Introducing My New Revision Bag

My revision manuscript spent a lot of time sitting on the kitchen table, this year. Not entirely gathering dust, but definitely a little too in the way.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the perfect revision bag would look like. There’s the part of me that thinks it might be one of those oversized, artist’s portfolios. You know… almost a portable desk with a drawing board and clips for all the pens and note cards I could handle. The idealized vision has me cutting and sawing, and gluing, until the layout is… well, detailed.

Of course, there’s also the part of me that has already spent more than enough time hauling art supplies on public transportation to last a lifetime, and the part that knows full well that there’s no place to put such a thing when I go to work.

And exactly how do you attach a whole manuscript to a drawing board, anyway?

No. I need something more compact, but I don’t necessarily need my spread-out manuscript to stay spread out.

I finally settled on the M-51 Engineer’s Field Bag from Rothco. So… uhm… yeah. Classic military styling, all the way. Let’s all just take a second to channel our inner Martha Gellhorn. So, it comes in an assortment of colors. (Might I suggest black?) And trims. (Really? How much for non-functional leather trim?) It is canvas, so those of us with a creative bent can probably spruce it up pretty easily.

I bought it because it’s actually big enough to hold an entire, novel-length manuscript. (Note that the dimensions listed on a lot of the websites that sell it are just plain wrong. As listed on the tag that came with it, they are 12*14*6.) So, hooray! I don’t have to shove my manuscript in there on the diagonal. It fits either horizontally (a little bit of a squeeze) or vertically. In fact, there’s an excellent chance Brandon Sanderson would be able to fit his manuscript in there without greasing it.

product tag showing dimensions of bag, as listed in the post.

Actual tag with actual dimensions.

For some reason, it seems like most of the bags I’ve looked at come in just a little bit short in one dimension or another. Looking for a bag that will hold a standard 8.5 *11 inch stack of paper? Well, 8 inches is close. Or ten. How about ten by ten? Or 8.5*11… but the depth is 1.5. It’s like they’re mocking you.

See? It fits.

Holding that manuscript together, I have two nifty velcro straps. (not included) I’m using a snazzy manila file folder to separate the revised portion of the manuscript from the un-revised portion, and also to hold my outline. Let’s be honest. There aren’t a lot of ready-made products meant for the purpose. We wouldn’t want any manuscript pages sliding to the bottom of the bag, would we?

velcro straps fastened across a manuscript, one vertical, one horizontal.

After that, it’s all about the pockets.

This thing has pockets. There is a slender pocket at the back of the main compartment, suitable for oh… let’s say a couple of 8.5*11.75 legal pads. (And yes, I still have room to spare in the main compartment.)

Under the flap, we have six pen-holders. In front of… a pocket! And beside another pocket (with a velcro flap.). My stack of 200 or so revision note cards fits in either one of those pockets. The last pocket on that side of the bag is about the size to hold #10 envelopes… but, being a modern woman… I’m filling it with bottles of fountain pen ink, and possibly scissors.

Under the flap is… uh… plastic dealie bobber? Oh. Apparently, we’re calling it a “document sleeve.” Let’s just pause for a second so the novel writers can get their giggles under control. You could probably fit a detailed outline or something in there.


And on the outside of the flap is… another pocket. (I can get it to zip around a Leuchtturm1917 A-5 notebook with basically nothing to spare. We might just call this one a cosmetics and toiletries pocket.


The backside of the thing has a flap. Under that, the back panel unzips, and lies completely flat. So, you have the pocket that is formed by the back of the bag and the zipped-up panel, and you have the pockets on both sides of the panel. We have a bunch more pen-holder style pockets. (Although these would be big enough for a group of pens, each.) And more note card pockets. Slightly smaller. About 100 note cards apiece. (But then, we are now up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 note cards, total.) The back panel has one pocket… a thin sleeve-style thing, suitable for uhm… yup. More legal pads. Maybe a file folder or two.

Moving on to the sides. We have what functions as a cell phone pocket. (I have a Motorola G7 Power.) Was it intended as one? Well, maybe… if time travelers visited 1953, when this thing was designed.  Above that, there is a second, shallow pocket. No top on that. And, I’m not thinking of a use right off the bat.

Other side. One small pocket with a velcro closure. Maybe a box of paperclips and rubber bands, if it were the right box. Three marker size pen-holders above that.

So, a few notes. I can get my 15 inch laptop into the bag along side the manuscript. There isn’t a padded compartment for it, and a neoprene sleeve would likely be a squeeze. Rothco sells replacement shoulder straps separately. (Do those get lost a lot? I don’t really know.)

For the record, I took some of those pictures in front of an open window on a snowy day. The bag isn’t actually as faded as it looks. It does pick up cat hair at least that badly, though. (Honest. I lint-rolled it right before I took the pictures!)


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