A Handy-Dandy Do-Over Tip!

by Tracy Barrett

Like most authors, I do lots of rewriting (do-overs). I save the drafts so that if I make a change and then decide I preferred it the way it was before, or if I cut text and later realize that I want it after all, I have the older version to go back to for reference. I give the various drafts filenames like CurrentProject1.doc, CurrentProject2.doc, etc.

I sometimes wind up with multiple drafts of the same manuscript open as I work back and forth between them, and they often look practically identical. This means that more than once I’ve gotten confused about which is the current version and I accidentally wind up spending time working on a draft I’ve already discarded. I once even carefully applied editor-suggested changes to an early version and then sent it to her! (That was embarrassing.)

I’ve created an easy fix. Once I decide that CurrentProject3.doc needs enough changes to justify creating a new document, I go through these steps:

1.     Save CurrentProject3.doc as CurrentProject4.doc.
2.     Close CurrentProject4.doc.
3.     Open CurrentProject3.doc (the two documents are still identical except for the filename).
4.     Highlight the entire document by hitting Command-A (Mac) or Ctrl-A (PC).
5.     Change the font color of the entire document to red.
6.     Close CurrentProject3.doc and get to work on CurrentProject4.

Now whenever I open a discarded version, the red font is enough of a clue for even a work-addled brain that it’s not the current draft. If every discarded draft of every project is red, I know that the one I have to work on is black.

Simple, I know, but it’s saved me a lot of wasted effort!


  1. Oooh! This is super useful! I mostly use Scrivener for novel-writing now so I don't have a lot of Word drafts, but I do for essays and at work and this will be very helpful! Thank you!

  2. That is handy! It's easier now, in this computer age, to color-code things.

    1. Or you could make it a fancy font, or all italics, or bold . . .

  3. Extremely helpful tip. I've been away from blogging for a while, all social media actually. My dad passed away in January and I've been taking care of my mom, but I found your article via the Twitterific links and I'm so glad I did. Thanks for the tip. I can't tell you how many times I've made the same mistake. I use scrivener now and I still find myself revising the wrong draft of a scene even though I clearly have it marked as the third draft etc. I hope that made sense. Seeing the full text of the document in red will put an end to it ever happening again. I'm delighted I found your blog and that I've connected with you on Twitter. It will be a while before I'm able to make a full return to social media, but I'm looking forward to more of your articles and to getting to know you.

    1. So sorry about your dad, Melissa, and it's wonderful you can be there for your mom. I'm glad this tip will be helpful to you!

  4. Ah, so clever yet so simple. It makes one say, 'Now why didn't I think of that?'
    Thanks for the tip! :)


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