So, yesterday marked the beginning of ‘Tider Mark II Draft II’, truly a red-letter day in my life, and – I’m sure – in yours. Me being me, and my life being what it is, though, nothing went to plan; in this as in everything I make a mess of, however, I managed to learn some stuff. It’s my civic duty to pass it on, so that those wobbling in my footsteps might avoid the same pitfalls and experience no delays as they ascend the misty heights of Mount Brilliant.
So, without further ado, here is what I learned from yesterday’s editing. Reading it, one would be forgiven for thinking I had never edited anything before, ever. This is so far from the truth as to be laughable. It makes me wonder about the state of my brain, and its ability to retain what I put into it.
Things learned (so far) from Tider: Draft 2
1. Don’t mess with (what you think is) your only copy of your text
So. Picture the scene. I opened my computer file, and all was well. Birds were singing, sunlight laughing through the window, the world was a multi-hued picture of sheer unadulterated beauty, and so forth. I may even have giggled and sung soprano, à la Snow White, c. 1937.
I’d been happily snipping and cutting and editing and making huge editorial decisions for goodness knows how long when a realisation hit me, and it was akin to having a giant, cold bucket of slop poured over my head. It put paid to the singing and the sunshine, let me tell you. That realisation was:
What did I think I was doing, messing around with my only copy of the text?
I’d been doing really well, I thought, saving as I went and being really careful to back my work up to my USB stick, as I always am. Every change I made, I’d saved it. I seem to have been so interested in making backups of my edits to realise how stupid it is to edit any document without making a backup of the whole thing first.
First thing you don’t do when you’re editing a long and important document is this: don’t start hacking away at it without having a backup made of the entire thing. What happens if you decide later that your editorial decisions were wrong? What happens if you preferred it the way it was before you started editing? What happens if you delete something vital by mistake and you don’t realise it until it’s too late? None of these will become disasters unless you don’t have a full copy made of Draft 1 before you begin.
2. Don’t lose the password to your new phone with all your notes in it
Perhaps this one is very much a ‘me’ sort of problem, and has arisen because a) I’m technologically challenged, as you know, and b) I got a new phone recently, which requires a different password to be entered for every tiny little function. It is enough to drive one to the brink.
What my new phone does have, however, is a wonderful note-taking function; I’ve been making great use of it for the past week or so, ever since I learned how it works. I’ve been ruminating on plot twists and character motivation and possible endings and even writing a back-cover blurb (it’s great for focusing the mind on the important bits of your plot, FYI). The only drawback to this is that I tend to forget stuff once I’ve made a note of it. Once it’s in the phone, it doesn’t need to be in my head. This is all fine, if getting into the phone didn’t require the same levels of dexterity, quick thinking and chutzpah needed to outsmart an ancient booby-trap.
Of course, I eventually worked it out. Of course, it turned out to be the simplest thing in the known universe. And, of course, I felt like a total pillock when I realised this. But the short version of this story is: keep a good hold of your passwords. At the last count, I have twenty-three of them. Don’t lose ’em or mix ’em up, particularly when your nuggets of wisdom regarding the dramatic climax of your work of genius are stored safely away behind ’em. Capisce?
3. Don’t worry too much about formatting page layout, &c., as you go
Perhaps this is as clear as day to most people. To me, however, it is a challenge. I’m the sort of person who has to have everything perfect – it helps me to keep a handle on the document overall if I know all my paragraphs and page layouts are okay. I’m not sure why this is, because having perfect page breaks has zero effect on the document’s contents. In any case, I tend to stress myself out over things like making sure there are no ‘widows and orphans’ (in terms of sentences, naturally), and that all the proper indents are in place, and that every new speaker has their own line in blocks of dialogue, and all these other things that don’t really matter until the final edit. They’re very important – don’t get me wrong – but when you’re up to your neck in the middle of your second edit, don’t stress if a paragraph isn’t perfectly laid out. Seriously.
The final point, however, is probably the most important one. Are you ready?
4. Don’t start freaking out until you remember you emailed yourself a copy of the document two weeks ago
If I had remembered this first, I could’ve saved myself all the stress I went through during Point 1, above.
Yes. After I had spent goodness knows how long freaking out over all the work I’d lost from being so eager to begin my edits without making a backup, I realised I’d emailed myself a copy of ‘Tider’ a while back, which had the original version of everything I’d edited. So, then I started singing again and the sun came out, and everything was rosy once more.
Let this be a lesson. Not only do you need to be clever enough to make backups, but you need to be clever enough to remember you’ve made backups. Take it from one who has suffered, so you don’t have to.
Happy Tuesday! Together, we’ll make it through.