Save all your draft writing

One of the things impressed upon me by the lecturers during my Master of Arts in Creative writing course is the importance of saving copies of all draft writing. I have never been very good at this. I guess that since much of my writing is now done using a word processor I have become a little lazy. As I edit or proofread or even rewrite I tend to do it all on the one copy. My original draft copy eventually becomes my final – and only – copy. I just keep on saving newer versions and replace older versions in the process.

Since starting my course I have starting saving multiple versions, or drafts, of the story I am writing. Saving word documents takes up so little space on the hard drive and is so easy to do that there are no arguments against this process. If you are printing out each draft that is another matter, but I tend not to do that until the last draft. I then check this draft in hard copy and then print the final copy.

It is so easy saving each draft as you go. I tend to use the title plus the draft number. For example, a story I started a few days ago is called Shifting Sand. My first draft was actually hand written. It was just several paragraphs done during a writing workshop. On typing this up I made a few subtle changes and named it Shifting Sand 2nd draft. The hand written copy is the first draft.

The next stage was to write the back story, that is, what happened before those first few paragraphs. This became Shifting Sand 3rd draft. I read it out aloud making a few alterations as I went and this became the 4th draft. I then took it to the lecture and presented it to my critique group in the workshop after the lecture. I will take some of the group’s suggestions – including a wonderful new ending – and do some more major rewriting and new writing. This will become the 5th draft.

During the coming weeks I will email the story to my lecturer for her comments and suggestions. This story may well go through four or five more drafts – perhaps as many as another ten drafts – before I am satisfied with it and submit it as one of my assignments for the Creative Writing: Prose Fiction unit I am studying.

Why save so many drafts? As you go through the writing process, you may get to the point where you have discarded sentences or even whole paragraphs and want to go back to them and use them because they were better than the newer versions after all. If they have been deleted it may not be easy or possible to rescue those words. You can also look back over earlier drafts and see the progress the story has made over the time you have been writing it.

Good writing.


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