After doing the first pass of editing on my technical book, "Systems Administration for Cyborgs" on a screen and feeling utterly buried by it, (See: /posts/the-editing-hole,) and I'm considering different approaches for the next book. Specifically, for this novel I have, I'm thinking about getting the novel printed somehow and then editing it "analog style."

I'd love to hear feedback from anyone who has done this, particularly recently. Particularly from people who are very digitally savy. Here's my pro/con list:


  • It might be nice to have a different "editing context," to help me keep focus on the project without the distractions of the internet and current writing projects.
  • Having marked-up pages gives me an actual marker of progress, rather than a list of commits or diffs.
  • It might be nice to get some practice writing longhand again. It's embarrassing when someone hands me a pen and I've basically forgotten how to use it.
  • It gives me a start to a collection of paper ephemera that I can burden some archivist with at some point.


  • Context switching, from a computer, to paper, to a tablet, or whatever is annoying and eats time/focus.
  • Paper would force a more linear editing process, which may get me to focus on the story and characters more closely at the possible expense of seeing "broken sentences," and other things that may be distracting to the next readers/editors/etc.
  • If I edit on paper, I have to go through and apply those changes to the actual text. Which adds a step, and probably a number of additional weeks to the editing process.
  • I'm awful writing things out long hand and I pretty much haven't written anything long hand in 4 or 5 years.


There's also another little thorny problem: I'm not sure what the future of this book is: The prologue stands alone, and I want to try shopping it around. If I can get that published as a short that might be the hook to getting the rest of the book published.

Initially my plan was to have a friend read it as a podcast, and attempt to publish the prologue as a short, and then try and for-real publish the next book. The podcasting idea, while nice, wouldn't work out as originally planned (long story.) Besides, it really depended on having someone else to the reading (I have neither the time, technical skills, nor the real ability to do the reading.) Which leaves me without a plan, and the following thoughts about the publication of this text:

  • I feel like my writing career [1] is in good (enough) shape that my identity as a writer depends on publishing this novel in a particular way.
  • On the other hand, getting the novel (or parts of it published) would be a great thing, and validates all this time/energy/interest that I have in writing science fiction.
  • I'm not opposed to self publishing, except that it means more work for me for what is probably less impact (i.e. readers.)
  • It took me embarrassingly long to write this novel. And knowing how much better my writing has gotten in the last three or four years, means that I'm pretty worried that this is really a cold pile of shit. I recognize that this is probably more reason to get the novel out to first readers, but I also feel like I should do them the favor of at least a little editing.

Printing in the Digital Age

As an aside, this has given me some time to do research on getting things printed, which I'd like to record here and share with you:

(Given a 325-350 page manuscript)

  • I don't own a printer, and have no particular interest in owning one, but a good color laser (in the 300-400 USD) or a good black and white (200-300 USD) becomes much more economical if analog editing becomes a thing.

    The downside of printing things yourself is that you still need some way to bind things. And there are maintenance and supply costs not factored into the above.

  • The price to get printing/binding done at Staples is in the 35-40 range. Chances are that these copies are likely to be the highest quality, quickest turn around, and the web interface--though annoying--is probably the most straight forward.

  • You can use to order prints. The same book costs 15 bucks. It's also spiral bound (which seems preferable to perfect binding for writing.) I'm not sure what "lulu standard" paper is like quality wise, but I suspect it will be ok. If you're ok with a fussy online interface, a weird approach to covers (no really, I'd just like transparent covers,) and turn around time, the price seems unbeatable.

Also, Lulu's cover making interface makes it really hard to get a plain cover that doesn't look like a joke.

I did some hunting around for local copy shops (I swear it seems like I pass several on my walk to work,) but had difficult finding a shop who would be able to do a very small order, and has the digital setup to accept a PDF for printing via email or a web site.

[1]I have a full time job writing and editing. While its not the same as writing fiction, it is rewarding and economically viable, and I'm working on the kinds of projects that I want to work on. Can't argue with that.