We’ve all got manuscripts we’ve had forever. Perhaps they haven’t sold, or we just don’t feel they’ve ever really found their way. We’ve written and rewritten them again.
At this point, one of the best things you can do for your manuscript is retype it.
I’ve offered this suggestion before to fellow writers. As soon as I do, they gasp with utter, complete, total horror.
But I’m serious. I’ve done it before, many times. Print your current manuscript, put it on the desk or table next to you, and start retyping.
WHY, you ask, WOULD I DO SUCH A TIME-WASTING, RIDICULOUS THING?????
Because by trying to save time with a quickie cutting and pasting job, we can wind up spending (or wasting, depending on your point of view) far more time (multiple rewrites + multiple submissions + multiple wait times). We can often get to the best manuscript in a shorter period of time by just giving a manuscript a fresh re-type.
Here’s what I mean:
TYPING MAKES YOU RETHINK EVERY SINGLE WORD
The speed of reading is fast. Without realizing it, our eyes zip through sentences, paragraphs, whole chapters when we re-examine our manuscripts. Often, they zip too quickly for us to fully reconsider if that’s what we want to say.
The speed of writing is slow. And even though I’m a fast typist, I’ll admit, retyping is just plain not fun. You don’t want to type anything that’s not the highest quality. We’re far more willing to delete during this process. We’re far more anxious to get to the good stuff. To cut to the chase. It leads to a far tighter story.
TYPING MAKES YOUR MANUSCRIPT FEEL MORE COHESIVE
By now, you know that “retyping” doesn’t literally mean just doing secretarial work. When you retype, you shouldn’t be mindlessly copying text. You should be rethinking every line in your book.
When we cut and paste and “spot-revise” (tackle specific scenes or chapters, leaving the rest of the manuscript in place), the voice of the book stops feeling cohesive, especially if those revisions took place over several months—maybe even years. An author is in a different mindset every single time he or she sits down to work on a manuscript. If you’re retyping—and rethinking every single word, tweaking and revising along the way—the voice of the book begins to tighten. It’s being told by a person in the same mindset from front to back.
RETYPING CREATES SPACE FOR AH-HA! MOMENTS
This goes back to the slow pace of writing. Retyping and rethinking along the way means that you’re now rethinking literally everything about your book. Two or three chapters in, you often get hit with new revelations—not just about phrasing or line edits, but about structure and plot. And because you’re already retyping, you won’t think twice about an overhaul. The chapter in the middle suddenly becomes the opening scene. It doesn’t matter—you’re already committed to retyping every single word, so you’re actually less worried about the implications of making such sweeping changes.
YES, RETYPING OFTEN LEADS TO WRITING
New scenes, new chapters. Fresh characters. New plot twists. A more satisfying ending. You can wind up writing large swaths of the book. It can, occasionally, become a completely different project. A better one. A more cohesive, tighter one. All because you simply sat down to retype.