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.
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.
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!