Thanks to everyone who wished me and my wife happy anniversary yesterday. We did have a good one.
I promised to talk today about how to manage all those pesky drafts of your novel on your hard drive. It’s really not complicated. The idea is that you always want to be able to get hold of any version of your novel, and yet not have the old stuff clogging up the new.
I organize my hard drive as follows. In my Documents folder, I have three main subfolders:
The Archives folder contains stuff from years ago–anything that I’m not currently working on or likely to work on ever again. I back this up to CD periodically, and also back it up to my iPod every few months, or whenever I move a bunch of new data to it. This folder doesn’t change very often, and the only changes I make are to add new stuff.
The Friends folder contains anything that friends send me that needs short term storage. Mostly, it contains electronic versions of novels. I don’t back this up at all. My feeling is that people only send me stuff that they have backed up all over the place. And it’s usually just rough drafts of things.
The Personal folder contains all my current stuff, including email, financial stuff, web sites, internet products, consulting jobs. And it also contains a special folder called Books. This is a very important folder. It holds all the books I’ve ever written and anything I’m working on now.
I back up the Personal folder to my iPod, but then I also back up certain of the other folders elsewhere as redundant backup. For example, I have a folder named “Critical Records” that contains all my financial stuff, such as tax records, etc. This gets backed up to a USB Flash Drive that I carry in my pocket all the time. I also back it up to online storage.
The Books folder is quite large, and is backed up to online storage. When I start a new book, I create a new folder inside the Books folder. For example, for my novel DOUBLE VISION, I have a folder named “Double Vision”. Inside that folder, I have a bunch of other folders.
One of those folders is named “Snowflake” and contains a Snowflake analysis of the book. (Actually, several Snowflake documents, since I produce several, and I update them as the story develops.)
There is another folder named “Proposal” which contains every version of the proposal for the book.
There is another folder named “Research” where I save all the online research for the book, including web archives, pictures, spreadsheets, pictures, etc.
Now we get to the point of today’s blog post. There are also several folders named “Draft 1”, “Draft 2”, etc. Each of these contains a series of Word documents. I use a naming convention that will make sure the files are in order. For this book, the naming convention is: “Double Vision Part1.doc”, etc. The book has four parts, so there are four documents.
Some of the folders have comments that my critiquers sent me for that draft. For example, The “Draft 4” folder has the Word document for the draft, along with a couple of folders for the two critiquers who reviewed this draft.
Now that the book is out of print, there is a new folder named “Out of Print Docs” that contains the electronic version of the text that I bought back from the publisher. If and when I decide to republish this book using some sort of POD service, I can easily find the files I need.
Here is my procedure for doing revisions. When I write the first draft, I write it straight through and save the files in the “Draft 1” folder. When it’s done and I’m ready to start revising, I duplicate the folder, rename the copy to be “Draft 2” and delete any files inside it that are irrelevant to the task of revision. Then I just start revising the Word files in “Draft 2,” secure in the knowledge that I have a copy of “Draft 1” elsewhere.
As noted, I backup my Books folder to multiple places–my iPod and my online storage service. When I leave the house, if I’m not taking my laptop, I take the iPod. If the house burns down, I’ll have either the laptop or the iPod AND I’ll have the Books info redundantly saved online somewhere. Call me over-cautious, but my books are important to me, and I want to make sure that it’ll take an Xtremely bad run of luck to lose all copies.
I tend to be just as cautious. I have data multiply backed up in various places – two computers, CD, USB drive, online storage. You can’t be over cautious in my mind. I don’t always carry a back up copy on me, but maybe I will start. 😉
I also put a copy into a passworded .rar or .zip file and mail it to my gmail account. That way if my pc, mp3 player, and backup cds magically die… the book still exists somewhere.
Can’t be too careful in my opinion.
I have my latest stuff on a USB stick and carry it with me when I go away. Hadn’t thought about the gmail account. 🙁 I know I’ve lost one book which was on 3 1/4 disk. I do need to tidy up and back up all my stuff. These are great ideas. Thanks.
