Why blue ink for editing? And why Notability?
I’ve been asked this question three times in the past two weeks.
“Why do you use a blue pen when you edit your galleys? It’s supposed to be red ink, right?”
No. Not traditionally. Three reasons.
First, red pens are a cliche and writers try to avoid cliches. Second, red pens conjure the image of hard-nosed grammar teachers (or at least they do for me). I respect grammar though proper grammar and good writing are hardly synonymous. They don’t always take each other to the dance. It all depends on which band is playing.
But the third and most important reason for not using red ink is photocopy technology. Imagine that your agent or editor asks you to fax or photocopy a galley page you’ve been working on. Any comments you make in red ink could get lost. The image appears too light. Not so with blue or black ink. (Lawyers figured this one out a long time ago.)
“Okay, so why blue ink and not black?” That’s easy. Imagine black comments scrawled against black typeset. Yikes. How visually monotonous.
Blue stands out. As a color, it’s soothing but bold and it makes me feel special inside. Of course these days, I hardly use actual blue pens or paper at all. A lot of editors send galleys as Adobe Pro files. They ask that I insert comments where needed or type changes, which the program tracks.
Honestly? I much prefer working with pen and paper. It’s old school, but nothing feels better than going through a manuscript while sitting at your desk, turning pages, chewing the tip of your pen… makes you feel like an actual writer.
Or then there’s the 21st century way. For those of you, like me, who have fallen hard for the iPad, treat yourself to the Notability app. The current cost? $1.99. I laugh out loud when I say that. Here it is again: $1.99!
Notability lets you import PDF files which you can write on using your finger or a stylus or the tip of your nose, if that’s how you work. You can toggle the size of your pen nib and the color of ink you use. You can highlight various sections. Add text notes in different fonts, colors, sizes. Record audio notes to yourself. Cut, paste, or drag-n-drop scribbles. I swear to you, it’s like magic. When you’re done marking up a document, email the file or send it to Dropbox. If you need hardcopy, send it to your printer. Notability is such an easy, cool app, it makes me weep. And that doesn’t happen very often. …I’m tearing up right now.
I introduced Notability to one of my agents and she loves it. We now send manuscript files back and forth digitally. Notability lets us save trees, save on office supplies, save storage space. All those previous drafts I had lying around? Those reams and reams of paper? Gone. No, I am not a paid spokesman. I just like things that make my life easier.
I’ve also had success using Notability with my writing students. I tell them: Don’t waste money, time, and plant matter printing out your story or essay. Just send it to me in PDF. I’ll jot my comments right on the file (in blue pen, naturally), and send it right back.
Nowadays, I use Notability for journal entries, plot drafts, research notes, grocery lists, you name it. Why? Over the years, I’ve filled dozens of Moleskines in every size, 99 cent composition notebooks, steno pads. I’ve scribbled on the backs of power bills and the obligatory cocktail napkins. My apartment became jammed with shelves and shelves of inert paper. I once had a stack of notebooks so tall I could use it for an ottoman. No more. my musings are digitized. I store all those pages in my iPad. They take up no space at all. I can export them, download them to different computers, and print them if I need to. Frank admission: I still have a soft spot in my heart for Moleskines. But show me a writer that doesn’t.