I've just started editing my novel.

For the drafting I had done most of the work on a phone, as I wanted to make the most of the daily commute. This worked well enough and the first rough draft is done.

However, I'm finding the same approach just isn't as strong for editing as it's not easy to highlight and remove words or find things quickly on a phone.

Does a portable computer exist that would be up to the task? A tiny laptop could work but I currently commute by bus (not train) so there isn't exactly a table or other surface I could rest a computer on.

My other option is just working weekends, but I'd rather avoid this if possible.

Can any writers recommend any suitable tools?

If not, how did you keep productive during the editing stage?

  • 4
    How about printing it and using handwritten notes for minor improvements or reminders to improve stuff?
    – Narusan
    Jun 7, 2018 at 21:24

5 Answers 5


Typing on a laptop on your lap on a bus is always going to be difficult no matter what you buy. But maybe you don’t need a laptop:

I find it really helps if I edit my work in a completely different format to the one I wrote it in. If the work looks completely different I’m less likely to be blinded by the familiarity of my own words.

I read somewhere that when you look at your MS on a computer in a neat font, it gives the impression that the work is perfect and it’s harder to see problems when it already looks polished.

So, what I do is change the font to something really gritty, like American Typewriter and print it out.

I use editing marks for changes (these are easy to learn from any good editing book like the Wiley Style Manual) and then transfer them from paper to laptop later.

It may seem like a waste of time to use paper and have to transfer the edits, but what you end up with is actually a third draft, because you naturally edit/reword again as you implement those changes.

If you don’t have a printer or feel it’s too much to print out, you could invest in a tablet and a stylus. I edit like this sometimes too with an iPad and a Jot Touch. But you still need to transfer the edits to the computer later.

It will be difficult on a bus, but I think reading your work aloud is essential. It is only through reading aloud that you can isolate difficult to read sentences/paragraphs and really get a feel for your voice and the musicality of your words. Maybe you could sit at the back where it’s quiet and whisper it to yourself!!

Good luck!

  • I have been trying a mix of what was already suggested - printing and making edits on paper etc. Right now I'm intending to follow a mix of the suggestions given and make edits according to my own internal editor and how to write books. Sadly I don't think there currently exists a way to edit easily on the go.
    – peanut
    Jun 11, 2018 at 12:26
  • @peanut I did have another idea, which is to buy a laptop stand that's designed for on-the-go use. Most laptop stands seem to be designed for desks, but this one is designed to go right on your lap. The company is still a startup, but it could solve all your problems: kickstarter.com/projects/888974613/… p.s. I have nothing to do with them, this isn't a pitch!! :)
    – GGx
    Jun 11, 2018 at 13:54

For the hardware aspect of the question, you may try a tablet. So you'll get a wider surface to edit your text, without the need of a table. Mouse and keyboard will still missing, but at least, editing should be easier. But you may prefer a tiny laptop on your knees.

For the software part, I suggest LiteWrite. Beautiful on desktop as well as on phone, tiny, no distraction, data ubiquity, it let you choose your cloud provider (GoogledDrive, DropBox or RemoteStorage). For a long work, I recommend you to split your text in many documents with a clever naming convention, so you could rely on the search ability of LiteWrite to quickly switch between parts.

If no solution suits you, remember you can always use pen and paper, and type your work at home. Print your draft, edit it with pen on the go. Well, it may not be more comfortable. A clipboard folder on your knees may help.

  • given the similarity of our answers, I'd say we were typing those simultaneously!! ;)
    – GGx
    Jun 7, 2018 at 15:00
  • @GGx Yes, indeed. I saw your answer just after submitting mine ! Jun 8, 2018 at 8:13

I'm in the same situation. I've resorted to creating a copy of draft 1 that can be annotated but not otherwise edited, e.g. a PDF in Google Drive. Such files are easy to edit. Highlighting isn't so feasible in GD, although I have a friend who finds Edge very helpful for that. (Phones vary in whether they can take advantage of this.) I use the commute to read the work, decide what changes to make to a given page, then write instructions to myself as an annotation. When I have time at my laptop at home and I'm not exhausted, e.g. at the weekend, I see how long it takes to obey the instructions for a chapter, and then see whether I have the energy for another. You'll get through individual changes much faster during "round 2", so it won't necessarily eat up the weekend. Try it, see if it works.


Tablet, with tablet pen is the best mark up tool, period. However, turning a marked up document into a new draft needs two panels and that won't ever work well in transit. You're going to need to find time outside of your commute for revision & editing, but you can reduce the task load.


To add to what others have said:

If you choose a tablet:

  • the touchscreen keyboard will be much less ergonomic compared to a real laptop. If you are the kind of person who may be discouraging by that, you can get a wired or Bluetooth portable keyboard.
  • a tablet + accessories setup will be more fiddly than a laptop. With a laptop, you will only have one device that you will have to remember to carry and keep charged. With a tablet and keyboard, you will have to keep two charged, and connect/disconnect them occasionally.

If you choose a laptop:

  • they are more tempting to leave behind unattended because of their weight, "just this once, for only a minute". That can get them stolen more easily than with a tablet, which you can train yourself to pick up whenever you leave the room.

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