Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: On Recordkeeping

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

On Recordkeeping

Over the last several months I've been working on keeping better records of my writing. When I first put fingers to keyboard as a teenager, I kept backups via 3.5" floppy disk, because that was all I had. Since then, I've tried various methods of keeping copies of old things around, ranging from a thumb drive to a proper external hard drive to e-mailing myself files.

Last fall, a friend and fellow writer (Christopher Eldridge, who may someday be famous) introduced me to Dropbox. The service, which lets you store files online for free and sync them around between machines almost effortlessly, has revolutionized my recordkeeping. Whereas before I made a monthly backup, if I was lucky, I now back up my work on Dropbox daily. This has caused poor Yoshimi (I write on a pink netbook named Yoshimi and do just about everything else on a big laptop named THELAPTRON3000), to have trouble with disk space, so today I started jimmying things around again. I moved the daily backups of my writing folder into an archive that will sit on the Laptron and my old external hard drive and shuffled most of my writing into a Dropbox folder called "Inactive Writing," which contains finished stories and poems that aren't getting sent out anywhere as well as things like my submissions tracking spreadsheet, which doesn't need to have multiple versions backed up. (Also, I haven't actually written anything today. Apparently, this is how I procrastinate.)

The point of all this is that I have a pretty substantial archive of what my writing has looked like at various points in the past, and today it made me pretty happy. I've struggled this year with feeling like my career as a writer isn't moving anywhere. Waiting around to hear if an agent or publisher liked your work will do that to you. But I discovered today that that feeling is very much in error.

Among the hundreds of files I shuffled into the "Inactive" folder today was one entitled "Thesis." It was the first 12 chapters of Soulwoven, which I turned in to my professors in May of 2009 in order to graduate from college. At the time, I thought it was pretty good. It earned me departmental honors.

But I am much, much better now. After only 2 1/2 years. Providing I don't eat too many cheeseburgers, take up smoking, or fall off a mountain, I should have a solid 60 or so left to keep getting better. And that feels pretty good.

So keep records, if for no other reason than to look back at them someday and say, "No, I'm not wasting my life. I am, at the very least, getting better at this."


  1. I'm so glad you've found Dropbox to be so revolutionary. I also like the sound of you saying that I may someday be famous. But even better is the sound of us both being famous or being famous together, like author pals. :-) While a Tolkien-Lewis friendship is the dream or goal, I'd be pretty damn happy with a Rothfuss-Sanderson one. But for now, being Beta buddies is great.

    I keep all my old stuff like you and have been backing them up on every digital format since the original floppy. Looking back to my past writing really has shown me how much I've grown, even over the past year, but it also allows me to see and realize how some of it was quite good, even after all these years. Well, at least the short stories. My old novels are embarrassing, even too much to show my wife or bestest of friends.

    1. I know the feeling! There are definitely some older works of mine that make me cringe.