After I wrote my post about Mary Amato's talk on revisions, in which she confessed that her last novel went through 56 drafts, I kept wondering—how did she keep track of it all? Did she have 56 different computer files, 56 print-outs, or 56 of something else? So, I emailed her and asked.
Here is what she said:
When I'm writing, I don't print out until I'm "done" with a draft. After I'm "done" and I print out, then I read that draft and make notes in pencil about what I need to do when I revise. Then I go through the revising process and only print out when I'm "done" with that entire revision. So, when I say 56 revisions that means that I printed it out 56 times. Those revisions were not minor. Each one was major.
I haven't always used the most efficient titling system for my drafts. My suggestion for version management is to abbreviate the title and put the date that you're working on in the title.
If I'm working forward (writing new material and not revising old material), then I keep the same title and just keep saving the new material in the same file.
Let's say I work on that manuscript for a month. And after a month of writing, I realize I need to make a major change that involves revising from the beginning. Then, I will I save as a new filename: example: ILOct12 and use that file as the working file. If I decide to go backward and make revisions later on, I'll rename it. That way I'll still have my old drafts saved (and not written over) in case I need to go back and look at an earlier draft.
How do you know where you left off? Do you make changes in (MS Word) tracking or do you write a sticky note to yourself about which page you stopped on?
I always leave myself three kisses... xxx. Then I go back and do a search for three xxx and find the place I left off.