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Format for writing chapters

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sundaygirl

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Hi everyone!

This may have an obvious answer, but I'm not seeing it. I'm working on a MG book, which obviously has chapters. So, my question is - how do all of you write your ms? Do you keep a seperate file for each chapter? I can't imagine just keeping one continuous file for the entire book. So, am I on the right track? One file per chapter?

Thanks for the help!
#1 - March 24, 2009, 01:50 PM

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I'm sure everyone has their own way of doing it, but I do your unimaginable - one file for the entire manuscript.  This way, it's all in one place.  If I want to move a passage from one chapter to another, everything is right there.  If I want to take a quick look at what I wrote in a certain passage so I don't repeat myself, I can just quickly flip to the spot.  If I want to send it out to a friend to read, one download is all it takes.

I re-save the file about once a week with a new title so my various old drafts are still accessable; and the file is also saved to multiple computers and a flash drive.  If I was saving each chapter separately, I'd never be able to keep track of all the different files.
#2 - March 24, 2009, 01:59 PM

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It's going to have to be one file eventually anyway, because anyone who wants the manuscript electronically -- and plenty of agents do, and I've also sent revisions to editors that way -- will want one file, not a lot of 'em.

I've had some pretty long ms's in one file and never had a problem. Just backup well, as 1846 recommends.
#3 - March 24, 2009, 02:40 PM
The Farwalker Trilogy
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dianebailey

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You do whatever way you want to. I keep one file for the whole manuscript. I save every day with the date as the extension, and I usually email it to myself in case...the unthinkable...happens. (I trust gmail's servers way more than my own laptop).

I generally like working in one document, but I totally understand how it can get unruly. Sometimes, if I feel like I'm spending an inordinate amount of time scrolling back and forth, I will create a new document with the section I'm working on--it might be one chapter or five, but I can color code parts and so forth and then get it all fixed up, and then I just paste it back into the whole ms. when I'm ready. However, I'll also add that the endless scrolling can sometimes be helpful. You start to get a feel for how long it is between this and that, and whether you need to make adjustments.
#4 - March 24, 2009, 02:56 PM

I also have one file for the entire ms.
#5 - March 24, 2009, 02:57 PM
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I keep everything in one file. To avoid endless scrolling, I set up a document map with chapter headers, allowing me to skip from one chapter to another with ease. I describe the process in the 'Outline it for me' thread, if you're interested.
#6 - March 24, 2009, 03:07 PM
www.heleneboudreau.com

Author of the REAL MERMAIDS tween series, RED DUNE ADVENTURES chapter book series, I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN (2013) and more.

I never planned to do it this way, but since I tend to write out of order, I have separate files for each chapter–or even just scene I'm working on at the time, figuring out chapter breaks later. I label them with the section (A, B or C–three acts) and a scene number, to keep them in order, and then I give a brief description so I know what each is about.

I have to do it this way because, aside from the chronological issue, I never delete anything–I just color-code to death (lavender for what normal people would delete, orange for what is second-choice but still has possibilities, bold are notes to myself, blue is something that needs to be checked for historical accuracy, etc...) My scenes are a mess. Plus I'll have three different ways to phrase a sentence. A lot. So it's waaaaay too messy to go into one long file–I'd never find anything.

But once I've done as much revising as I'm going to at the time, I clean it up and paste it into another document with all the scenes in order. So I do have one file for the whole thing–but I never work from it. I just paste in and delete as necessary.

Just try a few different ways and see what works best for you. Good luck!

I keep everything in one file. To avoid endless scrolling, I set up a document map with chapter headers, allowing me to skip from one chapter to another with ease. I describe the process in the 'Outline it for me' thread, if you're interested.

I like the idea of this, and as soon as I get a new Word that has that feature I'm going to give it a try.
#7 - March 24, 2009, 03:12 PM
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Yep, I do all one file, too. I need to be able to check the flow from one point to another. Otherwise, I might as well be writing episodic short stories. YMMV.

There's a thread in organization here somewhere about using document map in Word to make it easy to get from one chapter to another without having to scroll endlessly. Sometimes I use it.
#8 - March 24, 2009, 03:15 PM

ccw

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Add me to the one file group. I much prefer having all my chapters in one place. Frankly, I'm not organized enough to have a separate file per chapter. I shudder to think where some of those chapters would end up!
#9 - March 24, 2009, 03:23 PM

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I save each chapter separately, and also keep what I call a master document. When I finish a chapter, I copy/paste it into the master document. This is mostly so that I can read through it all every once in a while to get a sense of rhythm.

I use a program called RoughDraft, which lets you open files in tabs (like Firefox) and also has a panel on the right where you can see a list of all the files in a folder. Since I save all of my chapters in one folder, this lets me easily open and close any I need to.

I don't use one main file while I'm drafting, because my drafts are pretty messy. I know that whole chapters will be changed, and scenes will get moved around. It's much easier for me to experiment and make changes this way.
#10 - March 24, 2009, 03:35 PM

ecb

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CURSE was written in the "all one file" method, but the *revisions* were done one chapter per file, and as I finished each chapter, I compiled everything into a new document.  I really liked revising this way; it kept me focused and tight with the work, plus I could keep a better eye on length and pacing, knowing how long each chapter was.

