Always make a hard copy of your first draft and store it in a safe place. It is the pure essence of your creative spirit brought to life. Every first draft is a diamond in the rough. Uncut diamonds are just ugly pieces of rock that only through extreme patience and skill will the diamond cutter be able to reveal the inner brilliance of the stone.
As writers, we must learn patience and develop the skills necessary to cut and polish our rough drafts into a work of art. If a diamond cutter makes a mistake, the stone is ruined forever. Fortunately for writers, if they have saved the original, they can go back after a mistake has been made and start over. It is a natural tendency for others, intentional or not, to try and influence your story to fall in line with their vision. Sometimes that vision will match yours but other times it can change the original direction of your story.
This happened to me. The opening chapter of one of the stories I'm writing, that received some recognition from a major contest, has had the opening paragraph re-written so many times, it no longer fits my vision of the story. Before I knew what I know now, I would rewrite it to satisfy the critique of every group or individual who read it. I assumed they knew more about writing than I did and I wanted my opening paragraph to be the best it could be.
I do not like the way it is written now and neither did the last group who read it. I would like to return it to the way I wrote it originally but never saved the early drafts. Why save something that I was improving? I cannot remember how it was for the first draft but hope that I can return that first paragraph so it fits my original vision for the story.
I now make a hard copy of every chapter I write and keep them in a folder. The only changes I make are to the files in my computer. I'm sure not every writer has this problem but it works for me.
Thanks for reading!