Last year I resurrected a 40 year old novel manuscript for publication. I wish I had dated and made notes on my early manuscripts, because it was very difficult to tell, looking through those old papers, when each draft was written. Had I put dates on things, I would have known that. I still do not know for sure when that novel — Death At The Flea Circus — was written. My best guess is 1968 through 1972.
This afternoon, I went through another old novel’s manuscripts: The Captive Dragon, a fantasy novel that I published as a POD paperback through Xlibris in 2001. Those drafts were numbered, and thanks to the matching electronic files having dates, it was not too hard to figure out which of the many MS Word files I have for the book was the latest and best version of the book. I’m preparing a Kindle ebook edition of this novel, and it looks like I’ll need to redo the last round of corrections I gave to Xlibris in the latest dated Word file I have, but there aren’t too many of them, thankfully. Had I not dated many bits and pieces of that project, which spanned the years 1997 through 2001, I’d have had a hell of a time figuring out what I had to work with now.
So save yourself some trouble, and date everything you write, and make notes that will help you figure out what it all means when you return to it years from now.