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The Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique

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Dec. 12th, 2011 | 05:24 pm

Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique
I started using colorful fonts when revising after Martine Leavitt, my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts asked me to make all my changes in red. 
My manuscript was bleeding after I was done: 

Screenshots of my novel, River at 10% zoom. Shown
are the beginning (top), middle, and end (bottom.)
Yes, I made that many changes; the changes represent a deep revision.
As I worked I grew to love red font!
Because all red words are better words, better sentences, and even new scenes at times, I have grown to think of red as a positive writing color, instead of the color that marks all my mistakes.
Later revision of River
 Using another font color lets me see what I’m doing, or what I recently changed.  In some cases it is helpful when I read through my novel the next time, as I can see what I changed.  Other times, the red font was just for the process, and I switch the font all back to black before I work on it again.. 
Also, if I work for several hours or a couple days and feel I didn’t make much headway, I can look at the colorful font, and realize, yes, I did make good progress.
I don’t use colored font with every draft. It’s not useful to me in early drafts. 
Occasionally, if I need to both be aware of the last changes I made and need to track my current changes as I take an additional revision pass, I’ll add another color, like blue. If I move a substantial passage, I may mark those sentences with another font color for those passages. 
By the end of the revision pass, at least temporarily, I have a rainbow manuscript.

Screenshot of my novel, Crossings-a late revision at 10% zoom

Cross-posted from my Explorations blog.

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Comments {3}


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from: shaelise
date: Dec. 12th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)

Very insightful. It's fun seeing what others do. I also use red, blue and yellow fonts during my revisions and critiques. It helps me identify specific types of errors or changes right off. I love it. Thanks for sharing. Hope your family is doing well. :)



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from: sarah_create
date: Dec. 13th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)

I use yellow highlighting, but not yellow font. How can you see it on the screen? It wasn't strong enough for me to easily read.
I use red, blue, green, and sometimes purple and orange. And yellow and turquoise highlights.

I do lots of other things while revising too--but this is visually enjoyable.

We are doing well, thanks.
And our next post is Nigeria!

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(no subject)

from: shaelise
date: Dec. 14th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)

Yeah, mine is yellow highlighting as well, sorry, I should have clarified that. I use yellow and turquoise highlights and red and blue font typically, although I have been known to add green font as needed. I have a specific meaning assigned to each color so I know instantly what I've done or what needs to be done.

I think about you all the time. I wish I was better at keeping in touch. I was going to email you and see if you'd received your post. Is it a 3 or 5 year post? When do you go? Summer?

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