Originally I was going to have an article here about dialogue but there’s so much to say about dialogue like my series on perspective a single article was getting messy so there’s another theme week. Instead I decided to write a note on saving your drafts.

Now, I don’t mean simply regular saving I mean separate files for changes. In fact, in the case of novels, I would recommend breaking each chapter into a separate folder then save all the major changes in separate files so you end up with something like: ‘Novel 1 Chapter 1 Draft 1 Version 1’ or however you might wish to do it.

In the past there have been other writers who looked at me when I suggested it like I was mad but one of the things I had to do during my degrees was show the development of a story. So in the appendices there would be drafts with the changes discussed in the essay marked up. What I learnt by doing that was how much a piece can change during editing and while something might not seem right in that moment later on you might go ‘oh, I had that great bit of description earlier it would’ve been good here’ and if you haven’t saved different versions of your chapters you’ve lost it completely. Alternatively, there are bits that don’t work in one novel but can be used later on to become completely different stories or prompt other ideas.

One of the major advantages of writing on a computer is the ease with which we can change things but sometimes this ease can make it too easy to lose things too. And while this might seem obvious to many I have met plenty of writers who don’t do this. I hope they don’t have moments I’ve had sometimes where I’ve completely rewritten a chapter and then decided it actually worked better the way it was before. And, I don’t know about other writers, but if I wrote out the entire novel in one document I would end up with hundreds of copies of the same novel with slight alterations, or major ones. I tried it with a novella and got up to ten thousand words and over a dozen copies before I started thinking it was getting a bit ridiculous, and that was only the first draft.

This method of breaking down everything into bits might seem excessive but I’ve found it the most effective way for me, though I recognise it won’t work for everyone. One example where it worked well for me is yesterday’s episode of the Weekly Serial, The Rose and Crown, which was originally a flashback from a Charlotte novel (shan’t give away spoilers on that one but watch this space) and where it didn’t work there it fitted into the serial.

So keep everything you write, you never know when it will come in useful.


For more writing advice try my archive page or check out my short fiction and Weekly Serial pages.

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