Editing and revision can be incredibly hard work, but useful tools can help make the process easier. Over the past few months, I've been keeping a list of my favorite items I use to pour over manuscripts. Everything listed below is something I have in my house and am giving first-hand recommendations for. Hopefully you will find something that helps you be a little more productive so you can reach your editing and revision goals.
1. These red pens are great for marking up printed pages. The thicker tip is perfect for making those added commas stand out. Plus, I get a whole box so I can always grab a new pen when I leave the other one in some mystery place in the house.
Get a pack of 12 on Amazon, $14.99.
2. This might be one of my favorite purchases of all time for my home office: a coffee warmer. How did I ever live my life without one?! My kids always want 10,000 things in the mornings and I used to microwave my coffee at least three times every morning. Not anymore! I make my cup and set it on this warmer and it's just the right temperature whenever I can manage to take my next sip.
Mr. Coffee coffee warmer, $11.99 on Amazon.
3. Sitting in a chair all day can be hard for your back and bum, but I love this super-comfy chair cushion you can pop on any desk chair. Memory foam and cooling gel? Yes, please!
Get it on Amazon for $33.95. Your bum will thank you.
4. Staring at a screen for a long period of time can be really hard on your eyes. That's why I like to put on these stylish blue light blocking glasses. They have ten different styles to choose from and keep the headaches at bay.
They are only $19.95 on Amazon, which is cheaper than a visit to the eye doctor!
5. Here is an item I use every. single. day: a portable laptop desk. You can use this bad boy while working on the couch, in bed, or as a standing desk. It's so versatile, I use it more than my regular desk!
It's worth the investment; $49.99 on Amazon.
6. Sometimes it takes me a while to get focused, or to stay focused on editing. That's why I like to light up my lavender Yankee Candle. It makes me calm and relaxed so that I can let go of distracting thoughts and focus on my work.
I love this candle brand because they last a long time and the scent carries well. $22.99 on Amazon.
7. You know, I used to tease people who had wireless mice. Why do you need an extra mouse when you have one right there on your laptop? Then I was gifted one. So. Much. Easier. I get it now, and not only that, I'm a huge fan. I love how this cute wireless mouse has so many color choices.
And for only $11.99 on Amazon, it's a steal. (Can you tell I love purple??)
8. There's nothing better for bringing attention to a part of your manuscript than a great highlighter. What I love about these highlighters is the quality of the ink and how you can see how much you have before it goes out.
Plus they have great precision tips. Get them on Amazon for $9.97.
9. I don't mess around when it comes to being comfortable. Cozy slippers are definitely a must-have for me to get any work done at home. These ones are my tried-and-true brand that I can also run outside in to roll the garbage can down when I hear the truck coming. They also have cute colors.
I already had a purple pair, so the current ones are pink. $24.99 on Amazon. Guys, I asked my husband for his slipper recommendation. He likes this shoe-looking style slipper.
10. Let's face it. Editing and revision can be boring. So boring that you might start to nod off. I have a trick to wake myself up and get refocused: chewing on crushed ice. I am kind of picky about the size of the crunched up ice chips. This ice crusher makes the PERFECT SIZE ice chips to munch on and wake yourself up.
For $36.47 on Amazon, it's worth every penny for each hour it buys me.
11. I will confess, my husband teases me about this one, but I do not care. This sleek plastic ruler makes me slow down and focus on a manuscript line-by-line.
The transparency allows me to see the next line if I need to, while keeping my eyes on the current one. It's only $2.69 on Amazon and a cheap, easy tool to stay on task.
12. Ginseng is a wonderful supplement for brain health. I asked my doctor what brand of vitamins she recommends, and her answer was Now brand. This ginseng supplement can help boost your brain power.
Get a bottle of 250 capsules on Amazon for $18.33.
13. If you get nothing else on this list, GET THIS. The Chicago Manual of Style is the number one tool I use while editing, personally and professionally.
There is nothing like being able to go straight to the rule book to answer your grammar and convention questions. This book is HUGE, 1146 pages, which is why it costs $29.62 on Amazon. BUT, you will use it over and over and over again, and have the satisfaction of knowing you've gotten it right.
Well, there you have it. Those are my must-have favorite tools for editing and revision. Now get that manuscript and get to work!
*Note: I signed up for an Amazon affiliate account after I made my list, so if you make a purchase, I may get a small commission...so I can buy more slippers!
