Fiddle-faddle: an editing muddle

This is how Alice should look.:

This is how I imagine my protagonist, Alice, except she isn’t demure.

I have just discovered that I am editing two different copies of the same manuscript. “How did you manage that?”, you may ask. I’m talented. I wanted to keep a record of how the manuscript changed, and lost track of my copies. It is my own fault, and I hope I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m trying to do much all at once.

So, how do I get myself out of this mess?

By displaying patience – the lack of which got me into this pickle in the first place – and picking just one manuscript, swapping the alterations over from the other copy – and then clearing house. All the other copies can go. Seriously, why was I hanging on to those previous incarnations of my Steampunk manuscript? It’s not like I’m going to be studied in schools. When I cut mega-wordage from the narrative, I always transfer them to a file rather than just deleting them. I’m certain the practice is a hangover from when I wrote with pen and paper, and I haven’t done that for years (unless I’m deliberately working with a pen to shock the creative juices into action). Patience, determination, and a clear picture of where I am going is the only way past this kerfuffle.

This isn’t a trap I’ve fallen into previously, which may be why I made the mistake. It isn’t a problem I’ve heard about when other writers discuss their working process. But just in case one of you reading this might consider the multiple copy route, be warned. You might not be as organised as you think you are…

I now know I’m not. And I’m going to try not to muddle through in the future.

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17 Comments

Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk Work-in-Progress

17 responses to “Fiddle-faddle: an editing muddle

  1. My sympathies to you. I live in a muddle and am quite used to it, even though it drives me nuts. Hope the changes don’t take too long. xx Rowena

  2. You were lucky!

    I’ve done that a multitude of times, & it always comes down to inattention. For me, not noting which version I’m in when I suddenly sopt something, set to work, and two weeks later realise I’m re-editing out the same flab I trimmed six months or a year ago. Argh! Backtrack … argh again!

    i know that I have sent the wrong stuff to publishers because of this, and find clunky old stuff in the final book that I was *sure* I had fixed. (In *one* of my versions!)

    I have a book, in fact 9one of the dozen or so that sit unpublished in my computer), that was effectively re-written about three times. I gave it two entirely different beginnings, then THREE! Then I changed the characters names. Then created a version for US publication (never happened.) Then rejigged it again for an Aus publisher … *THEN* reverted all the names again …
    I’m utterly lost now. Rely on file data to tell me which is the most recent.

    “STAY ON TARGET!”

    • It is frustrating, isn’t it? I’ve completely rewritten the start of my Steampunk narrative, but the two offending copies of the manuscript were made AFTER this change. Otherwise I would have been alerted to this issue immediately.

      I am adding ‘Stay on Target’ to my list of words-to-live-by.

  3. I have done that too! I was forced to puzzle out how to merge the separate edits into one document. If I recall correctly, it was caused when I left one open on Word at home, and then opened it through Dropbox on my laptop elsewhere, and one overwrote the other.

  4. Mary Bryant

    I have tried to write a novel. I enjoyed it so much, I got so into my characters that I let them make the decisions and ended up hopelessly lost in a mish mash plot. Trouble is, I walked away from it at around 60,000 words. Now every time I want to get back to it, I have to re-read it all.
    And I can’t leave it alone, I am editing and changing as I go. Even though I know I have to get to an ending first.
    I don’t think I am cut out to be a writer.
    If the frenzy ever comes over me again, I shall start with a plot design and an ending in mind. The light at the end of the tunnel??
    I take my hat off to you, writers are far more amazing than I gave them credit for, and I gave them a lot of credit before I ever attempted such a thing.

    • I only just recently wrote a new ending for my book, which changed its flow but made for a much neater and satisfying conclusion. I am a planner, but see my plan as a suggestion rather than a set of orders. The plan gives me a structure to place my story within, like decorating a room, but I can always change the ‘curtains’ or buy new ‘furniture’.

  5. Well, I’ve been told off twice recently for binning the cuts I made to mss I was editing. One author wanted to restore some words to lengthen the ms and the other wanted to know exactly what was changed. I stopped using TC all the time when people took one look at the nasty red mess and ran for the hills. Sigh.

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