Tolkien, artist

I Need to Develop a System

 I've been writing my character Helyanwe's life story and it's got a very long way to go. I work on it at home and also at the shop, but using different programs and bringing the text back and forth on a thumb drive.

After I am finished with the basic writing, I start revising. When I am finished revising, I post to my writers board and let my fellow Lizards take bites. They are usually excellent at finding little things I've missed. I make changes there and finally bring things back onto my hard drive for final polishing before putting the story out for general reading.

 But, I need a system. I'm editing here and there, grabbing a little bit from a chapter at a time. I need to have the most recent revision as the one that gets posted. I'm starting to lose track of which chapter got worked on last. So today I will bend my thoughts to this and work out a notation system that I can use to keep up to date on my revisions. I suspect that this story will be taking me through this time next year, and perhaps even longer, so a system early on is absolutely essential.

 Why is it that I can organize an entire wall of beads and all of my art supplies (ignoring the fact that I still need to clean the den from my latest project) but can't organize revisions on my hard drive? Sheesh!
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If you have internet at your shop, I can recommend using Dropbox to store your docs. It will create a folder that is always automatically synchronized, so no matter what computer you use, your Dropbox folder will always be up to date.

I use both my computer and my netbook for writing, and it's awesome to no longer have to bother with sending files from one to the other. :)
What a marvelous idea. I downloaded it this morning onto my desktop and I'll do the laptop later this morning and I'll try it out. If it works it would be marvelous. My major problem is that I am working in two different programs - Open Office Writer for my laptop and MS Word for my desktop. I'm not sure how that will work. But, I'll try it. It's got potential. Thanks for the tip!

- Erulisse (one L)
you also turned me on to Calibre long ago - best thing EVER!
Open Office also lets you save your docs as .doc, so you should be able to open them with both programs. I switched completely to Open Office two years ago, but I still save as .doc in case I ever have to use Word again. *g*

I'm so glad the Calibre tip was helpful! Even though I have a Kindle, I always put books onto it with Calibre, so I can never understand the people who complain that it will only let them buy books at amazon. :D Calibre really is wonderful!
I recognise the problem - my husband pointed out to me that, when I first posted 'Dust' for the BigBang, I'd posted the unbeta'd chapter five...

I try to write literally from the first to last line of any story - and any odd thoughts for further on are kept, scribbled by hand in note books, to be used or not when I get there. Then I pass chapters as 'unchecked' to my husband, who checks for typos, grammar and punctuation, and then relabels them as 'checked' and gives them back for me to paste into that master copy. Except that sometimes I forget...
I'm going to try Dropbox. Esteliel recommends it. I'll let you know if that helps - LOL.

- Erulisse (one L)
My system is to have each story have its own folder. From there, I subdivide into more folders, labeled with various drafts. For example, RAFA's folder has four subfolders. Each chapter is labeled RAFA chap1v1, chap1v2, etc. Basically, if I edit a story substanitally (defined as fixing more than a few typos), it gets a new folder and a new file name. (I never overwrite anything-- if I'm editing, it's always a new document with the previous version copy-pasted in.) That way, when it comes time to post, I know which is the most recent version as there are no folders or v numbers after it. (But I edit in order, and never until the story is finished, so your more piecemeal approach will probably be too complicated for my system.)
I edit my stories extensively, sometimes up to six times before I allow them to be publicly read by my writers board and again, when they are finished, to incorporate any suggestions they may have. When I can't edit that many times, I find too many inconsistencies and inaccuracies. I might be writing in AU, but I still need to be accurate within the framework in which I write and stay true to Tolkien as much as possible.

I am hoping that Esteliel's suggestion of Dropbox might be the key to managing this mess. This novel will be long and if I don't get things under control early on, I'll really regret it.

Your approach also works, and is similar to the way that I do betas for others. It just doesn't work as smoothly as I would like for my personal work. Thanks though, it is a good suggestion.

- Erulisse (one L)
Why is it that I can organize an entire wall of beads and all of my art supplies...but can't organize revisions on my hard drive

Perhaps it is because beads and art supplies are physically in front of you, whereas you have to look for things on a hard drive?

