This week’s QOTW comes from Miss Rae, who asks:
I was wondering, how do you organize your manuscript as you type it up? Do you go chapter by chapter, each in it’s own word doc, etc. or do you type it up in one massive document? Why do you feel that system works best for you?
While I’m hammering out my first draft, I keep everything in one document. Doing it that way, for me, keeps a sense of flow and continuity. Plus it’s easy for me to go back and check what happened in chapter 2 that I’m trying to relate to events in chapter 13 and so on.
-The Newest LTWF Contributor!
I type everything in one word document. Everything. The rough outline, notes to myself on everything from things to include to changes I want to make later, the character list, the timeline, and the actual manuscript. Then I try to remember where everything is. It works for me because I like having things in one place. I have a tendency to loose anything and everything or forget where I’ve put something, so keeping the pertinent information in one document makes it harder for me to screw up. And I always have way too many documents open at once, so keeping as much as possible in one document cuts down on that.
My method is similar to Jenn’s, in that I combine the outline with the first draft. I maintain a clean copy of the outline in a separate file, but then I open a duplicate and start the narrative above the outline. Then I can always refer to the outline for each chapter as I write. It helps me feel more tethered to the story line. Once chapter one is complete, I delete that part of the outline so that chapter two is directly below the narrative, and so on. It helps me mark off progress in the draft, and when I’m really stuck, I just condense the outline for a chapter into a paragraph and paste it in where the chapter should go. It may be ugly, but at least it’s a paragraph. Filling out a crappy paragraph has always been easier for me than writing something original from scratch.
I usually make individual word docs for each chapter. After I finish writing a chapter, I’ll do a brief/surface-level edit (mostly for awkward phrasing and typos), then I’ll go add it to the master doc/manuscript, which ultimately becomes the first draft. Then I put that first draft document away and don’t look at it again.
However, when it’s time for revisions, I’ll edit each chapter individually–each in its own new word doc. Seeing the chapters individually helps me to sort of structural issues within them. Just like when I write the first draft, I’ll compile all the revised chapters into a master doc. And once that’s done, then I’ll actually begin editing in the master doc/ms itself. Working so closely with each chapter/doc allows me to get a good sense of what’s happening in each scene (and its importance), so I’m then able to focus on the overall structure of the book/manuscript (which includes things like placing, moving chapters around, cutting out parts).
It sounds really convoluted, I know. But I’m a really visual learner, so there’s some kind of connection between all of these word documents that I compile and my ability to write/edit a manuscript.
I actually tend not to even think about chapters for my first draft. I wrote HYBRID as one big doc with just three asterisks whenever I wanted to show a scene change. There were no chapters until the third draft, I think. Same with my first novel-which-shall-not-be-named. I tend to write things out of order a lot, so chapters don’t hold a lot of meaning for me–it’s just a bunch of numbering that will get really screwed up anyhow once I go back to “fill in the blanks.”
For the current WIP, I did start out with chapters, but that that’s because I actually did an outline for this story. However, I’ve kind of given up on the chapters thing halfway through because my “write things out of order” tic has come back full force 😛
I can’t imagine starting a new doc for each chapter. My chapters tend to be on the short side…I’d have so many documents and such, I wouldn’t know what to do–I’d forgot what happened in which document, and the search option wouldn’t work! I’d drive myself crazy.
I usually have two word documents going when I’m writing: one for the draft, and another for notes or future scenes I’m playing around with, but don’t know if they’re going to be included in the draft or not.
That’s not to say that the draft is one nice, clean document. Oh, no. If I write scenes out of order I’ll place them about one blank page down from the actual draft (I’m really big on spaces separating works in progress), and place them in the order they will occur, kind of like placing puzzle pieces on a table -I know roughly where this piece goes, but don’t have any connectors right now.
I write it all in one document. At the beginning of my MS, I often have a bunch of little notes – names of places/characters, small details, etc. And I always have chapters in my MS, even when it’s the first draft. I always seem to know when I would like a chapter to stop (and another one to start). I also use the Track Changes feature, so it helps to keep everything in the one document when I start to move paragraphs around. If all my chapters were in different documents, I think I’d start getting a bit confused. I just find it much easier to keep everything I need in one place.
How do you format your novels when you’re writing?