All together now . . .

I’m not one of those scribble-on-napkins authors. I’ve never been able to write my story ideas on whatever scrap of paper is handy, because I’m so paranoid about it getting lost. When I was younger, I had specific notebooks devoted to specific story ideas, and not one of those notebooks could ever be spoiled with anything other than its designated story. It just couldn’t be done.

For years now, though, I’ve been writing on the computer, and I love my layers and layers of files neatly organized by story, type, and draft. I have files from middle school in this folder, guys. It literally has my life’s work in it.

When I finally gave in and got a new computer a couple of months ago, I thought it might be time to trim away some of the excess bulk. Because really, who needs 90 folders containing 1,111 files?

Well, I do, as it turns out. I had no idea how often I refer to older drafts and older story ideas to shape what I’m writing. I don’t just pull from the fourth draft to write the fifth draft; I pull from all previous incarnations of the story, including pre-drafts when it was a completely different story altogether. And then maybe I pull a few aspects from a story I trashed years ago, and then I get some inspiration from a story that’s been simmering on the back burner for a while.

So yesterday, I did a little cleanup to get it down to 1,035 files, reorganized my folders to make the first window a little less overwhelming, transferred it all over to my new computer, and breathed a sigh of relief. Now I’m ready to get back to work.

Take a peek a few levels deep into my endless spiral of story folders . . .

stories folder

New and improved welcome page of my Stories folder.

novus folder

Diving into my NOVUS series . . .

novus1 folder

. . . and book 1 of NOVUS, 2.5 drafts in.

How do you keep your writing organized? Or are you more likely to let your pages fly loose? Do you look back at past (and way-past) drafts, or do you let them gather dust?

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The Pancake Draft

My dad was the pancake-maker of the house when I was a kid. He had it down to an art, and every pancake turned out just right—except for one.

Without fail, he always tossed the first pancake straight into the trash.

It seemed like an awful waste, especially to a hungry ten-year-old, but he was adamant. The first pancake never turned out right. It was unfit for human consumption.

Well, my friends, it turns out that’s the secret to more than just pancakes.

The first time I finished a complete draft of any novel ever was my freshman year of college. I was thrilled. Like, to the point where I wanted to climb out my window, scale the wall, and do a jig on the snow-covered roof of my apartment building. It was done! Complete! Finished!

And then I reread it.

It was awful.

Totally unfit for human consumption.

I was so demoralized that I put it away and didn’t look at it again until long after I began work on Demon’s Heart. How could I face starting over again from the beginning? I had worked so hard to get that first draft out! There were blood and tears in that ink! I couldn’t just trash it!

But there was no getting around it. That was a pancake draft. It had to go in the trash.

Not literally. Goodness. I had to have something to reference when I started again. But there was literally nothing salvageable from that draft except for the character names, and even some of those had to go. And so I opened a new Word document and started again from the beginning.

I’ve resigned myself to the pancake draft, which makes it a little easier to face starting from the beginning again after writing an entire novel. I’ve also learned a little more about planning and outlining, which makes it so that I don’t have multiple pancake drafts for the same novel. The only thing worse than having to chuck an entire draft of your novel is having to chuck two or three or four entire drafts of your novel.

Do you have a pancake draft? What’s the hardest thing to do once you finish that first draft of your novel?