Monday, January 4, 2010

Organization Tips for Writers

There's lots of information on the tinterwebs about organizing (or "organising," for my UK/Irish/Australian readers) office space and your story, so here's five general tips for overall organization. I hope these are general and easy enough to actually follow. (And yes, that is a bacon-covered briefcase at right, why do you ask?)

1. Have a good work space.
This is a simple one. I actually do most of my writing on the couch in the living room, but I'm able to do it without a lot of distraction because I write after my whippersnapper goes to bed. Wherever you do it, you should make sure you have space, you're comfortable (as in, don't be all carpel tunnely), and you won't be disturbed.

2. Keep your files in order.
For the people who write longhand or on typewriters...well, you have a whole separate set of challenges, but you should keep your papers marked, clipped, and in neat stacks. For the rest of us modern folk who use computers, create a dedicated folder on your hard drive, and set up folders within that to contain all the little bits of information that you collect in the process of writing your story. I have one master folder called Writing, then within that folder names for my different books. Within a book folder, I have the following folders:
  • Research obviously contains my bits of research--mostly in Word documents.
  • Snipped contains all those bits of my story that I cut, but didn't quite want to delete. I almost never go back into this folder, but it helps to keep it.
  • Pieces are the chopped up bits of my story that I submit for critique.
  • Plan contains the character files, the outline for the book, the chapter summary, and other plot-related documents.
3. Track your submissions.
This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but it's a lot of work to track your agent/editor submissions. I keep an Excel file with columns for the agent name, agency, agency address, e-mail, and any tidbit I should know about the agent. A column lists the date I submitted, and one after that lists the date the response came in and what it was. This really helps keep track of who you submitted to--no, not to look back on, but for future submissions. I have only queried one project once ever, so my list is now outdated, and I'll have to go through and update and I'm not sure how easy that will be. Stay tuned for a post someday about that.

4. Invest in a good, core collection of writing books.
I'm not talking Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (although you should probably have that, too), I'm talking about a few books on plot and story structure that you can run to when you're in the pits and stuck on something. Don't buy every book ever, just the ones that make sense to you.

5. Save your critiques.
Both hard and soft copy critiques should be labeled and stored in a place where they don't look like clutter, but where you can get at again when you need to. And you will need to. You should look at old critiques for a story during final editing so that you can consider everything with perspective.


T. Anne said...

Tracking my submissions is the thorn in my side, but I must do this. Thanx.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I haven't seen a recommendation for critique saving (although I do). That's a great one for the list! :-)

coffeelvnmom said...

I just started using Query Tracker, and I must say, I like it a lot! I also have folders - color-coded ones - though my subjects are slightly different, it makes a big difference when trying to find what I need in a hurry! As for my workspace, it's usually either my bed, the couch, the armchair outside... whatever I'm in the mood for!

sierra godfrey said...

Thanks guys! Hope these help...and QUery Tracker is another interesting tool to be sure.

Meghan Ward said...

Great tips! And I LOVE the bacon-colored briefcase! Another great tool for keeping track of research, etc. on your computer is Scrivener - a fabulous program although I have only recently begun to use it, so I don't know all the ins and outs yet.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Is Scrivener free, Megan?

Meghan Ward said...

It's not free. I think I paid $20 or $30 for it. It's worth it, though.

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Sierra, I'm always a sucker for a story about organizing my work. I freelance for lots of different magazines, so it could all get pretty confusing if I didn't have a system. Now if I could just get my piles of paper under control!

(PS For some reason, I can comment on this post but not your current post. Wonder why the glitch isn't on this one as well.)

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