STARCROSSED was mostly written in all one file, until I got to the last half of the manuscript and started juggling scenes more.  This was also the first novel I ever wrote straight through from beginning to end.

LIAR'S MOON is a dozen+ different files at the moment.  In fact, my project over the next couple of weeks is to take a good look at what I actually have, and compile everything into one (semi)cohesive document.  (Then I'll take those individual files and stick them into a new folder called "scenes and drafts," so they're tucked away safely but not cluttering up my master LIAR'S MOON folder.  I'll also highlight the text in orange to know that it's gone into the master document.)  I'm getting ready to start revisions for STARCROSSED, and I want to be able to come back to a LIAR'S MOON that's organized and is easy to find my place in again (since I *know* I won't remember what I was thinking! :dr).

Regardless of which method I'm using, I tend to start new files for scenes if I don't really know where in the book they belong. So at the moment, LM has one file that contains several different scenes featuring the character of Koya, even though one of the scenes happens at the beginning of the book, one's near the end, and the other two I have no clue.  I think I stole this method from Melissa Marr, who once said something about writing all the scenes featuring a particular character.  Since that made sense for this book, it's working at the moment.

Again, it's all a matter of what works for you is what works for you.
#11 - March 24, 2009, 03:42 PM
« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 03:43 PM by ecb »

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My manuscripts are one file, and I have track changes on. When I change a lot and accept/deny those changes, I save the manuscript as a new version--same name but with a 2 as a prefix (and a 3, 4 . . .) I also have a scrap doc for each manuscript; that's where deleted prose that could be used later goes. And if I'm really honing a passage, I'll copy it into its own doc, work on it, then copy/paste it back into place.
#12 - March 24, 2009, 03:44 PM
A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY, Sept. 2012
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning
The Summer of Moonlight Secrets
Me & Jack

http://www.danettehaworth.com

I have a separate file for each chapter.  When it's done, I put them all in one file, but I keep the separate ones as well.  This has always worked best/simplest for me, but I see that I am in a minority.  To each his own. As long as the book gets done!

I guess it's good to give an idea of how many words. I am usually a 40K-50K writer.
#13 - March 24, 2009, 04:20 PM
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slf

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It's much easier for me to keep a master file with the entire book.  When it's time to do a new draft I'll save it under a new file name like "book xyz second file 3-1-09" or something like that.

Occasionally, when rewriting, I'll open a new file for a particular scene or chapter in order to isolate it and really focus.  But, again, for me, having thirty or more individual files--not to mention multiple drafts files--is too cumbersome to fathom.

When talking to writer friends, one thing that really seems to muck up the works for many of them, file and format-wise, is chapter breaks and numbers.  That's why a few years ago I set up a new "Style" in microsoft word for new chapter breaks.  This allows me to insert/delete chapter breaks at will and the chapter numbers adjust automatically.  I've been doing it that way for so long that I take it for granted now, but in talking with some friends recently I realized what a headache doing chapter numbers manually can be.

Hope that helps.
-SLF

#14 - March 24, 2009, 04:46 PM

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My manuscripts are one file, and I have track changes on. When I change a lot and accept/deny those changes, I save the manuscript as a new version--same name but with a 2 as a prefix (and a 3, 4 . . .) I also have a scrap doc for each manuscript; that's where deleted prose that could be used later goes. And if I'm really honing a passage, I'll copy it into its own doc, work on it, then copy/paste it back into place.

Danette and I share a brain... :)
#15 - March 24, 2009, 05:47 PM

sundaygirl

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Thanks for the replies everyone! You've all given me great ideas. I'm going to look into that document map thing. I have a feeling I'll do a combo as I get further into this - type chapters as separate docs, but also keep them compiled together in one doc for the entire book. I'm not an organized person AT ALL! So, I'm trying to find out the tricks before I get too deep and have made a complete mess.
Thanks for all the help!
#16 - March 24, 2009, 07:17 PM

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I keep everything in one file. To avoid endless scrolling, I set up a document map with chapter headers, allowing me to skip from one chapter to another with ease. I describe the process in the 'Outline it for me' thread, if you're interested.

You really should check out Helene's addition to that thread.  It has totally changed the way I organize my manuscripts.  Thanks again, Helene!  Here's the link to the Outline it For Me thread.  http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=33231.0
#17 - March 24, 2009, 11:05 PM

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You really should check out Helene's addition to that thread.  It has totally changed the way I organize my manuscripts.  Thanks again, Helene!  Here's the link to the Outline it For Me thread.  http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=33231.0

Gee, gosh, you're welcome! I'm glad it's been helpful.  :smile
#18 - March 25, 2009, 03:33 AM
www.heleneboudreau.com

Author of the REAL MERMAIDS tween series, RED DUNE ADVENTURES chapter book series, I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN (2013) and more.

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Just bumping this topic!
#19 - December 24, 2009, 07:00 AM
A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY, Sept. 2012
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning
The Summer of Moonlight Secrets
Me & Jack

http://www.danettehaworth.com

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