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Monday, April 2, 2012

WSG 8: Draft Systems

Writer's Survival Guide 8: Draft Systems

I rely on a number of systems for every aspect of my writing life. One system I can't live without? Keeping my draft files organized.

Arbornet Folders
Photo by rexroof

Maybe you're the type of writer who only keeps one draft? The current one is the best one? I save drafts at each step in my process. With computer storage growing larger each year, I don't have to eliminate any drafts even though I rarely go back to those middle versions.

When I start a project, the first thing I do is create a new folder in Microsoft Word. It is stored as a sub-folder in my master folder, Single Title Books. I also write category length romances and have a master folder for those. You could name your master folder anything you want--if you write more than one genre, maybe call it Historicals or Suspense?

I name the book's folder with the working title of the book (which sometimes changes!). If I'm writing a series, I might number the books or precede their titles with a, b, c. This allows them to show up in the order of the series, rather than alphabetically by their title.

In the book's folder, I create more folders.
- Contests
- Critiques
- Drafts
- Synopses

Since I rarely enter Contests, not every book has this folder, but when I am entering them, it helps to keep my entries straight. The Critiques folder holds every critique I receive. I always rename the files I get back from my critique partners to reflect who sent it--for example, NLOLpartialCindy. This saves time when I want to look up a file. The Synopses folder holds my short and long synopses, as well as earlier versions and later versions. I include a date in the file name--for example, NLOLlongsynop032312. If you're querying, you might want a Query folder to keep track of the various letters you send.

The Drafts folder holds all versions of my manuscript. I name them according to what draft I'm working on. My first draft is usually 1draftNLOL (NLOL are the initials of the title). When I mark the first draft up to revise, I save my comments in a file named 1adraft. To make those changes, I save 1adraft as 2draft. I continue to number my drafts until I've reached the final, polished version. The file then gets renamed with the title--for example, New-Lease-On-Love-Full-Manuscript.

Why name the final version with the spelled out name? It's easier for agents and editors to find the file with your title in it rather than figuring out a file name like finaldraft or something vague.

Another thing I do is keep my working draft in the project's main folder, not in any subfolders. This allows me to get right to work--no guessing which version is my current one. Not that I would, since I simply head to the last numbered version, but still. Anything to make life easier.

Last week Cheryl Reif shared an excellent post on making the most out of Microsoft Word. I'm linking it here, "10 Ways to Use Microsoft Word More Effectively." One thing she mentioned is to date each file as you edit it. The article is full of other great tips, so I hope you'll check it out.

How do you keep your drafts from becoming a jumbled mess in your files? I'd love to hear your methods!

Have a fantastic Monday!

34 comments:

  1. Like you, I definitely organize them by folder. I don't print them out though. Sometimes I go back and use snippets from a previous draft.

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    1. When I'm getting close to my final draft, I print a copy out to read through. I'm amazed at how many mistakes I catch with this method!

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  2. I am assuredly not as organized as you. I have copies. I have a chest full of my work at various stages. But it would do me some good sorting through the stacks again.

    ~ Wendy

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    1. Ha! I no longer keep paper trails of everything, but I do keep a printed out final version and virtual files of everything. :)

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  3. I'm a bit of an organization freak...so I definitely have clear naming conventions and folders.

    It's always cool to see how other people do things, even if just to see that I'm not totally off base!

    Happy Monday!

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    1. Oh, I think we all have to find the system that works best for us! Some people do best with a big cardboard box they throw everything into. Others, like me, are a bit more detailed. As long as it makes my life easier, is my motto!

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  4. I have a folder for the Series. In that folder, I have each draft saved 1st draft, 2nd draft, etc...I also keep my research, synopsis, proposal and anything that has to do with that ms. I love to keep all my drafts!

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    1. They come in handy at the weirdest times, don't they? Sounds like a great system!

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    1. Paper or virtual? I rely more and more on virtual. :)

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  6. Umm...my folders are so messy! Seriously, you've inspired me to organize!! :)

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    1. And maybe a shopping trip to Staples will be in order? In the name of organizing? Ha!

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  7. Okay, so I would sign up for a beginner's class in a heartbeat... Thanks for sharing the secrets of your success!

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    1. Ha! I love messing around with different techiniques to make things easier--happy to share!

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  8. Jill, I'm so impressed with your commitment to organization! Thanks for your great tips, as well. I completely agree - I keep every draft since computer storage is limitless nowadays. I keep an e-file for each project, as well as a hard copy of any drafts that left my hands to anyone else, such as an editor, agent, etc. That way, I have a clear record of which draft went where and can immediately pull it up when suggestions/comments come back from that person. It's worked beautifully!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Donna! Keeping a hard copy of sent materials is really smart. I also invested in online backup (Carbonite) so I don't have to worry about computer crashes. Lifesaver!

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  9. My folders are kind of a mess. I usually save them the title of the draft and then a number, and I never delete the previous numbers until I'm sure I'm completely done editing.

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    1. Right on--delete nothing until absolutely sure you won't need it! Smart!

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  10. I keep several copies of my stories. Each day when I open the file, I change the date so the versions are saved in chronological order. Every so often, I delete some of the older versions.

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    1. Love that, Keli! You're always sure exactly what draft you're working on with that method. Smart!

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  11. I tend to work in only one document. If I need to do a deep edit, like cutting a scene, I save all cut scenes into another document in case I change my mind later. :)

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    1. I cut/paste them into my book's OneNote folder. I had to cut an entire chapter last week--for the best!--but I put the deleted section in OneNote. Maybe I'll want to use it still? :)

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  12. You presented some good tips on organization, Jill. I have files of drafts and research notes saved on my computer, but the files really need to be put in folders. I could do better, lol!

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    1. Couldn't we all, Brandi? Even my virtual folders get cluttered. A few minutes straightening them out goes a long way to improve my mood!

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  13. I have them separated by folders. I do keep all of my drafts. Great tips.

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    1. With your historical background, that doesn't surprise me, Loree! I keep my drafts too. :)

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  14. These are great tips, Jill. You always inspire me. My personal system is now only about 1/2 as organized as yours, but you've inspired me to rock on and clean it up.

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    1. I had to clean up my current WIP's folder over the weekend. I had all of my critiques and draft in the main folder and it was just mentally jarring. Now it's much better!

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  15. Man, I so need to do this. I'm not nearly as organized as you, but I do save drafts with the date. Then I know which one I've worked on most recently.

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    1. It's a genetic accident, Elana! I love the idea of saving the draft with the date. I do that with my synopses too. :)

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  16. Wow, you are very organized! I keep a folder for each manuscript, i.e. "LOVELIER" for Lovelier than Daylight. That is the repository primarily for my drafts, which are all labeled only by date once the ms. is complete. (LovelierApril3)Before it's complete, I designate chapters too (LovelierOnetoTwentyFiveApr3).

    Most of my marketing and interview stuff goes in separate folders.

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    1. Oh, Rosslyn, we won't even get on the subject of marketing/promotion organizing! Let's just say my OneNote folders for those are hefty! :)

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  17. Hooray for organization! Thanks for sharing the link to Cheryl's article, too. Look forward to checking out her tips for Word. Have a great week, Jill!

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    1. Cheryl's post rocked. Seriously. I love finding new ways to make life easier with Word!

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