Skipping from chapter to chapter and page to page can be tiresome.

Maybe that's true. Although when I am writing something like this where I really know where everything will fall, it's just a matter of actually putting the words into text and saving it, rather than just having it all in my head, in it's own way it is organized. Then I realize that I've doubled up on words, messed up a time frame, misspelled someone's name - thus edits - thus a lack of organization. I'll put dropbox to a test today, I've been revising and saving and I'll pull things out tonight and look again :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
When I write, whether it be drabble or epic IDD, I write one file that is the "working copy" of any story. That's right, IDD is one VEEEEERRRY LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG 1.74mb file on my hard drive. I do NOT keep interrum copies of a WIP - I make all my edits to the master file in differing colors so I know where I've changed things up to when I have incorporated any and all edits from the LC. At that time, I reset the color of a chapter back to basic black and move on. I do NOT separate out the chapters of a novel until I'm actually in the posting stage - which doesn't happen until the work is absolutely finished, polished and ready to go up. I find this leads to a much less cluttered documents folder.

I would think that the best option to address your issue is to use the same format, no matter which machine you're working on. Saving in DOC format, for example, would be optimal if both OO and Word can read/edit it. Then, if you prefer to keep separate copies of interrum stages of editing, you can simply tag them in the filename: For example "Helyanwe 1-1 v1" to denote "Helyanwe Story, chapter 1 section 1 first draft." Does that make sense? You also might consider using colors to indicate edits (along with any strikeouts) if you want to just keep one updated version going at all times like I do.

However, that said, I think I'm going to consider getting Dropbox myself, if for no other reason than to have yet another redundant backup of my work (and my WIPs at their present stage of development.) I use my external HD, my laptop, my notebook, and a thumb drive so far, but adding another layer of backup can't hurt.

Edited at 2011-08-12 05:28 pm (UTC)
Colors take extra steps - LOL. When I'm revising I'm grabbing stolen minutes as I can. I do colors for my betas, I think it makes things easier for them, but it definitely adds time to the process.

I think I'll like dropbox. At any rate, I'm putting it through its paces with pics and text today to see how well things work :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
I have never been very good at this with short stories or novellas. I do try! But with novels one has to be good!!!

I should be awesome at it, as I have done technical editing for tons of long articles and legal documents and for no less than three long published books, with lots of footnotes, indices, etc., and worked on projects with tons of other people involved. But it is a whole new ballgame for me when I am not being paid and do not have a Big Boss looming over me, even if only virtually.

It is so damned easy to get lost in a longer story and the consequences would be nightmarish. (I'm getting nervous even thinking about it.) With the three fanfic novels I have worked on I keep/kept a folder for chapter drafts, each with subfolders for individual chapters and struggle somewhat to keep those partial drafts straight.

I also additionally and simultaneously save and re-save over previous versions in a totally separate Final folder, which contains one and one version only of each chapter, the latest I have saved. That requires attention and discipline. If one uses a flash drive, then as soon as one has access to the mother computer, the new latest revised chapter has to replace the previous one THERE, if no where else.

I also save on my LJ locked to me privately a set of all of the latest versions of each chapter of a WIP. I tried to use Google docs for that, but it just will not function for me. Google hates me. I need another online back up system. I tried to download Drop Box and use it, but I didn't like that much either. At the moment I need to buy another flashdrive! Overdue to have one for my current fiction that isn't multitasking for all kinds of other junk.

I also leave my old corrected discussion drafts of chapters up on the LC until well after (I'm talking months to a year or so) they have been posted on fic archives and my LJ just in case they somehow get lost or destroyed.

I have tried all kinds of other nonsense to make sure that I do not lose any major revisions or original text. I have lost or misplaced or saved over minor nitpicking sessions with commas and typos before, which were easy to fix in the sense of not forgetting anything, just duplicated labor, but which did lose me hours of work.

