See How Jane Austen Used Pins to Edit Her Novel

Most writers will tell you that editing is a necessary evil (or at least pretty friggin’ hard) and would praise those who take on editing professionally. Even the greatest writers needed to rework their creations and that includes Jane Austen (1775-1817).

The author of classic novels like Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane opted for an editing technique that had been used since the early 17th century: Pins.

An abandoned text by Austen titled The Watsons, was acquired in 2011 by the Bodleian Library in the UK. Because the novel is unfinished, it can still be seen how she left it mid-way through. This includes her revision process which is all about the pins.

According to janeausten.ac.uk:

With no calculated blank spaces and no obvious way of incorporating large revision or expansion she had to find other strategies—the three patches, small pieces of paper, each of which was filled closely and neatly with the new material, attached with straight pins to the precise spot where erased material was to be covered or where an insertion was required to expand the text … The best clue we have that they represent a later stage of creation rather than immediate second thoughts is that all three are written on paper which, though common to themselves, is not used for the bulk of the manuscript. The patches are on thicker paper with distinct chainlines; they may even come from the same sheet and represent a single concerted act of revision.

(h/t Mental Floss)

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Desirée O

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Desirée O is the founder, writer, and curator of bohemianizm. You can find her own creative pursuits on her website (DesireeO.com) and follow her on Twitter (@DesireeO).