the long hours of typing it all in, but there is up-front work that comes before the writing, and back-end stuff that follows the writing. I tend to do most of this on my MacBook Pro making changes as I go.

One of the things I've found the most difficult, however, for reasons I don't fully understand, is reading my own novel cover-to-cover without fiddling with it. There are plenty of reasons that this is important. For one thing, doing all that editing tends to take your mind off the flow. Instead of reading it as a reader would, your mind is stopping and starting all the time, switching gears between editor, typist, and reader. It isn't how readers are going to ingest your stuff, at least you hope it isn't, and unless you read cover-to-cover you're never going to know if your product is really ready.

It is also important to get your work in a format close to what it will be in the product stage. When consumers read a book they turn pages, the size of the page is different than a manuscript page, and they aren't scrolling. All these things subtly change the way a story enters your head. There is even the fact that reading on a computer is a "lean forward" activity and reading a book is a "lean back"activity. After a lifetime of leaning forward to study, and leaning back for leisure activities, our body position cues our mind up for either work or play. For enjoying a novel, you want to press PLAY.

And then there is printing the darn thing out. It is expensive and time consuming. I must have printed out my first novel twenty times. I had stacks and stacks of paper and empty toner cartridges all over the place. And carrying around a loose-leaf manuscript is anything but convenient. Plus, when you're done it all has to be thrown away. But writers like to know their work isn't going to fall into the wrong hands. Do I shred it? Burn it? Wallpaper my house with it? It's just an inconvenient mess that does nothing positive for the environment.

I decided to try something new with my current work in progress. The title of this novel is Viridis and I feel it is my best work yet. It is a classic boy meets girl story except this one happens in a dystopian universe that is unlike any you've ever read. It twists and turns all the way to the end. I'm in the end game now but hated to print it out because of the expense and the waste. Maybe it is because the story is set in an ultra-radical eco-Utopia?

Having become adept at building eBooks, I decided to turn it into a quick .mobi file and use my Kindle for the job. That way I get actual static pages that 'turn', I get to lean back, and I am unable to do any real editing so I can just read. The Kindle does allow me to highlight words and make simple notes, so I can flag typos and inconsistencies, but that's much different than more traditional editing - which is impossible in this format.

I am happy to report that it worked beautifully. Very, very pleased with the results. Not only was I able to enjoy the story a lot more (and was happy that I did) I caught and captured those typos without cutting down any more trees. If anyone is interested I would be happy to follow up in a later blog post with my recipe for creating a quick and dirty .mobi or .epub. It takes less time than printing it out, produces no waste, and is highly portable. You don't even need a pen. Plus, it is totally secure and if you own a reader, costs nothing. While generating publication quality ePubs takes a bit more time and training, if you can write a novel, you can definitely do this and you'll be glad you did.

Until next time,

John C. Brewer is the author of Multiplayer an MMOG YA SF novel, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. You can learn more about him and what he is doing at his website,


  1. John, I use this method, too! It really is a good way to look at your work in the format that may readers will also see it and it prevents you from editing when all you really want to do is read it. Good work!

  2. Love to have your recipe for turning my ms. into a quick and dirty .mobi or epub. Like you I cannot read without fiddling. What a great idea!

  3. Kath,

    Thanks for reading! I'll have it up in a day or two.


  4. This post comes at a good time for me because I just printed out my draft; I had to because I was afraid that if I edited it on the computer, I might want to keep certain lines or passages for another story. I have an "extras" file, but it's easier to print it out and actually see what I've crossed out.
    But I like your idea of putting the draft on an e-reader instead. I don't have a Kindle, but I do have a Nook from Barnes and Noble. I finally figured out how to use the highlighter on it, so it'd be cool to use it on my drafts.

  5. I will include a recipe for Nook conversions as well. Hope it helps a lot of people.

  6. Its difficult to say that reading books on computer is better than the paper printed books. Its right that computer has provided more facilities like you can perform many activities while reading books.