Highlight Editing

Similar to rainbow editing, highlight editing zeros-in more on your manuscript.You’re not marking up your plot and characters with various colors, you looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

In rainbow editing, you’re marking up your plot, characters, and setting with various colors, taking an in-depth approach to your story.you looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

In highlight editing, you’re looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

You could use rainbow editing for this as well, but I find highlighting to be easier and you can use both in the same draft.

Your manuscript will look gorgeous if you do.

Highlight Editing


Use highlight editing when you want to replace certain words, sentences, or phrases in your novel. Use different colored highlighters for different things to swap out later. For example, assign different colors to look for:

  • Cliches
  • Vocabulary (add stronger words)
  • Repetitive words or phrases

Work towards making those phrases more specific and concrete.

The “W” Questions

Some small details don’t matter, but others do. It all helps out with the background of the story and gives the readers a little bit more to go on as they delve deeper into the story.

Ask yourself these questions as though you, the reader, is in the story:

  • Where are we?
  • Who are we?
  • When are we?
  • How do things look?
  • What time period are we in? What time of year?
  • Is it day or night?
  • What’s the weather like?

Some details, like the weather, can be small, but they can add a lot to the story and allow the reader to really feel as though they’re in your world.

Use a highlighter to answer these questions (and similar questions you can think of). If you can’t find the answers in the text, then your reader won’t know the answer. Make a note and ask if it’s really important to add. If it is, add it in somewhere you won’t disrupt the flow.

In Conclusion

Highlighters are a lot of fun and they’re made to make things stand out to us. When editing, you want to make notes of things to add, delete, or change. Highlighting these things in different colors is not only easy (and pretty!) but it’ll save you some extra editing of later drafts and will be easy to look back on later.

Have you used this method before? Do you do anything similar? Let me know in the comments below!

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Rainbow Editing

I haven’t touched my mystery novel in a long time. I wrote the original first draft for NaNoWriMo in November 2013. Since then, it’s changed a lot. I submitted it to my writer’s group and we all mutually agreed that the main character should not have been the POV character.

I rewrote the whole thing.

In 2015, my goal was to have the full manuscript completed by the end of the year. That didn’t happen, so my new goal was the end of the year in 2016.

The last time I worked on the draft was the summer of 2016. I began my edits, got about 60 pages in, and stopped. My “edits” started to be solely searching for typos. I was reading the story, not editing the book. I got frustrated, not knowing where to start and how to continue, so I stopped with every intention of going back to it a few weeks later.

Then Camp NaNo July 2016 happened and I never went back to my mystery novel.

Now that it’s 2017, my new goal was, (surprise), to finish the manuscript by the end of the year. I have a new plan and a new schedule. I also did some research on editing and I learned a lot. So I think it will work this time.

No one said editing had to be boring. No one said it had to be a chore. It’s a lot of work and brainpower, yes, but I’ve found a way to make editing a little more fun and interesting for myself while staying organized and continue to pay attention.

Rainbow Editing | Editing Your Novel

If you’re easily distracted by shiny and pretty things, like me, then this may be a fun way to edit your manuscript.

When you think of editing, you think of having a red pen in hand, right? Me, too. When you think of writing, you think of blue or black ink, right? If you’re typing it on the computer, it’s black ink.

Editing is hard enough, but when I started editing my novel again this month I decided to use the same draft I was working on last summer so I could save a tree.

The first 10 pages or so are really marked up and then I lost steam. Up until page 60 or so, there are small red marks here and there, but that’s it.

I decided not to use red so I wouldn’t get the last edits and the current edits mixed up. Since I started, two of my pens had run out of ink so I ended up having four different colors on one page.

It’s pretty if I do say so myself.

That’s when I thought of rainbow editing. This is an actual method teachers use to get their students (mostly elementary and middle grade) to self-edit their essays. Each color represents something different: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

But why don’t I do that? I have various colored pens that I never use and it will help me stay organized in my thoughts as I write, edit, and rewrite. So, that’s just what I decided to do…

Red – general typos, spelling, grammar, etc.
Green – Plot changes
Light Green – Dialogue, description, pacing, tenses, etc.
Blue – Character development
Purple – Research, fact-check
Pink – Overall structure, switching sentences and paragraphs around, vocabulary, word replacement, etc.

It definitely looks a bit much, but if you make a “legend” and can remember which color represents what, it helps to zero in on one thing at a time.

I didn’t think of this idea until after I started editing this draft, but it will definitely be used in the future.

Do you rainbow edit or have a similar editing method? Let me know in the comments below!

