The Simple Writing Hack You Never Knew You Needed

Today’s writing hack is something I’ve been doing for years (maybe even all of my career) and I didn’t even realize it was a hack. I just assumed everyone did this. But the more I shared it with other writers, the more I heard a similar response, “I’ve never done this before and it helps SO much!” And that’s when I realized I was onto something. Something that was helping me “hack” my writing process without even knowing it.

And the best part about it…it’s so dang easy to do. It doesn’t require any special tools, apps, mindset shifts, or complex writing “systems.” But I hope if you choose to try it, you’ll find that it levels up your writing process in cool new ways.

And here it is:

Every day that you write (whether you’re drafting or revising), save your project as a new document or file.

That means, every day that you sit down at your computer, before you type a single word, click “Save As” and create a new version of the document.** You can pick how you title your document files, but I like to use the following format:

“Book Title – Draft # – MM.DD.YY.docx”

For instance, if I was working on the first draft of a book called, “My Life as a Dog,” and I was sitting down to write today, my file would be named:

“My Life as a Dog – First Draft – 09.01.21.docx”

Or if you don’t have a title yet, just write “Untitled – First Draft – 09.01.21”

BUT WHY, JESSICA? You might be asking. What on earth is THAT going to do?

I’m so glad you asked.

This simple hack provides you with two primary “boosts” to your writing process. There’s the “Functionality Boost” and the “Magic Motivation Boost” (And who doesn’t want a magic motivation boost, am I right?)

Let’s go over the functional first, as it’s the most obvious.

The Functional Boost:

When you save a new version of your document every day, you’ll almost never lose anything. If you revise or rewrite something, for instance, on one day and then, two days later realize, “Oh crap! I actually liked it better the other way!’ you always have a backup of the previous version. Sure, Dropbox and Google Drive keep versions backups for you in the cloud, but only for so long, and the length depends on your plan. With this “hack,” you are basically creating your own version history.

And also Dropbox’s version of versions doesn’t come with the Magic Motivation Boost.

The Magic Motivation Boost:

In essence, saving a version every day reminds you of how far you’ve come and how much work you’ve put in. It’s like a breadcrumb trail of your efforts. It’s visible, trackable progress, and most goal-setting experts out there will tell you how important it is to Track. Your. Progress.

When you keep saving the same draft over and over again and you open your computer and see one lonely file in the folder it can feel like you’ve gone nowhere and made no progress.

This is where the “hack” really becomes powerful and can help keep you motivated. Because every day that you showed up to work and logged your words, you have something to show for it. Another document in the folder. Another day in the books. Another notch on the wall. Another checkmark in the “Wrote today” box.

When the going gets tough and you feel like quitting, you can open that folder and say to yourself, “You can’t quit! Look how much work you’ve already put in. Look how much you’ve already accomplished.” It just feels better than seeing one document in there. It’s proof that you’ve been at this every day like the champ that you are. I guess you could say it’s the difference between running a marathon through a city or on a treadmill. One feels like you’ve gone somewhere, the other feels like you’re running and running and going nowhere.

So, if you aren’t already employing this hack (and possibly not even knowing it was a hack like me!) then I definitely encourage you to give it a try.

I also recommend creating a dedicated folder for all of these documents, so the versions don’t get lost on your computer. I, personally, like to create a folder for the book, plus a folder for each draft.

And if you want to be SUPER organized about it, I have a bonus boost for you as well:

The Organization Super Boost:

Take this hack to the next level by naming your file versions with the following format:

“YY.MM.DD – Book Title – Draft #”

(where YY is the year, MM is the month, and DD is the day.)

That way you can sort all the documents in the folder by file name and see all of your files in chronological order, based on the date you wrote them. Prepare to be amazed!

Have fun, writers!

 

**NOTE: This hack works best for those writers working in Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs. For Scrivener users, you can achieve similar results by using the Snapshot feature and creating a snapshot of your project daily.

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