I use a free MS program called “Foldershare” that automatically backs up my “Books” folder to different computers. It always keeps the latest version of the files there, so I can work on it at my laptop, then get home and continue on my desktop without swapping files around (as long as I have an internet connection). This allows me to have backups on multiple computers at different sites. Yes, I’m seconding mickstupp…”Can’t be too careful…”
Grace Bridges says
That sounds like a good system. All I did up till now was get confused – mainly from having all the drafts in the same folder. Your idea with the numbered draft folders is really great… might have to try that!
You say that you “bought back” your out of print book from the publisher. When a book is published does it then belong to the publishing house forever or just while it is in print?
Story Hack (Bryce Beattie) says
That sound like a pretty simple and workable storage system.
Does anyone here use any sort of central archive that has descriptions or notes about all of your works? Something that might let you search by text or description? I tend to forget where I put stuff (Even when I’m organized), so some kind of searchable database would be great.
This, by the way, is why I love gmail so much. just archive it, and do a search for it. No more delving through folders to see where I put stuff.
Sounds like I have some major restructuring of my files to do. Not just for things I write but for other projects as well.
I use a novel writing program to do longer pieces in, short stories and poems are done in Word. I guess this is why I hadn’t thought of keeping separate drafts. The longer pieces I keep on a flash drive so I can work on them on either my desktop or laptop. Finished projects I also keep a hard copy of, but not the drafts.
My documents folder is a mess. Parts of it are fairly organized, to a point. I do an official fansite for a Canadian actor and have folders for images and files he sends and separate source files for the images I use on the site, the actual site files for it as well as images and page files for the other more personal sites I do. I also do image work for family and a few friends, photo jobs I’ve done for people, ones they’ve sent for me to look over, and stories and pieces others have sent for me to proofread. Then there are things my kids have had me do.
Needless to say that over the years my documents has accumulated many things, a good share I neglect to backup and boot myself in the keester whenever I have computer problems. I guess I need to take the time and become an organizing freak, especially now that I’m working on serious projects.
Thanks Randy! Any volunteers to come and dig through all my media for me??
Paul D says
I’ve got a USB drive that’s in my pocket anytime I leave the house with all my latest important data on it. I also use my gmail drafts folder to backup things and I have a second USB drive that stays at my place of employment.
Oh yeah – all data on the USB drives are Zipped with password protection and 256 bit encryption.
ML Eqatin says
Wow, I am seriously at risk. Which is amazing, when you consider that 1. I am married to a computer geek; and 2. Our house has already burned down once. But that was 20 years ago…
Time to nag the spouse about online backup. I’m sure his stuff is all protected from his work addresses.
Double Vision is out of print already? I thought Tyndale just archived everything with Lightning Source. Or was that Zondervan?
Double Vision is like the best book ever. Glad I already have my copy. 😉
I used to write and just delete paragraphs and whole scenes I didn’t need. Then I realized I needed that stuff! Currently, I put a version number on the end of every file and before I delete anything more than a sentence I do a “save as” in my word processor and bump the version number. Everything goes in the same folder, so it can get a bit messy.
Not for writing, but in the past I’ve used version control systems (RCS) software, also known as source code management (SCM) software. Usually it’s used for management of the myriad of files and file versions for engineering projects. It’s possible to keep track of a large project consisting of hundreds or thousands of files with dozens of people working on the project. Wikipedia has a couple of fine articles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revision_control and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_revision_control_software
Prompted by Wiki I poked around in OpenOffice Writer (word processor) and figured out it has a mini-rev control built into the files. You can keep all your named versions of each file within that file. Only the latest is visible unless you explicitly ask for an earlier revision. It doesn’t look like it can correlate a single revision set across multiple files. That Wiki article says that Microsoft Word has a similar feature.
One painful lesson I learned with the somewhat primitive RCS software we were using for a chip design project is that it doesn’t really care much for binary files… such as MS Word, Excel, etc. So if you’d think you’d like to try RCS/SCM make sure the software knows you’re feeding it a binary file.
Files are kept in a database called a repository and you can stick the repository anywhere–including on a remote machine. Some RCS/SCM software requires a separate server and some will run on your PC.
It might look like a specialized tool that only software developers would use, but RCS/SCM really is a general purpose tool that anyone can use. It’s just that very few computer users who are not programmers even know it exists.
I’m glad one of your commenters mentioned security, because of course if you’re walking around with your intellectual property and financial info in your pocket, you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands…
Which reminds me, I’d better do something about encrypting my flash drive, LOL.