The Red Pen

So I wrote this book, and then I had a lot of unexpected life changes and I got way off track editing the draft, and I ended up expanding it in unproductive directions and vandalizing myself with a million edits and replacing the light touch of stream-of-consciousness narrative with ponderous literary pomp and then I had a bunch of additional life changes and then I got real busy and it just sat while I focused on my storytelling work on stage.

I’d revived it briefly a while back when my friend Keith Sinzinger badgered me into working on it with the very, very generous offer (since he was a master editor with faith in my stories) of being my editor, but he left us before we could roll up our sleeves to get down to it and I just left it alone, feeling sort of wrung out and sad.

Now that it’s going to be a while before I can do much stage work during the pandemic lockdown, I thought hey, I have a book manuscript—maybe I should finish that.

The one thing I’ve learned from writing and editing on a computer is that writing and editing on a computer sucks and enables all our worst habits and especially my own, and I think I’ve managed to backtrack through the rough edits to the best version of the original manuscript, so I’m trying something new. I prettied up the current version in Apple Pages, set it in my favorite font, and printed a draft on lovely cream-colored paper via Lulu print-on-demand services.

printed copy of manuscript and red pen

My plan is to attack this little book with a red pen and several colors of highlighter, get a feel for it as a booky-wook and not as amorphous words floating on a screen, then come up with an edited draft, print a handful of copies, and hand them off to my friends and family with the time and the inclination to hit the draft with a red pen and several colors of highlighter, after which I’ll do a final edit and self-publish with a nice dedications page to thank anyone generous enough to give it peek.

As I’ve been going at my manuscript with a proofreader’s pen and a savage indifference to my occasionally overwrought or underthought prose, I wore out my orange highlighter, so I decided to treat myself to a box of my favorite deliciously slim and elegant Japanese pens from the 1980s, the Uchida Marvy Le Pen, with a stern red ink and a .3mm line that’s perfect for making little corrections and marks within the text. There’s something delightful about a take-no-prisoners proofread.

Also, I made the impulsive choice to set the type in my beloved Optima and I’m liking it more and more the further in I go.

Wish I’d thought to do this years ago instead of sitting in front of a screen, failing to make any progress at all, but the best point from which to start is where you are right now.

journal entries, 2020-07-28
@2020 Joe Belknap Wall