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Put it in Print

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I have made a decision: Today, I will print my manuscript in hard copy.

Last year I was lucky enough to do an internship at Random House Books for Young Readers. This encompassed a lot of different things, but my favorite was probably evaluating manuscripts. This is something that happens at all agencies and publishing houses, and if you submit a manuscript to be published your work will get evaluated so many times it’s actually nuts. But like, nuts in a good way.

I’m surprised I didn’t explode this thing.

Basically what happens is someone, usually an intern at first, will read what you’ve submitted and write up a reader’s report. In it they’ll talk about the strengths and weaknesses of your work, the plot, the narrative timing, the voice, the characters, the confusing time travel you added to be trendy – you know, everything that’s in there. I found that everyone around me (read: the people who were actually paid to work at Random House) would read the pages on their tablets or e-readers. This made me feel like a crazy person whenever I printed 300 pages (double-sided, I’m not a monster) at the giant LaserJet that was in the center of our office. I would hit “print” on my computer and then diligently start working on something else. Geez, who’s printing all that stuff? I don’t know, I’m so busy inputting this LIC info. I would wait an appropriate amount of time to distance myself from the act, then casually go up and grab my pages. Then I would kick off my shoes, get out my pen, lounge back in my uber comfy reject desk chair, and get to reading.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned. People tell me my generation hates books and being outdoors and face to face interaction, so maybe I was just born in the wrong time period. Either way, something about having that printed copy just made me feel like I was doing better work – really taking in what I was reading. I need to be able to scribble in the margins of things, or I forget stuff. Making a little comment in Microsoft Word doesn’t feel the same. When I’m confused about why the heroine’s zombie boyfriend can bite the cat and not infect him with zombie germs, I need to be able to write “WHAT!?! NO ZOMBIE FELINES!?!?! WHY?? Ask author later” in the margins. Also, why wasn’t she mad he bit her cat? He seems less sympathetic as a character, running around biting people’s pets. Anyway, I digress.

The point is, I need to be able to flip through those pages and cross things out that bother me and write things in that should be better. Maybe it’s crazy that I’d rather do that with a pen than with a keyboard.  For that reason, I think printing my manuscript will make it real for me. This is something that I wrote, and here it is in a big pile of pages that need a lot of work.  If I can look at these pages the way I looked at the thousands I read during my internship, then maybe I can really get something done. I’m not sure what will be scarier – taking the pen to the pages, or finishing the work and taking the next step.

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