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Down the Rabbit Hole: Getting Lost in Google Drive

by | Lifestyle Advice, Walk The Plank | 0 comments

Once upon a time, I was told, “Save everything you write.” And I took it to heart. Here’s what that means about my Google Drive today. Buckle in for this wild ride down the rabbit hole of broken dreams… very bad adolescent poetry… and enough words to give you nightmares.

Save everything you write.

I believe this advice came from Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic, a book on writing that I recommend. (One of two books on writing I’ve ever read!) In Writing Magic, Gail Carson Levine says something like, “Save everything you write for a minimum of ten years.” Ten years might not be the exact amount of time, but you get the idea. Anyway, when I first read this advice, I thought something like, “Gee, why would I throw out anything I wrote? What if I wanted to come back to it later?” Which is exactly what Gail Carson Levine had in mind, I think. 

Over the years, I’ve found I’m much more apt to lose writing than I am to get rid of it.

For example, the first novel I ever wrote, back in fifth grade? Put it on a flash drive with the intention of having it forever. Also had it on file on school computers. (I wasn’t really counting on those, though.) Well, over the years I either lost the flash drive, or its contents were erased by some other member of my family who decided to use it as their own. And the schools wipe system memory every ten years or so. So when those ten years rolled around… poof! All record of my first novel ever disappeared. 

It’s okay. I still have a lot of it in my mind. Some sections, I even remember word-for-word. And I have a bunch of spin-offs buried in the deepest, darkest part of my Google Drive.

Let’s talk a little about that Google Drive. 

Going down the rabbit hole…

A year or two ago, I realized that my Google Drive was spinning out of control. I mean, it was madly disorganized. Any time I searched for anything remotely recent, I found it had gotten mixed in with the things from ages ago, and I could never find anything without sifting through old writing for twenty or thirty minutes. And when you’re like me, you have the urge to click on anything that sounds remotely interesting, which meant that the twenty or thirty minutes tended to become more like one or two hours. And, sure, sometimes I had the time to waste. But other times I didn’t.

One day, I had this idea that seemed great at the time. All that old stuff? I’d dump it into a folder I’d name “Drive,” after Google Drive, and leave it in there to rot. Then I’d never have to worry about all the new stuff getting lost again. So I created the folder called “Drive” and dumped a large portion of the old stuff in there. I was kind of uncertain as to what I’d be using in the near future, though, so I probably left a bit too much out of “Drive.” And every so often I would go into “Drive” to poke around.

For as long as I could remember, I’d kept my writing in a folder called “Writing.” Unfortunately, I did a lot of writing, and eventually the “Writing” folder would become unwieldy: I’d have to search hours for things. (Just like what happened to my Google Drive in general!) So I started creating other folders. “New Writing” and “Current Writing” and “Shelved Writing” and “Old Writing” and “WRITING” and “NEW WRITING” and… You get the point. 

The other day, after posting my dystopian short story “Splinters,” I wanted to go back and read the dystopian novel I’d drawn inspiration from. I wrote that novel all the way back in 2014, six years ago, when I was in my mid-teens. By some stroke of luck, I clicked on the right folders and found it. The very first draft was called CHOSEN. The second draft was called VOLATION. I read through VOLATION and realized… 

That the story wasn’t quite as big a mess as I’d thought it would be.

It was also around 80,000 words long. And, in all for that story project, there were around twenty drafts. Twenty times 80,000 equals 1,600,000. Which equals a mind-boggling number of words. All in all, I estimate that I probably have about three million words in my Google Drive. It would be pretty darn near impossible for me to go through everything. I’ve made reorganization efforts before. They’ve failed. 

This is a little unfortunate, because it is possible that there are some really good things buried in there that I didn’t realize were good at the time. The dystopian novel, for example, I thought was horrible. And, honestly, it’s pretty messy, but it isn’t horrible. The scene transitions are horrible, that’s what’s horrible. And some of the characterization is pretty rough. But besides that, there’s nothing that a new vision and a new draft couldn’t clean up. 

You’re probably wondering, why in the world is this reflection categorized as advice? (Walk The Plank is advice, if you hadn’t realized.) And I’m about to get to it! 

If you want to stay organized, I highly suggest you develop an organization scheme before you amass 3,000,000 words of writing.

If you stick to writing, and especially if you write every day like I do, you will someday amass 3,000,000 words of writing. Perhaps you have already. And if you don’t develop a scheme to organize all the writing before the fact, then you too will have a Google Drive like mine, and you’ll have to take a trip down the rabbit hole every time you search for anything. 

What do I suggest? Well, you probably won’t want to follow my advice. I never seem to be able to stick to any kind of organization, after all. But, to be honest, I think that my scheme could work for an organized person. 

I suggest that you make a folder called “Current Writing” in which you place your WIP. Multiple WIPs, if you have them. (WIP = work-in-progress.) Within the Current Writing folder, store a folder for each of your WIPs — anything under the final draft. Once you finish the final draft of a project, put its folder into a new folder, titled “Final Drafts” or “Finished Writing.” Keep a separate folder for ideas and tidbits.

This goes for novelists. If you write mostly poetry, short stories, articles, or other short pieces, I recommend that you group them into several folders — “Current,” or the stuff you’ve just written or are still working on; “Revised,” the stuff you’ve gone through and polished up, and “Finalized,” the stuff you’re looking to publish or have published. Again, keep a separate folder for ideas and snippets. 

I’m pretty sure someone could keep their writing organized that way. As for me, I think the time has past. So I will continue in my disorganized ways. Someday, maybe I’ll run out of space on my Google Drive — a near impossible feat, when you’re talking just about text. 

For now, I’ll rest assured that I can find the few things I’ll need in the next year or so of my writing life. And I’ll take it from there. I dream that someday, when I’m dead and gone, my Google Drive will be a nightmarish archive of my life’s work, and that a few people will go down the rabbit hole to conduct research. Kind of like people parsing through the volumes and volumes of letters that remained after the lives of some writers in the past. You can always hope! 

Do you have your own rabbit hole? Tell me about it!

Tell me about your experience organizing your years of writing. (Come to think of it, that would be another way to go about it — organize writing according to year and, more specifically, date. That would be a very sensible approach.) If you organize, tell me how you do it! 

And have you kept all your writing? Or do you get rid of things? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your voice in the comments section! Tell me whether I’m an oddball or not.

If you enjoyed this trip down the rabbit hole, you might also enjoy my reflection on whether writing can become an addiction.

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