Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Colors of a Draft


I use pastel colored paper for manuscript drafts; it feels more tentative and fluid than white. It also gives me a visual record of when parts of a draft were done.

In the above stack, the gold pages (approximately 100) were written between May-July, 2009. The blue were written between August-December, 2009 (only about 30 pages because I was on book tour and in England during that time.) The green pages are the most recent (about 100), written in my recent immersion in North Carolina.

I'm not done yet, and the draft is exactly that: a draft. It's like the frame of a house without the windows in it. No paint yet. No electricity. Definitely no granite countertops.  Lots more work to do in subsequent (and new-color) drafts.

The colors help my memory. If I need to quickly refer back to an incident, I can remember when I wrote that scene and what color paper it is on, and I can find it easily.

The final draft (maybe 2 or 3 drafts from now) will be all white and pristine.  Subsequent revisions will be on colored paper to easily identify where changes were made.  I guess I like things fairly orderly; otherwise writing a book and keeping all the details straight might make me crazy.

21 comments:

  1. What a great idea! I am working on a second draft of my first novel and I do get utterly lost. Thanks.

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  2. This is fascinating. How did you ever develop this technique? Where do you find so many colors? Do you always use the same color for the same point in the process? And how do you know when to change colors? Does your printer mind the different texture and weight? Is it easy to read the ms. on colored paper? Is it easy to make edits on colored paper. I'm utterly intrigued. And congratulations on getting this far in the new book!

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  3. That is such a great idea!
    But I wonder how my coworkers would feel if I crammed the printer at work with various colors in order to print my manuscript. Hmm... Maybe not... :-)

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  4. This technique you use is so interesting. Thanks for the insight.

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  5. Love this idea! Color coding takes on another layer! Thank you for sharing this tidbit with us.

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  6. Fabulous idea! Thank you for sharing! I love gazing into the mind of writers. :o)

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  7. Thanks for sharing this most tangible evidence of a work in progress. Reassuring, inspirational, visual--it's a great way to remind all of us that these wonderful books don't just fall out of the skies--it takes WORK. Thanks, again.

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  8. Thanks all.
    Brattcat, to answer your Q's:
    --I started using colored papers out of boredom w/white, but quickly realized how helpful they'd be in keeping drafts straight.
    --Office supply stores offer many colors of papers (I use a relatively lightweight 20 lb for the colored drafts).
    --I begin a draft with whatever color I have on hand or that appeals on that day. I usually change colors when I've had to put the ms. aside for a month or more. This helps me to be aware of potential change in tone, but it also renews my interest--the story looks different on blue than on green or yellow.
    --I have a good laser printer which does not mind when I switch textures or weights of paper.
    --For editing: I find the pastel colors easier on my eyes than white paper, and I've had no trouble reading my edits. I wouldn't use darker or neon paper though. For me, the easiest colors to read from are pale, pale yellow or pale, pale peach.
    -If you try the colored papers, let me know how you like them!

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  9. Thank you for these answers. This makes so much sense, switching after a month or so away from the work. Brilliant.

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  10. I've done small books, but never a major project. If that ever happens I think I'm going to borrow your idea re: pastel-colored paper. I can see where that would be most helpful--especially as the book took shape and became more complicated!

    Thank you for your kind comment this AM on Cedar Key DP!

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  11. I would never have thought to use colored paper for memory or to remember what goes where. It would be helpful in some of the books I wrote. I used to get so bored, and dogged tired of doing the same things as newer editions came out, of doing the same things, or the same drawings or whatever. That was before the days of computers and our big dandy new machine back then was going from an Underwood Portable to an IBM Selectric.

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  12. May I say again, you are an editor's dream author.

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  13. Jo: And you are an author's dream editor.

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  14. Happy Valentine's Day and President's Day! What a creative idea. Visualizing is so important.

    Marcia and Natalie

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  15. Hi Sharon,
    I just discovered your blog and read this post. What a terrific idea! I wish I'd found it sooner--I recently posted about revision on our blog and suggested printing a draft in a different font before putting it aside to "cool" for awhile. I'll have to try changing the paper color too.
    By the way, I had the pleasure of working with you years ago at Chautauqua. It's lovely to reconnect with you here.
    Carmela
    TeachingAuthors

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  16. Thanks, all!
    Jacob and Abe: Your photo blogs inspire. Thanks for your comments here.
    Carmela: how great to hear from you! I remember you well, and I'm so glad to hear you are writing and publishing!

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  17. hi my name is shelby and i love your book! they fun to read.The ones that i really like is Hate that Cate and Love that Dog and Heartbeat. Those are my favorites. I could read them over and over if I want to and never stop! Your books are just amazing! Well it was really nice to talk to you!(:

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  18. Good Idea. Now to find a good price on colored copy paper.

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  19. Hmmm . . . colored paper for different drafts? I'm going to have to try that!

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  20. I wish I'd read this post about 3 years ago when I finished the first draft of my novel. Revising something novel-length has been quite a challenge for me in staying organized with all the different drafts that have come since the first, and I think the colored paper would have been a HUGE help for me with keeping everything straight. I'm glad I have the idea now though.

    You are a favorite author of mine, and I so appreciate you sharing a bit of your world and how you work. Very inspirational!

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