Alternatives to Using Comments As You Write

In my blog post on this site last week, I shared the practices of a number of my wonderful clients who have found the word-processing comments feature useful, not only during the editorial process but even as they write (see that post here). But others take a different tack, for various reasons, as you’ll see in their comments about comments below:

I do not use tracking for notes when I write. Here’s why. If I make a change, it notates it on the side and drives me batty. I highlight the part I want and put my note to self between **these** (Cindy Sproles, author of Liar’s Winter).

I don’t use the “comments” feature as I write, but after my rough draft is finished, I use a comment balloon as an electronic Post-It Note for marking the spot where I need to resume writing. I also use it as a reminder for where my critique partner left off, so I know which chapter to send her next (Rebekah Millet,

Although I don’t use the Microsoft comments as reminders, I leave myself notes within the manuscript in italics that settle my heart, because I know that I will return. (I learned in my embryo writer days that if I listened to my OCD and stopped to correct or to research to cite, the emotion drained out of the thought and I found it difficult to re-stage the theater going on in my imagination or my intellect.) I make notes like “return for more detail” or “come back to cite,” even “note: probably boring” or “check that the dots connect. Early on I heard Dr. Dobson say, “write uninterrupted with your heart first, then rewrite, stopping at all boarding stations, with your head” (J. Otis Ledbetter, author of Soul Hunger: Satisfy Your Heart’s Deepest Longing).

I do leave comments in my manuscript, but not with the comments feature. I add bold red comments in the area needing emotion, smells, or conversation improvement (Cheryl Williford, author of Their Convenient Amish Marriage).

I haven’t used the track comments feature while writing. But if it’s early in the writing process, I’ll write comments in brackets, which are editorial comments to myself. If it’s later in the process, I’ll type the word “GARAGE” in all caps at the end of the chapter and park extra comments or brainstorms there (Rob Currie,

I use “xxx-” inline (usually with a comment) while I’m writing to denote places I need to come back to. It’s much more efficient (fewer clicks than using the “comment” feature) and doesn’t take me out of my story (Kathryn Moore, author of Angel Beneath My Wheels).

I do use the comments feature, but I also use another approach: brackets and yellow highlights [like this].This approach grabs my attention very quickly rather than risk losing the comment (Austin Boyd, author of The Mars Hill Classified Series).

I write comments/notes to myself as I write the book, but I don’t use track changes. I simply write the note in the body of the manuscript in RED so I’ll see it clearly as I edit/rewrite. I do like track changes/comments from my critique partner and throughout the editorial process though (Michelle Shocklee, author of The Women of Rose Hill historical romance series).


What about you? Do you keep track of thoughts or feelings you have as you write? If so, how? If not, why not?



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