Blog Circle: Writing Organisation

Another month, another blog topic. I’m so glad this is continuing this year. It’s interesting to see what the different topics are each month. This one seems pretty straightforward, not as soul searching as last months!

How do you keep your writing organized and backed up?
I have to be honest I’m not as good about this as I should be. Back in the day I used to keep all my files on a USB stick so they went with me everywhere I went. I wish I could say that I kept them regularly backed up somewhere but that would be a lie. These days I keep a lot of my files on gdocs and again *cough* I can’t really say I have backups. That at least is on the cloud and therefore isn’t prone to hardware failure but seriously self? Yeah I think I might need to go and do some backing up haha. Plus not everything is on gdocs, I have all my archived stuff just on my removable hard drive.

The one thing I don’t do is ever store any of my writing on the computers actual hard drive. To be honest I don’t store any data on there at all. I’ve had far too many occasions where the computer has malfunctioned and I’ve had to do a complete wipe and reinstall the operating system, so ever be comfortable keeping files on the PC.

So that is how it is stored. What about organisation? I’m not sure whether to answer this here or below as it sort of crosses over. Basically I keep things simple. Back in the day it was word documents, and now it’s gdocs but either way that’s where everything is. I do have Scrivener but I’ve only ever used it to compile ebooks, I just can’t be doing with all the fancy features. I’m sure if I got my head round it then it would be helpful but I’m a creature of habit and I stick with what I know.

For any large project (aka a novel) I always start with a brainstorming file where I just free type. I ask myself questions, I answer them, I call myself names (and type that too) and just general ramble until I work out everything I need to know about the story. I then pull the relevant information out and sort it in a numbers of files: plot info, character info, world details etc. so it’s easily referenced. Sometimes if I have less detail then it’s all just in one file, occasionally I don’t even pull it from the brainstorming file and just work from that (if I’m running really light).

However, for my normal extreme planning once I have all the details in their respective files I do a bullet point scene by scene outline, which is again in another file called outline. On a normal day when I’m writing I usually only open the outline and the plot info file, in addition to the novel itself and my working file. Now what do I mean by working file? I mean everyday I create a new file which is called #file number Day “day of the month” e.g. today if I work on Carbon Scars the file will be #16 Day Two. At the end of the day I copy everything I wrote into the combined novel file.

Why do I do it like this? To be honest I think it was something I started to do during my very first NaNo and it’s just stuck. I guess I like being able to easily tell how much I’ve written in a day. I’m a very linear writer so it’s not that I need it to write out of order but sometimes I do have to go back and rework a draft while it’s in progress (I know I shouldn’t but sometimes I can’t move forward until I do), and then it’s helpful for that as the working file is all choppy and disconnected, but everything is slotted into place in the main file.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share that have helped you?
Well I would recommend the working file method, as it’s very accurate then as to how much I’ve written in a day, especially if I have to chop and change a bit on any previous words. I can highlight any “reused words” in red in the working file, and then at the end of the day (after copying everything into the main novel file) just delete everything in red to get the accurate count.

I would also say make sure you have all your writing files available to you wherever you go. I can guarantee that whatever you forget to bring will be the one file you need. So stick it in the cloud, carry it on a USB stick, just keep it with you. Obviously this only applies to trips where there will be an opportunity to write. However, even if there isn’t a known opportunity, I’d still say keep some method of writing about your person. Whether that’s a phone with a notes app, or a notebook and pen for some handwriting, you never know when you’ll need to jot something down. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I’ll remember that” so write it down.

Just be consistent with your organisation too, so there’s never any confusion. If you do every project the same way then it’ll always be clear. Also never delete anything. You never know when you might need to look back and check something. An idea might seem beyond salvaging but you never know, there might be something about it: a detail, a character, a particular plot point etc. which can be repurposed in something else. Plus I think it helps sometimes to look back and see how far you’ve come. So keep everything, just in case.