Highlighting

Highlighting: This is one of my favorite editing tools, although I must confess I use this in conjunction with notes/comments to myself. You got a quick peek at one of the ways I use highlighting in yesterday's blog post. In this one I will talk about how I use them in my manuscript. 

First and foremost, this is a tool I had to get used to using in my editing. I used highlighting in my college days for important things in my notes, but using for fiction just didn't seem the same. Surely I could just hit that 'insert comment' button and all would work out, right? 

Nope. Notes, while handy, did not always convey what I needed the notes to convey. Some days, I know exactly what it is I need to fix, and all of those ideas are hot at the same time. I need to get them out. But writing in exacting detail destroys the purpose of the note, and fixing it takes too long. So what is a girl to do?

Enter the highlighter pen. The cool thing about digital documents is you can use as many different colors as you want. I assign each one a broad meaning and then insert the details that I want into the novel as I'm reading through it. So it works this way:

Yellow: Slow down, you are missing major chunks of the story. This is an idea that needs to be a whole scene, or in some cases a whole chapter. You rushed this the first time through, and you lost this thread in your story. Reweave it back in. I mark both the document and the outline at this time, to make sure the plot is served. Notes in this color are longer, fragmented, and extremely specific. For example T-Dog was highlighted because that was the street name of one of the possible suppliers and yet, I jump down the other story line, because I had more information on it. This note had to read. {T-Dog, new chapter, insert after Chapter 5. Lead 1--dead end, lead 2--dead end, lead 3--T-Dog fate.}(parenthetical aside here, I actually knew what each of these is, but if you want to know, well, I guess you will just have to wait for me to publish the story.)

Green: For growing like a garden. This is for places where I rushed too much and I left out details. Sure, I know inside my head Casey is a tall, dark handsome black man who took his disability severance from the police force because he was shot by a suspect and used it to open a bar. I know he walks with a cane. But I had no need to explain that in ya, know, any of the scenes this character has appeared in. *facepalm* The details are in my head, and I don't need anything in the notes section other than what needs to be inserted. 

Red: I use this in spaces where I think I should cut the scene, but there are bits and pieces (like clues or red herrings) that need to be transported to another section of the story. Before it's gone for good, I write where I want it to go. This way I can mark up the changes and actually do it when I have the time.

Blue :This if for sections that I wrote and I realized I didn't do enough research to make the scene work. I need to go back and make sure my facts are straight. Creative licence really only extends so far. And if you write well, then someone will catch you cheating. At a minimum you need to use the research you have correctly. Facts should not be bent to fit you story, in fact the more limiting you find the facts in your research, the better the tension in your character. "But I don't want it to work that way." I get that, but so should your characters. These limitation make your characters interesting. So don't fudge the facts, make a better character. 

These are the colors I use, and how I use them. I usually take about a week to mark up my novel before diving into the edits. I find that taking a bit of time in the beginning saves time in the end. What about you, what works for you?


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