Tuesday, January 17, 2012

File Management

Practical advice in today's workshop! AND I got it posted on time :)

By this time in your writing career you undoubtedly have lots of pieces of started stories scattered about both in your hardcopy file drawers and on various flash drives or computers. Now is the time to clean up the mess!

Rule #1create a folder for your work in progress and keep all files related to that story inside.

Managing the various drafts of your stories is vital. I speak from experience. Not too long ago, I uploaded the first draft for self-publishing by mistake because I’d mislabeled it. Thankfully I found the error quickly and pulled the mss before anyone bought the wrong copy (I hope!).

In this digital age, keeping your files straight can be a challenge. If you’re like me, you don’t want to throw out previous drafts because, after a good night’s sleep, you might change your mind and want to put back a phrase (or an entire scene!) you cut out. I’m paranoid that way, myself.

My solution? For every story I’ve ever written I keep a separate Word document called “(story title) extras.” So I have a “Secret Submission extras” file, a “Cabin Fever extras” file and so on. That Word doc. holds every scrap of sentence I’ve cut from the larger work. There are times I’ve cut entire scenes (sometimes the characters are going off track, sometimes the plot is bogging down…lots of reasons for slashing scenes) and, by putting them into my “extras” file for that story, I can keep them if I need them later.

But keeping them serves another purpose as well. Sometimes what doesn’t work for one set of characters works beautifully for another. I might be three novels later and working on a scene and remember something I wrote for an earlier novel but cut out. I go to the “extras” file and voila! I have a nearly-fully written scene I can just insert into the new story.

And sometimes those cut scenes become short stories of their own. A scene I cut from Secret Submission, for example, became “Secret Signs”, a short story in Timeless Love.

So Rule #2 of file management? Don’t throw anything away! J

Rule #3 - “Keep your stories straight.”

This is harder than it sounds. Especially if you’ve sent a draft off to critique partners and they return them with the same name you sent it with. Training them to add their initials at the end of the file name (for example: Services Rendered MSedit) is best, but sometimes they forget. If that happens, download the file to an odd place (like your Desktop) and rename it before you do anything further.

Adding the words “Master copy” to the file title also helps me keep straight which version I’m working on and which one I’m referencing.

Rule #4 – Back up, back up, back up!

I have not one, but three computers that are “mine.” I have a Lenovo laptop with the wonderful red dot mouse for work (this is my favorite user-friendly keyboard!), I have a Gateway laptop that I bought when my work computer went on the fritz and I needed something to carry back and forth to the cabin, and I have my desktop powerhouse computer with Internet hookup.

Yes, the two laptops have wi-fi connections but I keep them turned off when I’m working on them. I get distracted easily. Squirrel!

To ferry files between and among the computers I have a dedicated flash drive. Several, actually, but only one is in use as a “ferry-er” at a time.

I keep only the CURRENT file of the work in progress on the flash drive. Deleting older files from it helps to keep down the clutter and manage the mess.

Do you have any other suggestions or rules for file management? Include them in the comments!


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