Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Using Track Changes: Long but hopefully helpful post

So I have now been editing long enough to realize that many, many authors do not know how to format MS submissions, nor do they know how to use track changes. I'm going to try to address some of the more common things that come up in track changes so that you can put these to good use if you're editing or CPing a manuscript of a friend. Or if you're a first time writer and you've received an edited MS back and now don't know what to do.

Track changes can save your life because you get to see EVERYTHING you've done. I highly, highly recommend using it when you're doing revision. At the very least, you should know how to use it because we're moving toward all MSs being edited this way, so you should be familiar with it.
PLEASE NOTE: I'm doing this for Mac users of Word only. Sorry PC people, but I don't use a PC so I don't feel like I can speak to that as well. Also, if you want to know how to format your MS so it is ready to send out to an agent or editor, please READ this post by Vickie Motter. Everything she says is correct. Do NOT use tabs. Do NOT use two spaces in between your period and your next sentence.

Now, some 101 with Track Changes. First thing you need to do is to make sure that your track changes is on. Go to Tools<Track Changes<Highlight Changes and check "Track changes while editing". Now everything you add or delete will be marked. Second, once you've checked that box go to Options and you'll get a handy dandy little box:

Now you can see all the different options available to you while you edit. Decide on these things. How do you want your deleted text to look? Do you want it to be shown as crossed off or do you want it to go away all together? What about stuff that you insert? I recommend checking the "Use balloons to display changes" box because then everything you do will be on the margin and it'll be easier to accept or reject later on.

The other essential part of tracking changes (esp if you are working on a CP's MS) is inserting comments. Comments are INVALUABLE.

Say, for example, you're reading through a friend's MS and you've been deleting commas or correcting spelling and everything you've done so far has shown up in the MS in a different color because you have Track Changes on, but you get to a section that is totally wonky and you want to say something about it? DO NOT TYPE into the body of their MS. Instead "Insert a comment". Go to Insert<Comment and this little bubble will pop up in the margin and you can start typing. You can also leave comments like I do with Jo that say things like, "Did you write this or did I? Because it's awesome." :)

Part Two: what do you do when you get a MS back and it is all full of changes and comments? Well, now is the time to accept/reject. Even if you totally trust your editor/CP, do NOT accept all. They can make mistakes too. And maybe they change all your spelling to the British version (centre and colour) and if you blanketly accept all, you'll later have to go back through and change everything. That being said, "Accept All" is handy if you're going through and changing every "Bob" in your MS to "Ted". If it's the only change that was made, you can click the "Accept All" button that you'll see in the below box. How to get that box? Go to Tools<Track Changes<Accept or Reject Changes and this will come up:

Click on View "Changes with highlighting" (bc, of course, your editor/CP will have clicked on "track changes while editing" when they started so all their changes WILL be highlighted). Then click on that little "Find" button and the first change in your MS will pop up and you can "accept" or "reject" and then you press the "Find" button again and the next change will come up. And so on and so on. You can and should do this for every change.

PLEASE NOTE: Your MS is not yet ready. Because "accepting" changes doesn't do anything to all the comments that your CP or editor has made. You must go through and address the comment (if your editor says you should do something) or respond to the comment. If my comments are little love notes to my authors, I am fine if they don't respond to those and instead just ex out the box. (You can ex out the box by clicking the ex on the left). For me, if I've asked for something to be done and my authors don't want to do it, I ask them to leave my comment as is and insert one of their own explaining why they aren't dealing with mine. If they do deal with mine, and it's evident because their changes have been highlighted, then they can ex out my comment. (This is a preference for me only, not all editors want comments that have been addressed to be ex'd out).

For example:

So my author can either go back through the MS and fix it, then ex out my comment because it's been dealt with or insert her own comment beneath mine:

Again, my preference is for my authors not to leave my comments in their MS that have been dealt with. Because then I have to go ex them all out. I know some editors want the comments left in because they want a memory trigger of what they asked for. Ask your editor their preference. If this is a CP and they won't see your MS again, then ex out their comments. You do NOT want to submit a MS to an agent or editor with comments in there.

Okay, that's my quick tutorial for the day. If you have questions, hit me with them and I'll try to answer. If I wasn't thorough enough, give me specifics and I'll do a follow-up post.


Suzi said...

"Did you write this or did I? Because it's awesome." :)

That totally made me laugh. I love reading fun comments in critiques.

This is one thing I love using track changes for. Deleting repetive words/phrases. For instance in my current story, someone pointed out my 2 characters jabbed each other too often. So I did a find/replace of jab and punch.

Since it highlights the word you found/replaced in a different color, it was easy to see when I had them too close together. It was sorta a thing the 2 characters did, so I probably had it in more than others, but at least now it wasn't twice within a chapter. It was spread out much more.

I do this often with other words I overuse, just to make sure they're not so close together.

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh my goodness, I don't know why this post got me so excited and giddy. I have a weird love for Track Changes. I like your comments about the hand-raking.

Jeff Hargett said...

Excellent post! I'd like to add a link to it for my next Sunday Surfing post.

roxanne s. sukhan said...

Wonderful post!

Kelley Lynn said...

Love Track Changes :)

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