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How to store a novel in progress?

edited August 2012 in - Writing Problems
When writing a novel, what is the best way to store it? I'm finding it difficult keeping track of the files on the computer. I was thinking of producing a paper copy, but that seems a daunting task with my old printer being so slow and ink being expensive. Also, I'm hoping to produce a digital ebook anyway. Any advice or experiences good or bad are welcome. What to avoid doing or tips on how to store a novel in progress.


  • edited August 2012
    Well always make sure you take back-up copies every time you add anything.
    I copy to memory stick as well as the copy in my documents.

    I also use a folder in my documents for the files for my different projects (novel name for example)- so any files relating to the named novel go in that folder rather than being in different places in my documents.

    Plus I print out complete chapters as they are finished, rather than all at once.
  • I stored my novel in chapters but where when I kept changing them I created chapter one version one and chapter one version two. I had the same problem as you. I created files on word titled Novel version one and version two but I still found that confusing. In my second novel I changed version one into version two and kept it as one file and found it much easier.
  • I back up my stories as much as possible. Aside from the documents folder on my laptop, I also back up a day's writing on two CD's. I print off a hard copy if a chapter is complete. I also attach the complete file to an email, sending it to myself. The only part that sometimes fails is the CD's.
  • Individual folders for projects, separate file for each chapter. New folder for subsequent re-writes and an excel spreadsheet listing everything so I don't get confused. All backed up to two memory sticks. One kept on my keys the other in my drawer.
  • You can also send each day's work to yourself by email. then it's out there in the ether to get if the worst happens.
  • A memory stick, pen-drive,whatever you call it in your neck of the woods. I keep mine hanging above my computer and re-copy every time I change things, which right now is every day as I am in the throes of a rewrite.
    If you need to print it off, go to a copy centre - I pay about 12 euros for a 120.000 word double-spaced copy, which is quite a lot but saves my printer.
  • I found that a work in progress folder on my hard drive, copied to my external drive and to my dropbox folder (you've got to use this, folks, it's good) was best. At the
    beginning of the day I copy the file I'm working on to my desktop, then work on it from there. When I finish, I copy everything back to the three folders so that at the end
    of each day all three folders are up to date. Works well for me, but I'm sure there must be a better, geekier way to do it!
  • My method is similar to Eddisbury's and some of your other solutions above.

    After an emountain of muddle in the early days, I now keep my master working copy in Dropbox (which is brilliant). That means it doesn't matter which device I'm working from, or even logged on in the library or working out in a cafe, I can always access that document.

    When I create the new file (let's say you've started at Chapter One and you plan to keep adding to your novel), I call it WORKING TITLE DDMMYY V.0
    The V stands for "Version".

    As I work through the day, if I stop work, I "upgrade" the version, so by the end of a working day I might be up to DDMMYY V.5, for example.

    That way, if I have made a copy of the master file from Dropbox into into a folder on my Desktop, then I know where I am with my edits.

    The next day I start with the new date and reset the version to V.0

    I like the idea of a separate folder for each chapter.

    I do back ups in pretty much the same way as everyone else.
  • Dropbox, qu'est-ce que c'est? Information, please!
  • I use dropbox but you have to pay to get enough info in there. Particularly if you use it so your digital photos are safe.
  • I only have one device - my laptop - so memory sticks work for me. One for work in progress, one for photos, one just to take stuff to the copy shop.
  • https://www.dropbox.com/

    Photos are usually quite large files, Liz!, but Word files are usually small. The whole mansuscript my debut novel is only 500 kilobytes, so the 2GB or so that they give you should be enough for writers to store their WIPs. You can 'earn' more space by recommending friends. I haven't set up that whole shenanigans - I've merely put the link in this post.

    Have a look, Mrs Bear, watch the video. It's short.
  • Will do, pbw - thanks for the link.
  • Thanks PBW, installed.
  • :)