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On Editing: When Critiquing a Friend’s Novel

For December, Kris and I decided to swap manuscripts and edit each other’s work. We both have first drafts completed, but that’s about it. Neither one of us knows where to go from there on our current WIPs.

We’ve read each other’s work before and we’re also part of a writer’s group where we give and take feedback. Yet, whenever I look at someone’s writing, someone I know and I’m close to, I always find it harder to critique.

Don’t ask why, I can’t explain it, but that’s just how I feel.

With that being said, here’s what you should do when editing a friend’s novel.

On Editing: When Critiquing a Novel for a Friend

Editing is editing, but editing your own novel is quite different than editing a friend’s. When a friend asks you to look over their work, they’re trusting you with their babies, they’re blood, sweat, and tears. They’re allowing you to take a trip through their imaginative mind, peek into their fictional world and play with their characters.

What to do when a friend asks you to edit their novel


Before I get into all the details about what you should do if you agree to critique their novel, I thought I’d mention that it’s okay to say no.

You have your own writing to focus on. You have your own life to live. If taking on a whole novel to critique would be too much, then say so. Your friend will understand and maybe you can take a peek at their work some other time.

You don’t want to agree to critique their novel and then let it sit for months on end, do you? That wouldn’t help the writer and it would add on more stress for you.


Speaking of letting the manuscript sit for months… If you agree to critique their work, work out a deadline with the writer. Tell them you’ll have their novel back to them within a month or two months or whatever works best for the two of you.

Having a deadline will allow both of you to plan accordingly. The writer can anticipate the feedback and prepare for their next round of edits while you can get into a routine as well as save your own writing time and help a friend.


You want me to critique your novel? Okay, well what do you want me to look for?

Does the writer want your opinion on the character development throughout the story? Is there a point in the novel where the plot feels stuck and they don’t know how to fix it? Maybe they just want your opinion on the overall story.

Give your honest feedback, but be sure to answer specific questions from the writer. You don’t want them e-mailing you later saying, “Thanks, but what did you think about this…?”

Editing is hard, but editing for a friend is harder.

Remember, this is not your story.

You might have had the protagonist kill the villain at the end as opposed to letting him go. However, your friend created this world, the conflict, the resolution, the characters, and everything in between. You have no idea what other plans the author has in mind for their novel.


You didn’t write the story, it wasn’t your idea to begin with, so don’t compare it to your own writing and rewrite it. Make suggestions, dish out new ideas, but don’t be offended if the author decides not to use them.

Everything you say, positive or negative feedback, will be taken with a grain of salt. If anything, the writer is seeing how a potential reader will take on the moral of the story. Maybe their point wasn’t clear enough or maybe it was spot on.

The power of Suggestion

With that being said, when you write your feedback you need to keep in mind that the writer may or may not listen to it. Be sure to word your feedback in a nice way that it’s just your opinion.

It doesn’t help to say, “This is good, but I would have done it like this…”

Instead say, “This part just isn’t working out for me because [give reason]. Have you thought about doing this…?”

Or, you can stop at, “This part just isn’t working out for me because [give reason].”

The writer may or may not want your suggestion, but they’ll listen to what’s not working with the story. If it didn’t work for one audience member, it might not work with everyone else.

If you don’t know what to pin-point in the story, check out this list of 35 critiquing questions. You don’t have to answer them all, but it’s definitely a good starting point and will help the writer out a lot.

Positive and Negative feedback

When critiquing a novel, you always want to find things that work well and things that don’t work well.

The negative feedback helps them improve. The positive feedback give them some reassurance that their writing isn’t terrible, something that all writers believe about their stories.

So, feel free to find something negative about the story even if you loved it. It may not be a problem for you, but other readers may not get it. Or, it could be something as simple as them constantly spelling defiantly definitely” wrong.

If the story wasn’t your cup of coffee, find at least one or two positive things to say about the story. The story can’t all be awful. Maybe you enjoyed one of the secondary characters or there was a scene that was pretty funny and worked really well with the plot.


Most authors ask for feedback because they don’t know where to go next. They’ve read and reread their story, but there’s always something that needs changing. It’s hard for them to quit editing with each new draft because, let’s face it, we all search for perfection within our novels.

As the editor, it’s your job to reassure the writer their novel is up to par. It may not be its best yet, but you have to cheer them on and give them the willpower to keep going.

That’s where the positive and negative feedback comes in. That’s where your suggestions come in handy.

You’re allowing the writer to give someone to talk to about the ups and downs of their novel whether it’s the novel itself or the journey. By being an editor or beta-reader, you’re being a good friend.

Have you ever critiqued a friend’s novel before? How did you guys handle it? Let me know in the comments below!

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