The Post-It Note post (AKA editing a novel)

Allison Tait author
Posted on February 28, 2012
This is what editing a novel looks like.

Last week I put a photo of my novel manuscript up on Facebook. 540 neat, pristine pages, tidily arranged in a precise block of paper.

“Just need to revise my revisions,” I updated with glee.

Today I give you the revised version of that manuscript. Liberally covered in post-it notes. And scrawly handwriting with such helpful tips as ‘write more here’. With any luck I will remember what that was all about when I go to input all my changes tomorrow.

I have been through this manuscript so many times I was sure it was clean. I knew I had to add in a few more bits, but I sincerely thought two or three post-its with ‘write more here’ would do it. It just goes to show you how different text looks when printed on a page. It is given a weight that it simply does not have on a screen. It reads differently. The eye picks up mistakes and repetition and the fact that there are several phrases that I use over and over again. Written quirks that need to be culled.

Last week I wrote a little post about bringing the fun back to blogging, as a way of avoiding the Post-it Note post. The one in which I point out the importance of printing out your manuscript and editing it with a red pen and, yes, a million post-it notes. Today, exactly a week later, I’m writing it anyway.

Print your words out. It puts a surprising distance between you and your initial thoughts.  A surprising and useful distance. Read your words out loud. Then scrawl all over them with red pen. And mark the place with a Post-It note.

Some things in life, including editing, are best and easiest when done the old-fashioned way.

As an added bonus, I have depleted all my Post-It Note supplies and must now purchase new ones. Cute ones. Inspirational ones. I would never be without them.


  1. Tracey

    I’m really looking forward to the ‘print out’ of my story … there is definitely a difference in looking at something online vs a hardcopy version sitting in front of you. Good luck with the editing.

  2. Lisa H

    Okey doke, then Ms Tait, you’d better get on with it then! I stand by the use of coloured post-it notes. Can’t live without them when editing. Good luck!

  3. therhythmmethod

    I’m old school. I’m doing an editing class at the moment, and we’re learning how to mark up drafts. I think it’s quite fun. I might say otherwise when faced with an actual manuscript …

  4. Deb

    I always tend to print important stuff to edit the hard copy – though usually move onto the screen once I find a change or two – cannot wait and do hard copy AND e-copy!

    I also heard that reading out loud can help. I do that with my blog posts (insignificant as they are in comparison), though you’ve probably already done that!


  5. Denwise aka Denyse Whelan

    Nothing to say about editing …but LOVE the new-do Al…lovely look from the talented Katrina… 🙂
    Im currently doing Sydney Writers Course on magazine and newspaper articles…sigh. Writing. But get lots of help via Valerie & Sue

  6. Nat - Muddy Farmwife

    Old fashioned is always the way to go for me. Nothing quite the same as reading it on paper and scrawling all over it!
    Good Luck with the edits.

  7. Kelly Exeter

    I definitely pick up stuff once I print out on paper that is just not there on the screen. It is a constant source of wonder to me. I can only imagine that this effect is exponential with a whole manuscript!

  8. MultipleMum

    Oh Kikki K here you come! Keep plugging. You inspire us all x

  9. Sarah

    This is one of the biggest challenges of studying online as a distance student…everything gets sent to you electronically (even photocopied book chapters). Reading it online rarely makes sense to me, I have to print, scribble in the margins and make little notes to myself (that make no sense the following day!). Old school all the way

  10. River

    To me, that sounds like an awful lot of hard work.
    This is probably why I’m not a writer.

    • Lisa H

      I love this comment, River…yes! It is a hell of a lot of hard work!

  11. Mrs Catch

    Yes, Yes, YES! It’s amazing what suddenly comes to your attention when it’s printed on actual paper. Love the post-it-note idea. And I may just have to borrow that useful phrase “Write more here”. It covers such a lot of ground.

  12. asampler

    Oh I couldn’t agree more. I have to print out my words to really get stuck into the editing. And I use coloured pens & post it notes. My current batch are adorned with a 50’s housewife & the quote -‘I dreamt my desk was clean’…
    Of course mine isn’t!

  13. My Mummy Daze

    Wow! Who would’ve have known that reading it in print who have made such a difference! I like the sounds of those inspirational post-it notes!

  14. Allison Rushby

    You should get some tips from Kim Wilkins. She is a serious coloured post-it note user whilst editing — I’ve seen pics! I don’t use them at all and am starting to think there’s something wrong with me!

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