    I should have mentioned that Google Docs provide a similar service (they were the first) and I'm pretty certain there's one for Mac. I expect Liz! will know what it is.
  • Keep a file, Work in Progress or WIP. I have a complete file of creative writing where I put other files within hence Work in Progress, you could divide that for short stories as well and articles etc. Whatever you do, keep saving every few minutes or so many hundreds of words so if you have a power problem, you won't have lost too much. Also use your memory stick as someone suggested. I hope we have all helped.
  • I have never worked on a novel and kept different files for different chapters. Just one big doc called Novel! Back it up every night or email to self as Liz says. Too many docs makes it all so confusing and you can''t read the whole thing or check back without opening loads of different chapter docs. It's one book so why not keep it as one document?
  • I do the same Viv and keep my book all as one book and back it up regularly.
  • Since losing 4000 words during NaNoWriMo after I'd written them in Word (which I thought was autocorrecting and wasn't and didn't save when I asked it to) this is my process for writing -
    1. Write it in Scrivener. (All files are kept together, nameable, reorganisable with the ability to have a synopsis of each one for easy reference.)
    2. Copy and paste into Word (I still find Word easier for compiling a one-file completed manuscript...I need to experiment more with Scrivener).
    3. Copy to thumb drive
    4. Copy to Dropbox.

    Each time I save I do 'Save As' so that it's a completely new file. Yes, it takes up space, but there's less chance of files corrupting when they're not overwritten.
  • [quote=Nena]but there's less chance of files corrupting when they're not overwritten.[/quote]

    Eek! What do you mean, Nena?
  • [quote=Dwight]Eek! What do you mean, Nena?[/quote]

    I've found that if you keep saving new work into an old file, after a while the file becomes corrupted and it won't open any more. It takes a while, but it does happen.
  • [quote=Nena]I've found that if you keep saving new work into an old file, after a while the file becomes corrupted and it won't open any more. It takes a while, but it does happen.[/quote]

    Yes, I've found that to be the case too. When I first started writing my stories by typing them as Word documents, I constantly saved the work to the same document, and found eventually that it got more and more awkward to open. Sometimes one would only open as a "Read only" file, and would not allow me to change it so that I could edit. I find this can be cured by occasionally copying and posting the whole thing to a new document, and deleting the old one. Each new chapter I finish, I copy and paste it to an email, which I send to myself. I also save to a memory stick, which I acquired not long ago.
  • I save on pc and memory stick. Keep meaning to get Dropbox as I'd lose everything if we had a fire.
  • hi. I save on my desktop and then to memory stick. I then send an email copy to myself and delete the previous old email entry. Also, as I chip in to different parts of my novel, I keep a diary and document which page I was working on and my total word count so far.
  • I have a free, virtual Google drive of 2gb where I back-up all my writing, research files and geneaology. It's set to perform the back-up every morning which takes a few minutes. I believe you can control when it does the back-up.

    I write my novel in separate chapters and print them out once I start hitting continuity concerns (if they did that on a Sunday, how come... three days later, we're at the weekend again?) so that I can cross-check. I always print out final drafts several times until I am happy to pass them on for proofreading because they read differently on paper than screen.

    Just a little thing, as much for when you write comments on forums, blogs, social media etc as well as whole chapters - before I hit 'Save', 'Publish' or 'Post' I always click Ctrl and A to select the whole comment/chapter and then Ctrl and C to copy it. That way, if something goes wrong (as it often does on Blogger, and in a whole variety of Microsoft and other software and systems I've used in my I.T. career) then you at least have a (very) temporary back up that you can paste back in.
  • I use gmail and Yahoo mail and send copies of my work to them as well as having two USB sticks I also save it on. I lost some of my work once and never again.
  • The best way to store a novel depends on your preferred way of working. This is mine: at the beginning, create a folder for all relevant files, giving it a different name from the text file. For me, the best way for the typescript to be stored is with all the chapters in one file (I don't see any advantage in making separate files for the chapters). The chapters are run-on for the first draft (in other words, new chapters not started on a new page. This saves on stationery). Save a copy to disk or stick each time you work.

    When doing a first complete revision, I print off a "quick print" copy, using a colour such as blue on the colour cartridge, which spares the black. If you do this, after leaving it alone for a while, make handwritten revisions using the print-out and, when sure that you have made all necessary changes, re-jig the chapters to start on a fresh page.

    Print out a final hard copy version. This is not only useful for the submission process but can be a good insurance. Once, the computer copy of my work in progress was lost, along with others, when my computer was stolen by a burglar. I had copies on disk but, when transferring these to a new laptop, I did something wrong in response to an unfamiliar message, whereby the files were deleted from the disk. I was left with only the hard copy.
  • [quote=Lah-tay] I was left with only the hard copy.[/quote]
    something similar happened to me last year.
    would you believe my daughter, bless her, typed the entire 80.000 words for me afresh!
    I've never had files corrupt from over-use - that's worrying, as when I'm re-writing, like now, I change something every day.
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