Keep Your Originals!

For the last few days I’ve been working on the second draft of Dragon.  It’s almost done, although I’ve been saying that since yesterday morning…

Tonight an important piece of advice occurred to me to share with you.  This is not original advice; I know that I heard it somewhere, because it wasn’t my habit originally.  I’ve been doing it long enough, though, that I can’t remember exactly where I heard it.  Research quest for tonight!

Here’s the advice: when you are revising a computer file, don’t make changes on the original file.  Save it as a new version (I usually just tack a number on the end of the file name) and work on it there.  This way, you still have the first draft intact.

Why is this important, you ask?  I hear you telling me that you don’t want your first draft; that’s the point of revisions!  Here is my response, in three easy reasons.

1. You might need to refer back to the original during the editing process.  I knew I was totally reworking the ending of Dragon, so I deleted most of it in one fell swoop.  Only after did I realize that I wanted to pull the odd sentence or conversation from my original ending.  Good thing I had the first draft!

2. You might decide in your next round of revisions that you really did like the original draft better than version 2.0.  Without the original file, in the best case you’ll be retyping it from a printed copy.  Worst case?  The original version is gone for good and you have to rewrite it from memory.  Have fun with that.

3. There may be discarded material from the first draft that becomes a reference for a future short story or even a novel.  When I completely changed the beginning of Butterflies, I eliminated a lot of extraneous background details about several characters.  I ended up returning to one of those characters for a short story, and I used that first draft to help build my character.

Keep your originals!  Memory space is cheap, so who cares if you end up with 6 different copies of the same 650 k document on your hard drive?  I plan to keep all of the drafts of everything.  There may come a time when it is unnecessary or difficult to keep them, but for now, they are all there, ready for me to access them as needed!

If I find the original source of the advice, I’ll be sure to pass it along.  🙂


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