A Look At My Color-Coded Editing Method

Back in 2014, I employed this method for editing The Assassin's Daughter, though in a much more extensive form. Since I'm reemploying the method for Trace this month, I thought I'd do a short walk-through of what this condensed version of the method looks like.

Note: The sticky flags I use come in packs of 500. I found them at the Dollar Tree and really like them. Depending on how I set up the manuscript color code, I use one or two packs.

1.) Set up the color code system.

With Trace, I'm currently writing the second draft, so the printed copy is the first draft. I didn't want to get too detailed in marking scenes to cut or get into a deeper edit (I do those in later drafts), so I marked the following categories:

* Points-of-view. 
 - Trace has four, so each narrator has their own color.
* Chapter breaks. 
 - This is combined with the POV markers. I place the character's flag on same line as the chapter header, indicating that the chapter starts in that character's POV.
* Scene breaks. 
 - Same as with chapter breaks, except I mark the starting line of the scene with the POV, even if the POV doesn't change.
* Scene types. 
 - Trace's first draft is a mix of third-person past tense, third-person present tense, first-person present tense, as well as excerpts from a screenplay. 
 - The tenses correspond with a certain narrator (two are third/past, one is third/present, the last is first/present), so these scenes are also marked by that character's assigned sticky flag.
 - As for the excerpts, these are marked where they begin, as if they were another POV. 

2.) Apply the sticky flags.

I first set up the color code system by assigning colors to each of the four points-of-view and mark them in the manuscript first.

Once these have been marked, I go back through the manuscript and mark the excerpts with their assigned color. 

(...and after.)
3.) Make notes.
I try to keep notes color-coded as well. I'll make notes by chapter, writing down what each flag marks with a pen in the corresponding color. It looks something like this:

Chapter One:
[has a yellow flag, blue flag, and another yellow] 
- Change setting of this scene in Character A's POV. 
- Make this scene in Character B's POV opening scene instead. 
- Rewrite ending of this scene but keep the rest. 

And that's pretty much all there is to the short version of the method. It's helpful in being able to glance at the printed copy of the MS and seeing the basic structure. The placement of the flags also make it easy to see where certain plot points occur in comparison to the others, without having to read through the entire document. I can just consult a certain note or flag to find the scene I'm looking for.  :)

Do you have an editing system?


  1. Wow, that is very impressive! I usually don't do that sort of thing with my writing (it involves a lot of supplies I don't have) but it is still cool to see your system!


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