Do you print out all your chapters as your write your WIP?

I used to always print out my chapters as I wrote. My printer saw a lot of me. But for my current WIP I did something very differently. I rarely printed out chapters after I wrote them. Instead, I did almost all of my editing on the computer. Look, there were exceptions. For example, I always would print out a chapter once a month when I’d meet with my critique group. But other than that–my printer has been very lonely. In fact, when the printer is out of ink, I know that I am not to blame. Instead it’s because one of my sons is printing out his thousandth sheet of ukulele chords to his favorite pop song or another son is printing out something from a website for a school project.

Anyway, when I got through the first draft of my current WIP, another book set in middle school, I did my big first printing. Okay, it was more like my second draft, but I’m calling it a first because I took such a WRONG turn on my first draft that I had to almost, but not quite, start from scratch. So I’ll call this my first and a half draft. Anyway, I did print it all out.

And, wow, it felt so monumental because suddenly my WIP became this tangible thing that I could touch, see and smell (you know those inkjet smells ☺). And it was ridiculously exciting. My heart was palpitating like I was about to go to prom (well, I’m imagining your heart does that before prom, unless you are going with a friend, which is probably the case for many. I never did the prom thing because none of my close friends went so at the time I figured it wouldn’t be fun. But now as a writer for tweens and teens I semi-regret not clocking in that experience).

So last month as I went to print out the whole shebang, I felt guilty–so many pages! So much ink! So I decided to use less paper and I changed my document to single space. I considered also shrinking the font to 10 but realized that my eyes would be pissed off about that move.

So I printed it and thought. Look, it is so much more manageable. Why it’s 230 pages. It’s only 115 pages. Wow. Not such a big deal. Ha! It’s amazing how easily I can lie to myself.

And so I read all of those pages of paper. And you know what? I catch more things on hard copy. Really. Stuff that I read a thousand times on screen, that looked perfectly acceptable, suddenly sucked on hard copy. And I easily scribbled and made a mess out of those pages, so much so that as I inputted changes and additions, I realized that my WIP had a growth spurt and is not bulging at 300 pages.

Most likely a diet is in order.

Yup, back to editing.

And yes, writing is re-writing. No doubt.

Lessons learned this go-round:

1) For me, I think it’s a good idea to print out each of my chapters once I have them to a certain point, so that means, when I print out the entire thing, it won’t be for the very first time it’s printed and (hopefully) editing and inking up the manuscript won’t be quite as dense.

2) I will never again print out my entire manuscript (or even one chapter) single-spaced unless I’m doing it to read solely for specific plot points, using the shrunken manuscript. There is a very good reason for double spacing. It’s not frivolous. It’s because it’s SO much easier to scribble when you have more white space on the page. And it’s easier on your eyes.

3) If you are low on ink and the ink comes out blue-ish instead of black, don’t keep on printing your entire manuscript. Because then you have to spend a month reading single-spaced light blue ink and you’ll find yourself squinting.

4) Applaud your efforts to recycle and conserve paper, but when it comes to your manuscript, go for the best printing and not draft-mode. Your eyes will be much happier.

How about you? Do you print out your chapters as you go along, or do you want to print until the very end?



  1. Thanks, HIllary. I edit in the computer until I feel I have the subject where I want it. Then I print it and do my final reading of the whole ‘shebang.’ I don’t think I have ever seen the word ‘shebang’ spelled out. I never would have spelled it with ‘she. ‘ Maybe it’s the southerner in me.

    • Hillary says:

      I think it was my first time writing out shebang too! Okay, now it’s officially my second time 🙂

  2. I re-read the last three chapters on screen out loud, revising as I go, then when I get to the end of the book, I print the whole thing and edit on the page. If I’m considering a major overhaul style revision, I’ll print it out so I have a copy of that draft and start over.

    • Hillary says:

      Oh that’s so smart to read it out loud as you go. I usually wait until the end, and by that time, I start to cheat and read the beginning out loud and then realize that after a while I’m just reading it to myself 🙂

  3. I love computers, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to writing I always write my first draft on paper. (Thankfully I write picture books. This would not be so easily accomplished if I were writing a novel) I then type that, making changes as I go. Every subsequent draft gets printed out, edited, and then transferred to the computer. There is something about putting pen to paper that makes me feel like more of a writer than pressing my fingers to the keys of my laptop. That’s my process. I like it to be as organic as possible. Though I do often feel guilty when the ink runs out!

  4. This article/post topic is so spot-on for my writing world.

    My addiction to paper is awful according to my dear family ( for me, can’t get enough postcards, paper emphemera, brochures )

    But my relationship with my printer was horrid. A story of spurting ink, chewed up documents,
    uncontrollable multiple copies, buttons that wouldn’t respond when pressed, etc.

    So when our daughter left for college (these days are fast approaching for you 8th grade graduation parents) I decided not to replace the printer. She just graduated from Tufts (yay!) & guess what.
    The person who is addicted to paper doesn’t miss the printer.

    But like you Hillary & most every writer I know, I need the hard copy, double spaced so I can scribble
    changes,questions, notes, etc. And so do my two critique groups.

    I print out off site, at a neighborhood Kinko’s. I print out less frequently. Since I work at home, it
    gets me out of the house, I plan my errand runs & I look forward to printing a lot of stuff (photos, invites, etc.) I use less paper. And I have had to budget my time.

    Sure sometimes I make an unwelcome mad dash to Kinko’s late at nite, but that’s rare now that I’ve settled into a system. I have to buget my printing time , like I budget my writing time.

    I can’t wait for your next middle grade on paper-paper. You have a niche (as do all the great Hollins authors like A. LaFaye) on my bookshelf for your next & next & next…

    • Hillary says:

      JG, I find that I print out only when I really have a big chunk to read. But when I do it’s such a treat to read on paper and not the screen. In happy news, I have a new middle grade coming out in 2016, KARMA COOPER, UNPLUGGED.

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