You had a plan. Marked it on your calendar and everything. You’d sit down to write at these times on these days. Then you got sick. Then Aunt Marci came to visit. Then there was the whole fiasco with your car and the maple syrup. In other words, life got in the way, as it always does. One of the most important factors to developing a writing routine you’ll actually stick to is adaptability—your ability to adjust whenever life happens and keep on with your goal.
It would be great if we could sit down in our favorite spot everyday, completely uninterrupted and focused on our writing. But that’s just not reality. You’re going to get sick and have visitors and schedule changes and all kinds of chaos thrown your way. The real question is, what are you going to do about it? You know you want to achieve your goal of finishing your draft or revising your book or whatever it is.
Here are five strategies for utilizing adaptability to stay the course.
Strategy One: Don’t Beat Yourself Up
The first thing you need to do is actually something *not* to do: Don’t beat yourself up. It happens to all of us. We all get sidetracked from time to time. In fact, you should probably expect it. Something is going to pull you off course and you'll have the challenge of fighting with yourself to get back into your routine.
Know what doesn’t help? Telling yourself you failed or that you can’t do it or that you can never achieve your goal. Negative talk does not put words on the page. Negative talk does not finish the book. It only holds you back. Use your disappointment to motivate you to get back to work.
Strategy Two: Get Back on Your Routine ASAP
It’s okay to have a bad day or week or month or several. As soon as you are able, hop back on your routine. You’ll feel better and have more output. Don’t use life’s potholes as an excuse to be lazy about your routine. Got a stomach bug and had to take a week off? Rest during that week and feel better. Return to your writing next week but don’t let one week off turn into four. Remember you want to achieve your goal and the longer you aren’t writing/revising/other, the longer and less likely it will be for you to finish.
Strategy Three: Recognize When Your Plan Isn’t Working
It’s one thing to have an illness bump you off track, it’s a whole other thing to create a routine you can’t possibly stick to in the first place. Writers want to Get.It.Done. We also get incredibly excited about new ideas and can be very driven...in the beginning. But writing or revising an entire manuscript takes more than just the beginning, it takes months and sometimes years of work. Focused, sustained work.
Creating a “writing routine” where you write eight hours a day everyday or have a 20,000 words per week limit aren’t sustainable in the long run. Trying to keep up with high-maintenance routines leads to burnout and likely to project abandonment. Be realistic with yourself and what you can do in your schedule. You want to strive to make progress, but in doses you can manage. I have a writer friend who gave herself a 400-word-a-day minimum because she knew that was something she could do with her schedule and would be able to stick to. She did it everyday for an entire year!
Be honest with yourself about your routine. If you keep not making your weekly goals, maybe it’s time adjust your expectations of yourself. You’ll be happier overall if you remove the pressure to produce, produce, produce and enjoy the process. You want this to be a routine that flows naturally into your life, not something you constantly struggle to accomplish.
Strategy Four: Be Willing to Experiment
A key component to adaptability is trying different ways to follow through with your routine. It would be great if we could block off two hours at the same time every single day to write but that doesn’t work out for most people. So if you made a goal like my writer friend of 400 words per day, you may have to experiment with writing at different times. Don’t tell yourself, “I can’t write in the mornings.” That’s an excuse. You can write any time.
When my kids were very little I was always exhausted at the end of the day from chasing them around. I tried to say I couldn’t write at night. Well when I stuck to that excuse, guess what happened? You know it—I didn’t write at all. I tried getting up at five in the morning but someone always got up early and I lost that time. There was no other option. I decided to try out doing thirty minutes a night, just thirty minutes. I could do that. Once I got started, often I ended up writing longer because I got into the story. Be willing to try things out and give it a good two weeks of effort. You might surprise yourself.
Strategy Five: Squeeze in Time Whenever You Can
Five minutes here and there can really add up. Use apps on your phone to write-as-you-go. I personally prefer the Google Docs app so I can work directly on my story. One story that ended up being a contest winner I wrote on my phone in a doctor’s office waiting room. I’ve also been spotted with a notebook on the stationary bike at the gym and using talk-to-text while pushing a stroller through the park.
When you find you have a few minutes, stop yourself from playing on social media or whatever else you do during that time and add a few lines to your story. If you do this twice a day, that’s over an hour of work you’ve squeezed into your week.
Adaptability is an essential part of sticking to your goals long term. This is especially true if you have kids or a demanding day job. Keep making progress, however you can, and your goals will be met!
Arielle Haughee is the owner and founder of Orange Blossom Publishing.