Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Organize Your Files

Organization is a state of mind. As long as I can catalog everything around me, I feel in control of my life. That’s important because my husband and kids leave me feeling awash in their rush to go from one thing to another leaving things half finished.

As I’ve posted before, I make lists to keep me on task. My husband has done the computer geek thing and setup a network calendar with Mozilla Sunbird so when I add an appointment it shows up on his calendar too. (Before we were keeping three different calendars and missed things.) And I have piles of stuff. Stuff I need, stuff I need to go through, miscellaneous stuff we don’t know what to do with….

But what I really want to talk about are my Files. Yep, an exciting topic. I keep both hardcopy and virtual copies of everything writing related. I use manila folders with the title of the story written in pencil (You never know when the title of your story will change) and the green hanging folders. I print out each draft of the story, every round of comments from critique partners and my own, and any contract paperwork (original and my filled out copies). This may take several manila folders but usually you only need one or two green hanging folders to keep it all together.

Electronically every story has its own folder. It will be housed in a designation folder (In Progress, Needs Edits, Finished, or Published) and have all the subfolders (Contracts, Covers, Edits, Promotional, Reviews, etc.)

This way all the work for one story is together and I can cut and paste things as I need them. I prefer having a tree system for keeping the files separated as opposed to just one folder with a bunch of files. I freeze up looking at a huge list of files. There is too much information to quickly find what I need.

I also participate in a lot of online workshops. Each workshop has its own folder and all the class lessons, photos and other files under that. I print the lessons and then put them in pressboard report covers (dissertations used to go in these – two prong fasteners between two covers) by subject (plot, characters, GMC, world building, etc.) and alphabetized by workshop title. These sit on my bookcase with all my reference books. So anytime I need something I can look in one place.

Remember to always backup your files. You can use a flash drive, remote system, another computer, or paper. If it’s important enough to keep-then it’s important enough to have multiple copies. You never know when the dog will eat your homework….or a worm will corrupt your files.


  1. Now that's just impressive... especially compared to my "everything is in my inbox and I could find it if I REALLY needed it" system. :)

  2. Thanks Sonja

    My husband thinks it's a control issue. And there are times where I'm lazy and have to search for things...but after I do it a few times and I get frustrated so I organize.

    Or waste my writing time depending on the mood of my characters. You can spend too much time organizing. I have to remember that my job is to write...not make everything pretty.

  3. Wow, Beth. You put me to shame. I have a similar system for all of my stuff. The exception is I don't have print outs of all my stories. I just have them backed up in multiple places. Way to go!

  4. Emma - Call it paranoia but what happens if electricity suddenly didn't work anymore? Maybe I read too much sci-fi but I want something on hand in case something really bad happens.

    Also in college there was a big computer program cheating scandal. I learned you have to be able to prove you created something. So if there is ever a copyright question, I want proof of the process I've gone through to create my stories. I've taken CYA (Cover Your A**) to heart.

  5. OMG! You could teach a class on organization and documentation. You have a tree chart...I have a weedy jungle! And your skills could help in my real job as well as my writing. In the medical field, I often need to document everything!

  6. Having your files organized brings a nice feeling. I too love doing it - it helps me find things easier and faster that way. And the idea of always having a backup for your files is always recommended.

  7. Organizing files might be simply putting things in order. But for some, it connotes control over the things around them. It helps them function more efficiently around their house or around their office. Thank you for sharing your file management techniques. And I agree that it's always a must to have a backup. Thank you for your insights!
    Ruby @ Williams Data Management