This is the last post of content from my of my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and occasionally found something useful. And I hope you’ll buy the dang thing one of these days. Here is a second word processor tip, “Use the comment feature for better storytelling.”
Word’s Comment feature is a hugely useful tool. You can insert an invisible note for yourself or someone else, such as an editor. When I was in an e-mail critique group, we used comments in our critiques along with line editing with Track Changes turned on. WordPerfect also offers a Comment tool.
I sometimes create a skeletal version of a scene that’s not fully developed and use Comment to leave a note about thoughts for fleshing it out. Or maybe there’s a description or action that I know needs work. In one of my novels I described a character as having a “pretty face.” A critiquer rightly noted that this was vague—and it’s an example of a “conclusion” word.
When I came to that place as I was rewriting, I just wasn’t ready to deal with finding other language, so it was easy to highlight “pretty” and add this little note to myself: “better adjective/description—fine-boned, delicate features…” When I was good and ready, I took my time to do justice to the description.
The woman’s face emerged—oval shape, delicate features, and big eyes like you see in fashion models.
For me, that’s one of the best uses for comments—to annotate possibilities that occur to me when I don’t have the time or inclination to write them out. For example, in one scene the protagonist has left an intense but brief scene with his boss in which he quit his job. In the narrative I jumped ahead in time and simply wrote this:
In his office, Gabe slammed the few personal things he didn’t want to lose into his briefcase.
Then he left. Later, when skimming through the chapter, I had a nagging sense that the scene had ended too abruptly. So I highlighted “In his office” and added this comment: “consider having the boss following him into the hallway and finishing the confrontation.” I went back later and created a much stronger scene. Here’s the addition:
Gabe was twenty feet down the hallway before Lawrence’s voice attacked from behind. “You hold on there!”
Gabe stopped and turned. Lawrence advanced on him, his face flushed, his hands clenched into fists.
Lawrence came to a halt close enough for Gabe to smell the cigarette smoke in his breath. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Shackles lifted from Gabe’s mind, and he felt strong and free. “How about the right thing?”
Lawrence sucked in air as if Gabe had thrown a jab to his belly. His face reddened even more. “You’re one more word from being out of a job.”
Out of a job. But this job, with Lawrence fouling his work and yanking on a leash, would be hell. Gabe had been there before, suffering the daily insult of working for a lesser man. Last time it had cost him lots of sleep and the beginnings of an ulcer. He’d vowed to never suffer fools again.
One more word? Hell, he could do better than that. “Lawrence, don’t you have ass-kissing to do? I think the client’s going to need a long, deep pucker if you want to keep him happy.”
Like a fish, complete with glassy eyes, Lawrence opened and shut his mouth a couple of times. Then he spun and hurried back to the conference room. Gabe headed for his office, a flush of triumph thrumming through him.
There are different ways to add a comment. In Word 2000 and earlier, you highlight something where you want the comment to be, click Insert in the top menu, then click on Comment. A box will appear, you enter your note, then click Close. The comment becomes invisible until you want to see it, but yellow highlighting remains to show you where it is. You can insert a comment without highlighting anything, but I wouldn’t—later there’s no way to see where the comment is.
In Word 2002/XP, you insert comments in the same way. A comment balloon appears into which you type your comment. Annoyingly, the balloon stays there. To make it go away, go to View and click on Markup. Unfortunately, these versions of Word leave no highlighting to tell you where the comment is—you have to click on View/Markup.
In Word 2007, click on the Review tab in the ribbon and click on “New Comment.”
There are two ways in Word 2000 and earlier to later view a Comment note. My preference is to place my cursor over the yellow highlight, which causes the comment to appear in a pop-up box. Move the cursor away, it goes away. Right-click your mouse (click the right key if you have a 2-key mouse) and you get a menu that will let you edit or delete the comment. An alternative way to view a Comment is to click View on the top menu in Word. Then click Comments, and a box will appear with all the comments in them. You can scroll to get to the area you want to see. This is a handy way to review all of the reminders you’ve left in order to see what needs to be done.
In Word 2002/XP, click View and then Markup to see comments. To make them go away, return to View and click Markup. In Word 2007, go to the Review tab. The default may be to display all comments and changes. To turn them off, click the Show Markup link and deselect whatever you don’t want shown.
In WordPerfect, to insert a comment, click on Insert in the top menu bar, move your cursor to Comment, and click on Insert in the pop-up menu. To close the window that opens you have to click the X in the upper right corner. You can also navigate back and forth between your document and your comments with Window on the main menu bar.
WordPerfect adds small “word balloons” to the left margin of your document to indicate the presence of a comment. Click on the word balloon to read the comment. Right-click on the comment to edit or delete it.
For what it’s worth
© 2011 Ray Rhamey