Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To Save Poetry Drafts Electronically

It is National Poetry Month and you’ve been writing every day (right?) How do you organize this sudden influx of poems, earlier poems, and various drafts of the same poem?

Some writers organize electronic drafts by date, title, theme or manuscript title. At the summer retreat hosted by A Room of Her Own, Rita Dove said that she organizes her drafts by color. It was easy to choose the color because each poem “feels like a different color.”

I organize my electronic poetry files by both date and title number. Each year has a separate folder and it is filled with individual poem drafts. The poems I write during that year are saved by the original title followed by the draft number. For example, I recently wrote a poem entitled “Grief.” It is located in the 2010 folder. As I revise the poem, I will save the files according to the draft number. I expect that I will later write and save, “Grief1,” “Grief2,” etc.

Of course, the title of the poem often changes during the revision process. To limit confusion, I save the original document title and insert it in italics under the poem’s title on the document. Then, if I find the paper draft later, I can easily find it again on the computer.

Once I find that I have a number of poems with similar themes that will be grouped into a manuscript, I save them in a file with that manuscript’s title. I usually wait until the poems are almost finished to do this. If poems are eventually cut from that manuscript, I return the final draft to the yearly file where they started.

Having a lot of poems to organize can only be considered a good problem! It means that you’ve been writing and revising regularly. Remember to dedicate at least a few minutes of your writing time to keeping your drafts organized. This will help later when it comes to submitting your work and/or creating a book length manuscript. I expect that authors will have to develop their own systems that works best for their writing style.

What tips do you have about organizing your poetry drafts?

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