I’m not someone who jumps instantly for the latest and greatest thing. I don’t own an e-reader of any sort, my cellphone is a phone and camera, and that’s about it. And it’s taken me a while to really accept electronic editing.

I did a little bit of it when I was freelance editing. And I stick notes to myself into my writing all the time. But I still considered that I couldn’t read as “well” or as deeply on the computer, as I did with a paper manuscript and a pen.

I’m changing my mind. The shift happened when, with the edits for The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, I was on the other end of the feedback. All my edits, both developmental and copyediting, have come to me over email, in the file. Changes were marked with Word’s Track Changes feature, and all the editors have left nice, detailed, helpful comments in the margin, through Word’s Comment tool.

Putting the changes in was great. Not only was everything marked at the place where there was a problem, but I could read everything so easily–no trying to figure out whether a letter was an o or an a, no translating of entire words that I couldn’t read at first glance.

And lately I’ve been critiquing for other writers in the file, using these same tools. So far, it seems to be working great. Maybe it’s just taken me this long to be able to read deeply on a computer, but I don’t seem to be struggling to stay with the manuscript, and I’m not missing the feel of the pages in my hands. Actually, it just makes it a lot easier to be able to open up my laptop whenever I’ve got some work to do, rather than tote the messy, loose stack of 200+ pages around the house. Or to the coffeehouse.

The writers I’ve been doing this for seem happy with the results as well. I check with them first, just in case they hate the idea of not having my handwritten notes to think about. They all seem to prefer the in-file changes, probably because those handwritten notes have never been all that legible! And, really, they can work with the feedback on-screen, with their own computer, or they can get a print-out and read the notes on a hard-copy while they revise.

I think I’ve made the change. It feels good–yes, the trees can still get used up for the print-out (although with my new, two-sided printer, it’s only HALF the trees), but not always. My guess is the more we do this, the less we’ll need the hard copy to work from. And it means we can really critique back & forth with anyone we want–local or distant, without having to make that stop at the post office, with the big, heavy manuscript envelope. It’s widening our writing community at the same time as it tightens the connections we already have.

It’s going to make it easier to find critique partners and groups. And you know I think that’s a good thing.

So maybe an e-reader is a good thing, too? :)

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