A stupid (but effective) trick to improve the editing experience

I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner.

When editing the draft of my current work in progress, "Goodbye Grammarian", I do the large-scale edits by hand on a printout of the 50K first draft. It lets me get very old school and organic with the document.

Editing a draft -BEFORE
However, it's been a bit of a pain in the neck. Minor inserts and scratchouts can be in the printed text, but anything larger needs a footnote and an expansive discussion on the left side. This means I reach over the printed pages to make the more extensive notes on the facing blank page.

What happens as I reach around and over the rings, writing in between them and around them? The ends of the sentences are crammed around the obstacles and my wrist is pinched and twisted. Granted, this wouldn't be an issue for a left-handed writer, but for me, this was distinctly sub-optimal.

Editing a draft - AFTER
Enter a flash of genius.

I took the whole stack out and punched fresh holes in the RIGHT sides of the pages, then reordered them to put them in reverse sequence, e.g. last page first. I then took the entire stack and turned it over before putting it in the binder via the new holes.

Now, the story unfolds in proper sequence with the printed text on the LEFT side. The blank sides of the pages are on the RIGHT, so I can write on them with perfect ease and comfort. My handwritten notes directly refer to the text to be changed.

On the one hand, I feel pretty smart for thinking of this. On the other hand, why the hell didn't I think of this 15,000 words ago?

Even if someone already thought of this, is this the cleverest trick you've ever seen, or what? Assuming you're going to be old school about it (i.e. non-electronic), is there an ever better trick to ease the editing process?

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. I don't know why I'm smiling - this is just kinda funny. Smart, but funny! What's that green thing on your desk?

  2. If I ever try editing on paper again I am all over this! Great tip, thanks for sharing.

  3. That's actually a really good idea. Taking nothings in classes, the running-into-the-center always drove me nuts

  4. Oh my goodness --- patent this! You are GENIUS. I'm almost to my next edit on my novel and you can bet I will use this. As a matter of fact, I will use the :Donate: button on your website to show my appreciation.

  5. Sounds like a clever idea… in a way, it's akin to reading the story backwards to interrupt the way you (think you) know how the story flows. Of course, lefties will just shrug. :-D

    I've been editing White Pickups on my Kindle. Move down to the problem area and start typing, and you can copy the notes into your computer.

  6. Quick, patent that!

    Did you know you can buy pre-punched printer paper? Maybe you already do that, but if not, that can save you a bit of a bother too.

  7. Very clever.
    It means more paper, but how 'bout printing double spaced with bigger margins? More room for in-line notes & corrections.

  8. Awesome. I'm due to start redrafts on my YA novel and my short fiction submission later this year. I will be stealing this idea to ensure I don't get writer's cramp.

  9. @Cathy: The green thing is a Mardi Gras mask. Second line forms on the right!

    @CheckedOut: Hope it works for you. It's a little thing, but makes a big difference in comfort and convenience.

    @J.W. Bettencourt: It's ideally suited for a right-handed note taker.

    @Apple: I'm glad you like it! As a matter of fact, I will use the :Donate: button on your website to show my appreciation. <--- best comment ever

    @FARfetched: The thing is, if you resequence the pages in reverse order, when you turn them over to make the printing appear on the left, the story unfolds properly. It's a bit goofy in the explanation, but it works perfectly in practice. I've not tried to edit anything on my Kindle. I have the first-gen, and the keyboard is a bit odd to use.

    @J. M. Strother: I've seen the pre-punched paper, and might get some. This reverse-flip thing has really changed the feel of editing.

    @trev: I tried double-spacing and bigger margins, but I found that too much blank space for text that didn't need changes or commentary, and not enough for text that needed the revisions. Full blank sheets on the facing page work very well for giving me lots of space to write notes in. I tried to use bound notebooks, but wanted the same kind of capability with printed sheets.

  10. That's pure genius! I've always wrestled with the awkward back of the page notes. Such a simple but effective solution. I will have to try it!

  11. I usually just insert looseleaf paper. LOL

  12. I have this horrible feeling that if you showed this to someone who had most of their career in the BC era (Before Computers), they'd be a bit puzzled that you didn't know this already.

    In knitting there's a concept that nothing new can be found in the craft, only uncovered again. Elizabeth Zimmerman called it "unvention".

    I think this is a totally brilliant unvention!


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