Paperless Writing Cycle Challenge

I’ve been entertaining the idea of going paperless in my writing cycle for some time, but I love pens. Besides my love of pens, I have to admit that my favorite part of revising is all the colorful scribbles all over a printout of my work. 

However, I struggle with corralling all the paper of the printouts. Double-spacing a rough draft and printing it out takes roughly 200 pieces of paper. After I scribble all over it, I enter my changes on my computer and usually print it out again for more scribbles. On top of that, I print other things out during the revision process. Let’s just call it 500 sheets of paper per book that end up trashed. Besides the waste of the paper and ink, there’s also the cost of printing (toner or ink). That’s not a huge deal, but it still contributes.

What’s really difficult for me is keeping the papers organized and away from the kids. They love to “help” which usually equates to crayon scribbles all over my papers. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. Is it frustrating that I have to scrounge around the house for the pages they “revised” so I can do my own revisions? Of course. I thought it was a huge breakthrough when I started printing on three-hole punched paper so everything could go in a binder. (I admit, I’m often a bit slow on my “genius” ideas.)

Anyway, I’m starting revisions on the sequel of Letting Go this week. The first few days were spent reading over the rough draft (on my iPad Mini) and making notes of areas that need repair. I love this because I’m limited by what I’m willing to type on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. I sent it from Ulysses to my iPad (via AirDrop) as a PDF, then I used PDF Expert to mark it up. I highlighted typos, created a couple of custom stamps (“Set the Scene”, “Who Says?”, “HUH?", "BORING!", etc), and blasted through the rough draft in one day. There were a few spots where I made notes in the app, just to make sure I remembered what confused me about an area, but I tried to stick to the stamps.

After that, I propped my iPad up next to my computer and made the structural changes (moving scenes around, deleting things that had to go, doing the research that I skipped in my rough draft, making sure names were consistent all the way through the story). Then, I was all excited that I could get started on what I consider the funnest part of revision. I hit “Print” and started picking through my box of pens to decide my first victim (I'm a serial pen killer when revising).
I got out my binder, straightened the paper that came from my five year old printer, and put it in the binder. But when I started flipping pages, there was a problem. 

A sneak peek of my rough draft for your entertainment.

A sneak peek of my rough draft for your entertainment.

I changed the toner cartridge. I cursed. I told myself I could work with what I have. I looked at my photo printer and shuddered at the thought of printing 177 pages on it. Not only is it slow, the ink had probably dried up since I seldom use it. I googled solutions. I cleaned the corona wire (while drinking a Rolling Rock-odd, huh?), and I cleaned the drum of my printer. Alas, none of it helped.

I googled some more and found the recommendation of “replace the drum of the printer.” I checked Amazon. $85 for the drum! A new, wireless laser printer with great ratings was only $90. 


Eighty-five dollars for a drum that may or may not fix my five-year-old printer. Or ninety dollars for a brand new printer that was smaller, faster, and would free up a huge chunk of my desk space.

I put the printer in my cart, along with a couple toner cartridges. 


I didn’t complete my order. I decided that maybe this was just what I needed. Maybe this is the shove I need to switch over to a paperless writing cycle. Therefore, I now challenge myself to revising this book without printing another page (until I order my printed proof from CreateSpace, of course). 

So, here goes. I’m going to do this, and I’ll document my journey here, just in case you’re considering it as well. 

Have you considered a paperless writing cycle? What is your biggest concern/obstacle keeping you from taking the plunge?