Documenting my progress


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Thread: Documenting my progress

  1. #1

    Documenting my progress

    As I've piled up work over the years, I've gotten more interested in my production history. The first book I wrote, I saved chapter by chapter for the first 10 chapters. I've retained those files, so I have an idea of the gaps in between. I wasn't writing on a deadline, or even with any hope it would ever be published, so sometimes considerable periods of time passed between one chapter and the next. I did always manage to finish at least a chapter at a time.

    However, when I buckled down to finish the book, I concatenated the chapters into one file. Now I no longer had file dates to show me the progress. I continued in that manner for a while, and have some work that I know when I started (file creation date), I know when I finished, but the production record just isn't there.

    I came across a backup program called Vice Versa Pro. It has a utility included you can set to run at startup, and it keeps running. I set up backup and archive folders separately, on an external drive. The utility (VVLauncher) watches for file changes in folders I defined. When it sees one, it copies it to the backup location without effort on my part. If you have the archive configured, it first copies the existing backup file to the archive folder and adds a time stamp to the file name, then copies the live file to the backup folder.

    Archiving is the best policy, because it keeps a tragic mistake from being replicated to the backup location as well as sitting in the live file. That saved me a few weeks ago when I somehow had a couple of chapters selected (probably checking their word count), inadvertently hit a key, wiped them out, and didn't notice the missing chapters for several days. Luckily when I did, I only had to find an archived version containing them, and copied and pasted them back into the working manuscript.

    Why am I somewhat fixated on knowing what I did, when? There a few reasons. I find those kind of records interesting just for information, but there are more practical reasons, too. If there has been a long lapse, I want to check the section right after the lapse and make sure I didn't have a sudden shift in voice. I also check the material leading up to that lapse to see if there is something about it I'm not fond of, which may have caused me to lose enthusiasm for the project.

    I very much recommend that authors have something of this sort in place. Losing and having to recreate two chapters would have been a big deal. I'm not one of the writers with 83 tiny chapters. I typically write 4k-5k for a chapter, so, yeah, a good bit of material.

    I created a thread to see if other members would like to share their thoughts and solutions.

  2. #2
    For reference - I use MS Word to write, and have learned that whenever I touch a file it grows in size.

    My first draft will always have each chapter as a separate file. Once the novel is complete, I ZIP it into a folder (named so I know which draft it it) - and save that, then return to work through the chapters again. Again, once that pass is done I ZIP it, name it, and store it. I continue this process for about the first 4 or 5 passes - the number depends on the amount of problems I'm dealing with on each pass.

    Once the story is somewhat stable, I down load the KDP template, and copy everything over there. Now it's in book format - with the title, TOC, author bio, etc. At this level, I do my finer editing passes - hopefully the big issues were taken care of when everything was a separate fine... but that doesn't always happen. Again, with each new version the file is saved and stored under a unique name. Once I get the work as good as I can get it, off it goes to my editor. Then more zany adventures ensue.

  3. #3
    I also use MS Word. In addition to what I described above, once the first draft is complete I have a similar program to yours. I save the current document, then "save as" with "_rev1" at the end of the file name. I then read that document, making any gross corrections I notice for plot and continuity, and of course correcting any typos I see. I used to do other revision passes looking for things like passive voice, certain overworked words, and so on. One time I did an entire rev increment just eliminating extra "that"s. However, I'm much better at noticing those things as I write than I was in my early days, cutting down on my number of revisions considerably.

    When I'm pretty sure I have no more writing to do, I run the manuscript through a proofreading app I wrote which pulls out one random sentence at a time. I find that to be a much more certain way to catch typos, sentence structure which could be improved, wordiness, flipped character names, and the like. Once that's done, the app spits the file back out, and it gets saved as the next rev. Then I do one more read through, but I normally don't catch too much on that last pass.

  4. #4
    Scrivener automatically saves every draft when you back up to the cloud so if I ever needed to, I could go back and look at any version of any book I've written in the last couple of years (since I started using Scrivener).

    I have never done that. Ever.

