Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Writer's Indispensable Technology - Sticky Post-its

Stacks of WWII research books waiting for post-its

I don't know how I'd manage without my sticky post-its. Like most writers who delve into the past I'm surrounded by a pile of research books, some of which are useful and some of which are very useful. My method when I find something that is specifically useful to my novel is to mark the page with a skinny post-it right next to the sentence I need. I scrawl on the post-it to remind me what the research pertains to. In my case, writing about WWII, it is things such as 'Home Guard', 'Food', 'Pacifists', 'Army Life', or just '*!' - which means 'No! Really? Definitely include this!'
'One Family's War' with the post-it treatment -
yes that was incredibly useful book
And below you can see my proofread manuscript - all 436 pages of it, marked up with post-its. I think I said in previous posts that I had asked multiple friends to proof-read my novel now that it has been copy-edited. I thought (as we all do) that it was perfect, and would need hardly any work. (Me being anal about sprlling, punturation andf grammer)Well, my friends thought differently and here you can see the post-its to prove it. Actually, most of those post-its indicate the placing of commas. It seems some people love 'em and want you to put in loads more, and some hate 'em and want you to remove them all - unless the sentence doesn't make sense without them. So, many of those post-its are about the Great Big Comma Debate.
My 'perfect' manuscript after proofreading by eagle-eyed
writerly friends
But marking-up everyone's comments on a single draft is a good idea. I can enjoy making a fringe with all those post-its, and it does show me exactly where I need to look when I'm going through my manuscript for the gazillionth time.

You'll be glad to know decisions have been made about all those extra/missing commas, and the manuscript has now gone to be formatted. Which is a whole other ball game. More about my journey into the subliminal messages of typography soon. How we have moved on! Apparently J B Priestley's manuscripts were typed up for him by a 'soft-hearted' typist who worked in the office nearby. His chief aid seems to have been dress-makers pins by the look of his papers. Sadly, those days are gone, I prefer post-its to pins, and this soft-hearted girl will be typing and formatting her own manuscript.

Priestley's scribbling books and typescripts
JB Priestley's scribbling books - editing the old-fashioned way

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