Writing is patching together a crazy quilt. Everyone has their own method- sequential from beginning to end, moving in and out of time as the mood suits them, or writing into the void not knowing where the end will be. Therefore, DRAFT CONTROL is an extremely important concept to think about as you begin to notice your process.
I tend to write in all three of the ways I have described above. So what to do? How to stay sane when you have writing all over the place? Plus, consider notes on paper that haven’t even made it into the draft or the sudden realization at a stop light of exactly where things need to go.
Writing free-form. Let’s say anecdotes or sketches of characters, situations or memories consider keeping ONE notebook. I cut all of the various scraps that end up in different places into the one master notebook for a certain project.
Writing sequentially. I have used the program Scrivener for a few years and I like to think of it (I am dating myself here) as a “Trapper Keeper” for all of the bits and bobs of a project. There are a few specific things I love about this program: 1) you can keep chapters/sections separate which I think makes it easier to edit and 2) it has a huge capacity for storing all of the articles, pictures, and ephemera you collect for inspiration.
Keeping Orphan Notes. So lightning strikes and you have a phrase, or a book title that could possibly tie-in to an idea you are playing around with, or perhaps you keep word lists. I know I do! I have tons of lists of words that sparkled at me when I read them. I keep these notes in my ONE notebook, I have also put them on 3×5 index cards in a little filing bin (much like the ones people used to, I am dating myself again) use for recipes. A more high-tech version of keeping orphan notes is the great program Evernote. It clips, organizes, and stores your content cross-devices. If you are keeping written notes, a way to keep track of these is by using the Moleskine Smart Notebooks which have the ability to store your written notes in the creative cloud, or in conjunction with Evernote.
Ok, so you are hard at work on a draft and let’s say you choose to keep it as a standard .doc or .docx file. Now what?
Now the genie is out of the bottle and in order to keep clutter to a minimum and also retain your sanity you need to create ONE FOLDER for your WRITING.
Then you can add two or more folders, such as:
- Articles to Pitch
- Notes on X PROJECT
So far it looks like this: YOUR HARD DRIVE—>WRITING—>MEMOIR
Then within the MEMOIR FOLDER you need to add a PROJECT NAME folder.
YOUR HARD DRIVE—>WRITING—>MEMOIR—>PROJECT NAME
Inside the PROJECT NAME FOLDER comes some choices such as:
- CURRENT WITH DATE
- NOTES/ BACKGROUND
- RECEIVED FROM EDITOR
YOUR HARD DRIVE—>WRITING—>MEMOIR—>PROJECT NAME—>CURRENT1_7_15
Every draft you work on should be saved with three pieces of information in the title:
- NAME OF PROJECT
- DATE OF LAST EDIT
- ANY EDITOR INFORMATION so that you know who has reviewed that draft. (see my attached initials below)
YOUR HARD DRIVE—>WRITING—>MEMOIR—>PROJECT NAME—>CURRENT1_7_15ej
So now you know where your draft is on your computer, but you need to send it to your editor and incorporate their feedback.
- Use tracking changes in Microsoft word
- I often also add the following on the first page: Title, Author, Date, and if it is First Pass, Second Pass, Final to Print and any other notes on general form, structure, or tone that would not be a specific note.
- I also enjoy using the colored tags on a MAC, I am sure there is something similar on a PC. Green for go, and red for stop (ie. do not use that draft).
- Another way to edit without sending a document back and forth electronically is to use a cloud based system such as Google Docs. This may work for you, I have used it for business writing but never editing creative work.
Writing and editing can be an extremely creative process. The problem is that in our overstuffed and hectic lives we can end up not keeping our drafts and files as organized as we should, leading to some crazy making experiences. When you think about how long it can take to craft a long work, sometimes years, trying to find drafts through search on your computer can be an added headache.
With that, I leave you with the final credo, ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR WORK. To the cloud, to a service such as Dropbox , keeping a draft in email (sent or unsent as long as the file is uploaded) and on an external backup drive.
If you have any tips or tricks that work for you, or know of any programs or services on the market to help with keeping files, drafts, and back-up files organized, let me know. Things change really quick in technology, I’m sure there are more hacks to come!