Friday, January 20, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Copy & Paste Editing

Of all the editing features out there, few are as simple and magical as the Ctrl - A, Z, X, C, and V technique. Yep. I said magic! Think about it. With two keystroke combinations, an entire 150k manuscript can disappear and reappear. Or parts of it. This is a major time saver.

Most word processors use this keystroke combination, something that would make my early writing days a lot easier. If I had known, I could have touched two keys and restored an accidentally deleted chapter instead of rewriting it. Most of you know this, so bear with me.

Ctrl - A:  This selects everything in your document

Ctrl - X:  Cuts highlighted portion from your document.

Ctrl - C:  Copies highlighted portion; does not remove.

Ctrl - V:  Pastes highlighted portion where the cursor is.

Ctrl - Z:  Undoes any current action.

Ctrl - Y:  Restores any previous action.

(If you don't know, you highlight by clicking and dragging your mouse over what you want to edit).

There you have it - the recipe for basic editing. They can be used for cutting sentences, paragraphs, pages, or whole chapters, and maybe using them elsewhere.

My current revision is a good example. The story itself is sound, but the manuscript needs a thorough touch-up. And some tightening. The beginning and ending calls for an almost complete rewrite. The first chapter is guilty of the infamous info dump, but some of that prose and information is still really good. It's just in the wrong place. The original first chapter? I cut it all and pasted on a separate document, in case I wanted to use any of it later. And I did, which saved me even more time.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Drafting a novel is the first step in a huge journey toward publication. And editing is the second.

Any editing shortcuts you'd like to share? Did I miss any keystrokes? Do you enjoy drafting or editing more?

I'm David, and someone lit my Babylon Candle!


  1. I secretly want a vintage typewriter too! My in-laws have one and I am always fascinated by it!

  2. I use keystrokes all the time. My wife is the master of locking up her computer programs, so Ctrl - Alt - -Delete is her favorite.

  3. I'm in the exact same editing boat. I dumped Chapter One, made it a separate document. And then chopped 80% of it to make a Prologue.

    I must have had 10 different versions of my prologue/Chapter One. Without word processors, it would have been impossible.

    I wrote my first novel on an Apple IIC, by the way. I was 12 years old.

  4. On of my favorite things to do when editing is put in different colored fonts in scenes that need to be moved, changed, tweaked or added to. Then, when I need to remember where that was, I just need to see the color :)

  5. Keen advice, David. This post helped me find the difference between drafting and editing. Thank you. Just to add, I, too, secretly wish for a typewriter.

    Pure post...

  6. I have absolutely no interest in possessing or using an old typewrite but thank you for control-z!!! If only I'd known...

  7. Oh this feature is a MUST. I'm about to re-write my pesky ending AGAIN. And I am going to do some series cut and paste.

    Have a great weekend.

  8. I want a vintage typewriter, too! Just for looks. I also want a Babylon Candle. :)

    Had to do the same thing with my first chapter. Might have to do some more tweaking.

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  9. I used to have one of those "typewriter" things and wouldn't trade my computer for it. Great tips on the shortcut keys. I use them all except Ctrl+Y. Thanks for teaching me that one!

  10. I'm so glad that I'm trying to be a writer in the age of the computer as opposed to trying to be a writer with what they had available 100 years ago.

  11. Didn't know about some of these. Thanks!

  12. i remember my old typewriter, with correction tape!
    how did they do it before word processing!

    and speaking of obsolete, cursive writing will no longer be taught in school- just enough for a signature...

    baby who?

  13. Right, I'm memorising this list at once. I didn't know any of these keystroke shortcuts. So much for young people being up in technology.

    I admit it. I lit your Babylon candle.

  14. Hmmm, my revising didn't take as many chunks out but I use these keys for the little things as well.

    Though typing on a typewriter would be cool ;)

  15. I couldn't imagine doing rewrites on a typewriter. What a job! I'm so glad we now have cut-copy-paste editing! :)

  16. I've been using CTRL+Alt+M for comments in Word a lot recently. That way I don't have to navigate around through the tabs to get to it.

    I tend to enjoy drafting more than editing.

  17. I could not imagine writing or editing without a computer. I have to do a lot of that cutting, pasting, and deleting.

  18. Typewriters are cooooool! And yeah, I need to cut & paste some serious chunks of my current WIP, too. hehe

  19. Ooh! Control Y. Who knew? Sometimes it's good to review the basics. Thanks!

  20. Yup, spell check has just ruined me. Thank goodness we've moved on from the type writer. :)I'd never heard of control Y either - so thanks for that!