It seems like I have a gazillion files laid out when I write a book, I have a file each for most characters, where I put snippets as a character develops in my mind, things I want to remember about them, and even whole scenes that will take place later on – I have several notes files, one for later notes – things somewhere in the distance – and one for immediate notes, and yet another one for dumped notes, which contain things I have discarded but hang onto, just in case I need them after all.
It all sounds very complicated, but it actually enables me to keep my working area clear. It’s very hard to organize something into place when it is surrounded by threads and scenes that, for one reason or another, may have to be shifted. If you don’t watch out, everything becomes entangled with everything else and you can’t move as a writer. Been there, done that, as the saying goes.
I don’t know how it works for you, but I have found that it saves a lot of time and effort if I keep everything separate.
Now, just because I’ve got all those files, it doesn’t mean I have them all open at once. I don’t. I actually work with only two of them, the manuscript itself and my immediate notes. As the time approaches for scenes I have already written to go in, I gather them together. I know who it is about, so I know where to get them from, and they get sent into the immediate file, where things are set out in roughly the right order. I also do most of my preliminary writing in the notes file rather than the manuscript.
From there, it gets lifted and fitted into the manuscript, usually a chunk at a time, then smoothed and polished into place. Whenever I read through my work, it is only the manuscript that I go over because that’s the end product, that’s what readers will be looking at.