Writer’s Diary #30 – Retyping as a Way into a Text

Retyping gets a bad rap. It’s why people flocked to word processors—no need to waste time retyping when you can just edit and revise. But there is a place for retyping, and while you retype, you revise.

Yesterday, I realized that the best way to tackle the chapter I am stuck on is to retype it. I have 16,000 words, but when I tried to edit it last week, I ended up spending too much time correcting grammar and couldn’t get into the whole. I couldn’t get my head around what I had written last June.

Yesterday, I realized I could retype the entire chapter and make changes as I went. So I printed it out (55 pages), and started on the digital typewriter.

By the end of the morning, with a little grammar checking and style editing, I had cut 4,000 words down to 2,000 words, which was much closer to the goal.

My plan for the day after tomorrow is to do it again—for the next quarter of the chapter. To print. Type to revise. Spell check, grammar check, style check, rinse, repeat. Rewrite by retyping.

I learned the trick of retyping from George Saunders’ [A Swim in the Pond in the Rain] (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/06/a-swim-in-a-pond-in-the-rain-by-george-saunders-review-rules-for-good-writing-and-more), about Russian short stories and writing. I think.

As I read and typed, I saw mistakes and corrected them. I made changes right away.

It’s certainly different work than not rewriting, but it’s manual work. It’s not mental, and it’s easy to find a flow state. Rewriting is a way of avoiding the questions: What comes next? Is this good? Is this bad? Instead, you just make changes as you go. There’s very little abstract thinking, just a lot of small, immediate decisions.

Yesterday I got into it by retyping. This morning too. I’m going to try it for the rest of the chapter.