Friday, September 06, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 278 - Never Delete an Old Draft

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. The children's book went out to my friend in publishing last weekend. Then, early this week, I got another round of notes from my writing partner on our sci-fi collaboration, which I had to turn around. He gave me final thoughts on Wednesday night, the grand total of which were six minor edits (literally, folks, we're talking about cutting a sentence or changing a couple words here and there). We jumped on a quick call yesterday morning, and after 43 minutes of work, I had the revised draft out to him. We have sent it to his manager for a read. Pending notes from the manager (who was a development exec before becoming a rep), we'll get our producer's notes and, fingers crossed, be that much closer to looping in our agents and developigng a strategy to bring it out.  

Yes, I know that sounds crazy. I said six edits, right? Correct. And it took 43 minutes? That's an average of over seven minutes an edit, and all I was doing was changing a word here and cutting a line there? Well... basically. At this stage, every word counts, so I had to choose them carefully. Sure, the cuts happen in the blink of an eye. Find the page, highlight the text, and hit delete. Problem solved. 

When it comes to dialogue, though, you want to be more circumspect. For example, we were altering one small bit of dialogue - perhaps about six lines in total - that describes the enterprises and roles of an underworld character. The existing dialogue hinted at a reason why the character (and his wares) is so important, but it was too vague. The character's role in the world played a major factor in something that was to payoff later, so we had to get it just right. I spent the most time of all the edits on that section, writing and then revising it, wording and re-wording until it felt right. I was happy that my collaborator was pleased with the results. 

I also had to go back and re-incorporate something that had been cut from the current draft, but which was present in earlier incarnations of it. The ability to go back to old drafts and look at what you had, potentially to lift it and re-insert it, is invaluable. It is because of this that I make it a practice of not simply saving over an old draft when editing. I always create a copy of the file and save it as the current version (usually by date). Even if I'm just making relatively small edits in revision mode, I want to preserve the earlier work. Sure, at some point, after the script it made, I can purge the files if I need the space. Until then, though, there's no reason to overwrite an existing file. Script files don't take up that much room on your hard drive, and they can prove valuable (as evidenced in the example above). I suggest that you try to retain all previous versisons, too - you never know when they might come in handy.