All first drafts are flawed, and every manuscript needs revision. We all know it, yet we worked hard to put the words together, to create each sentence, paragraph, and scene. Change is painful, even though we know it will make the story will be better. Then the questions start. “What if I change my mind? What if I need something I cut out? What if I like the way I wrote it first?”
All are valid questions. Occasionally, what came first really is best. But you can’t keep both the original and the revision in the manuscript (well, you can try with Track Changes, but it makes a horrible mess that’s hard to work around).
So what’s the answer?
Save, save, and save again. First of all, create a separate file for each version of the manuscript before you begin new revisions. That’s probably a no-brainer, but what about the changes you make as you work through a revision?
If you’re as paranoid as I am about the possibility of losing just the right wording, you can take it a step further. Create a file to hold any large chunks you cut out of the story. Then you will have at your fingertips—only a few clicks away—all old versions to choose from, should you decide you don’t like whatever new changes you make to a scene. I even save smaller portions I think I might want to put back in as well as portions that end up not fitting but I might want to use in a sequel. I call the file Deleted Scenes.
Although I rarely end up using anything from my Deleted Scenes file, nor do I often go back to the way I wrote something in an original draft, it gives me peace of mind to know that they’re still there. Occasionally, I dig into them, searching for something particular, or I don’t like the way a new twist has taken my story and want to revive the old plot. In those instances, it’s good to be paranoid enough to save everything.