My most serious failure to date was that I lost my first 1,000-1,500 words of "Malfoy's Wand." The rewritten version had no resemblance whatsoever to that lost first draft partial chapter. I kept meaning to try to recapture some of it, but now I have even forgotten what was there. It had been revised many times. I do not crash out dirty rough drafts.

It was a scene between Harry and some younger Aurors when he arrived at Malfoy Manor. It does not even fit into the new version anymore (partially replaced by the scene between Harry, Narcissa and the Auror in charge of the job). Even if I could find it is useless now. If I had not lost it, there would be a totally differently opening to the story and some different character dynamics and maybe even some small plot points now abandoned. Interesting. 1,000 words for me is at least a good day's work (several hours because of the way I write). In that particular case, it reflected several sessions over a few days.

I tried putting an automatic date stamp at the top of my MS Word drafts which updated every time I saved, but it didn't update. Me and the newest version of MS Word are not good buddies yet (if we ever will be). I would give my eye teeth for the 2003 or so version.

I do not think one can use someone else's method, although mine was influenced by one particular small publisher I worked for. The main influence being that Master Final-to-Date Folder including the one-only new version of each WIP chapter.

Edited at 2011-08-12 07:24 pm (UTC)
Some of your procedures are excellent. I have things saved a million times, but I need a good system. So I'll figure things out, taking a little bit and a suggestion here and there.

I remember one thing that Jacqualine Susann did when she was writing. She wrote 4 or 5 total drafts of each novel, each one on differently colored paper (this was back in the days before computers). Then she tackled things with scissors and glue to make a final edited copy, and then retyped and did a last edit when typing a clean copy for submission. Gotta love the effort. Thank goodness for computers, thumb drives, and word processing programs...

- Erulisse (one L)
I organized the papers of my ex-'s stepfather for archiving in a major library after his death. He had a WIP book at the time, which was posthumously published also. (That claim that I organized his papers is kind of a joke. He was organized already even though he died suddenly and unexpectedly.)

He worked on a typewriter!! (He died in 1987, I believe.) His method was to re-type his day's work in clean copy on blue paper at the end of a day. The overwhelming part to me was that he was not a professional-level typist as I am (I took typing in high school in the olden days and have only become faster over the years). So that final re-type could mean doing a page a few times to get a perfect clean copy. His trash can was always filled with paper. It was fascinating. He used physical folders also to store his finished and unfinished chapters, beautifully labeled. Everything was organized before he went to bed. He was drinker too!

Here I am stone cold sober and with every amenity of modern technology and I cannot keep my shit straight! Says something about me I think. (I still have stuff in notebooks from the last time my computer crashed, while I was trying to figure out how to get a new one. Pages and pages--those will probably go the way of that lost "Malfoy's Wand" chapter! Where are those notebooks anyway?)
I never realised how casual I am about this :D Might have to do with my 'never look back' approach to editing.

Ideally (and I stress that word *g*) I do a first draft, add it to the 'original copy' file, and send the chapter to my beta. Each edit round, I delete the previous version so I only ever have the original and the current working copy. The exception is when I edit something out but keep it to play with later. I've done this since the time I posted the unbeta'd version of something because I had seven versions and got confused. At any time I try only to have an original copy and a working copy. The final (posted) version goes into a folder called (yes, that's right) Final and the whole lot plus research notes and inspirational pictures lives in a folder with the fic's working title. I do all my edits in track changes and accept them individually so I check myself as I go along.

I save the entire folder onto a flash drive as I go along so theoretically I can work on it anywhere. I also email chapters to myself when they're near done - I started doing that about half way through Doubt, which is my longest story (102K) and yet always somehow had the neatest folder.

It's been really interesting to read other writers' methodology.

Edited at 2011-08-12 08:42 pm (UTC)
I think my method is close to yours, it just has a messy phase prior to the final phase. Amazingly, I have only lost that one item so far.
My one loss was an idea I'd written a few pages into and pasted at the end of something else instead of filing it separately in the 'working on' folder. Never found it since. Balar, Gil-galad trying to get out from under Cirdan's thumb and make his own decisions, Erestor with an idea Cirdan has shot down in flames. Gah.