Monday, December 12, 2011

Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique

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


Ann Jacobus said...

Great idea! We can learn to love the red : )

gaylene said...

I'd love to know how you decide what needs to be red. that's my problem -- not always knowing what needs to be changed.

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Ann- Thanks. Red is good. :)

Gaylene- All my new words are red--so quite a bit when I'm doing a deep revision. The true art of revision is knowing what to change and how to find the heart of the story. And you're right--knowing what needs to be changed, figuring that out, can be tough.

Kathy Cowley said...

It's always amazing to see this--I've done this sort of thing for some essays I've written to see visually how much I've changed, but I've never done it with something longer.