When ghostwriting a book based on a manuscript that has scattered bits and pieces of ideas and notes from conversations with the expert, I use are to me the best editing tools: color coding in Word and scissors and tape.

First, I type an all-caps header above each paragraph or section that describes the main idea in short. Then, I color code these paragraphs or sections based on what chapter they’ll probably slot into. For instance, Chapter 1 is coded turquoise while chapter 2 is coded navy blue (in Word, you can go beyond the main colors and actually access a color wheel that gives you many hues; I don’t like to use a color on color background, which is another option, as it’s very tiring on the eyes to look at). When I’ve coded a big manuscript or section of notes, I simply cut and paste into chapter files: All the turquoise text goes in c. 1, all the navy in c. 2, etc.

Next step: Print out in doublespace 12-pt type and grab the scissors and tape. Cut up sections and put them in order, fastening them with tape, and penciling in headers and transitions that come to mind. Eventually, I end up with a long scroll that I can use as my template for constructing the chapter. Sections that are simply ideas, not crafted text, I just read and rewrite as I go.

Will this process of using color coding and scissors and tape to edit work for you? Try it and see!


Nancy Peske is a ghostwriter, developmental editor, and book publishing consultant who has done editorial work on books including bestsellers and award-winners for over 30 years.