Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Today I start editing. People have asked me what that’s like. So I took a photo of the things I use to get started.

When I edit, I print the entire manuscript for the first time. After I did that this morning, I discovered to my horror that I forgot to insert page numbers. Now I’ll have to go through the entire novel and write in the page numbers. YUCK!

Before you feel too sorry for me, I have to go through each page by hand anyway and highlight (with my pink/yellow/green/blue highlighters) all the notes I’ve left myself in the text. When I’m writing a first draft, I don’t want to get bogged down in the text so I’ll leave myself notes. For example, “This scene is painful, fix it,” or “Add in the backstory for this scene,” or “Character X needs to be in this scene, add in later.” Editing is when I fix those things.

The green notebook and fountain pen are for making notes to myself about the themes, subplots, and character development that need to be added or refined in the text. I use a fountain pen because it slows me down and makes me think more deeply as I write.

The flags (I need a lot more of these) is how I mark the text. For example, in Screwing Up Time all the romantic/relationship scenes got marked with a red flag. The time traveling scenes got marked with a green flag, etc., etc., etc. This makes is easier for me to verify/correct scenes. When you make even a small change in scene, you have to make sure that it doesn’t affect other scenes. If it does, more rewriting.

The post-its are for making notes and sticking them on the page. (Obviously.) Sometimes a section needs a lot of work, and I use the notes to make a list of suggestions to myself. Sometimes I don’t have the time to fix something, but I don’t want to forget what I decided to do so I leave myself notes—occasionally a whole page is covered with yellow post-its. (I need to buy a lot more of these too.)

I think the red pens are self-explanatory. When I’m editing, my purse, my car, my nightstand, and every room in the house has multiple red pens lying around, you never want to waste time looking for a red pen when you have a great editing idea.  The pens in the photo are leftovers from the SUT edit. I’ve got a bagful waiting to be opened for this book.

Then there’s the printout, which looks surprisingly slim. That’s because it’s single-spaced and because I underwrite. When the book is finished, it will be 20 to 30% longer.

Enough writing about writing, my fingers are itching to edit. I’m craving those red pens, which will hopefully turn my first draft into a story worth reading. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. Not long after I posted this photo, which I thought couldn't be enlarged, I discovered that some eager readers were magnifying the title and some spoiler notes that I left myself on the front page. I had my techno-wizard blur the title and the spoiler notes and repost the photo. Sorry--but I'd rather everything be a surprise.

  2. Lovve to see how others tackle this. I love sticky notes, flags and red pens too!

  3. I love the way you edit. I have a similar process but I don't print out the manuscript. I use a program called Scrivener. I hope it goes well for you.

  4. Thanks for sharing your process! Good luck with the edits.

    Also: I thought I was following you, but I guess I wasn't! Sorry about that. I really enjoy reading your posts. :)

  5. This is an excellent way to edit! I find printing out the MS helps your eyes to catch things we miss otherwise :)

  6. I love editing. I don't print every draft. I prefer to do the majority of my editing on the computer. I find it frees up my creativity more. I love to do riff writing. It's a concept from the book Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. I've save many a tree doing it this way. :D

    Have fun with the edits.

  7. Stina,

    I've never read that book. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks.

  8. Oooh, enjoy the process! The first step when I get editing is shopping too! Nothing feels better than new pens, highlighters, stickynotes, and paper to print out my manuscript:)