  5. #5
    I think your system sounds just fine from a backup and organizational perspective, but I am really struggling with this:

    Quote Originally Posted by vranger View Post
    If there has been a long lapse, I want to check the section right after the lapse and make sure I didn't have a sudden shift in voice. I also check the material leading up to that lapse to see if there is something about it I'm not fond of, which may have caused me to lose enthusiasm for the project.
    Personally, I find there to be little correlation between longer periods between writing sessions and quality of writing. Usually gaps are just...gaps. I write several hours every day when I can. When I don't, it's generally not because of the writing but because of other stuff outside of the writing (illness, work, vacation, etc).

    I definitely don't think a long lapse = a sign of a sudden shift in voice (that part makes no sense to me) or of not liking something. If I don't like a part of my book, I actually find I am more likely to write more because I find it hard to tolerate leaving it that way.

    I guess I feel there's a fine line between 'keeping an eye on production history' and taking away from the organic flow and generally overthinking things. Ask yourself how much time spent analyzing productivity could be spent on actually increasing productivity. I do understand the need to self-develop, but I personally would find your method to be too prescriptive.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I think your system sounds just fine from a backup and organizational perspective, but I am really struggling with this:
    Historically, I'm not writing every day, and at times I've skipped between projects. It's not hard to conceive, under those circumstances, of carrying one voice into another work. So I review to make sure I get back into the right voice. My next project (after the one I'm in right now) will be to pick back up on three chapters I wrote a few years ago and complete that book. It's in a hip first person that is different from anything else I've done. I'm nervous about finding that same voice again after so long. LOL

    And the second part has happened to me few times. If I'm having trouble writing the next scene, it's most often something I don't like in a recent scene, and I just don't know it yet. So I go back and find it. It happened just today. I'd fired a villain from an upper management position in a corporation after he got caught making some shady deals. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. I was getting stuck what to do next. Then I realized I was resolving part of the conflict FAR too early. So I rewrote the scene and flowed right into the next one.

    It certainly may not apply to everyone, or maybe anyone but me. Luckily I figured out what sometimes gets in my way.

    The review of when I write things isn't a drain on productivity. It's not like I'm reviewing that every time I sit down to write. Every few weeks or months on a whim, or when I return to a dormant project. It's just that when I get that whim, I want the info at my fingertips.
    Last edited by vranger; May 24th, 2020 at 05:08 PM.

  7. #7
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    No idea about this Vce Versa program you're using, but you can try shifting to Dropbox. It works exactly as you describe. First, they will use a certain folder and automatically sync your progress. Except when you deleted something, they will give you a confirmation window whether to delete the file from the folder only or both from the folder and online storage.

    Speaking of which, while I think making file chapter-based is a good idea, I don't think the workflow is suitable for Word. Personally, I write normally and make regular copy at some point of progress or before make any huge changes. I also have a separate file to keep ideas (future conversation, scene, outline, etc.) and backing up old paragraphs that I'm still unsure to really replace with.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Sir-KP View Post
    No idea about this Vce Versa program you're using, but you can try shifting to Dropbox. It works exactly as you describe. First, they will use a certain folder and automatically sync your progress. Except when you deleted something, they will give you a confirmation window whether to delete the file from the folder only or both from the folder and online storage.

    Speaking of which, while I think making file chapter-based is a good idea, I don't think the workflow is suitable for Word. Personally, I write normally and make regular copy at some point of progress or before make any huge changes. I also have a separate file to keep ideas (future conversation, scene, outline, etc.) and backing up old paragraphs that I'm still unsure to really replace with.
    Unless, I'm missing something in your description, that sounds like it adequately performs the backup, but I didn't see equivalent to the time-stamped archive, which is where something like Vice Versa can save your bacon. That's the part where I mentioned replicating an error from the live file to the backup, which would have happened to me with those missing chapters, without the archive.

    In a DP shop, that kind of backup strategy is referred to as generation data sets -- drilled into me in the late 70s after I was offered a job in a big shop. These days I run my own software business as a one-man show, but I carried what I learned and practiced in mainframe shops with me.

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