Keeping Stuff Organized 101

17 Mar

This isn’t about how to keep notes for your future self when you’re planning an epic, multi-length saga or an ever-expanding universe, so much acknowledging there’s multiple ways to organize your projects, and I like to make life for future me as easy as possible. I tend to know the status of everything in terms of, “Drafted, Revision, Published” but I can’t remember if I asked this blogger for a review or what day exactly I sent something for submission. This is about what works for me, but there’s always more than one way to organize. I used to be a zipline instructor, and I made up a spreadsheet for our daily equipment check logs, and the others preferred a different format, so I revised until we were more or less satisfied. You may even start out one way and decide another format will work better based on what you do. My preferred format is novels, but if you’re submitting a lot more, say poetry and shorts, you might want to use a very different format because you’ll have a lot more information. I’m going to talk about submission logs specifically using MS Excel, and how they’re useful for both long term and short term projects.

Why do you ask do you need to keep notes, if the important stuff, like the product, I can generally keep track of? If you only have one series or project it’s relatively easy, but you still don’t want to be emailing the same people over and over again for a review, or maybe if you write a sequel, you want to send a copy to the reviewers who liked the earlier book in the series.

First off, divide your work into different categories. Let’s pretend I am promoting a book that’s already out, writing a short story for a contest, and getting ready to promote something coming out in two months.

So these categories may include:

Book Promotion

Submission

Future Promotion

For the promotion, I might have already signed up for a book tour, and the tour might require different articles on your part. I made this basic template to tell me the status of each article and when it’s due. Normally, instead of the blog name I would put a link to the blog or site, but I made these up.

Depending on what you’re doing at that time, you might be only focusing on submitting one product at a time. I write shorts as well as novels, so I go based on the year. Going by the name of the novel works too, but I can look at a glance how I worked in 2020 vs 2019. The best part, is if some houses only have a limited submission window, say, February 1-28 every year for that genre, I can make a note at the beginning of the log to remind future me to have the product ready as per the submission guidelines.

For me, finding a publishing house can take some time, so I like to know who publishes what and, if it’s for an anthology or a contest, what the submission time frame is.

As with the above example, these are all made up. Tower of Obsidian was published February 2013, and Chimera is still waiting for me to fix it.

As you can see, the above is only meant for me, so I’m not worried too much about consistency in the dates.

Future Promotion is a little different, especially if your product is in the hands in the publisher. I have watched expected publication dates fly by with no control on my part, but let’s assume that I have complete control of the work. I might decide to ask the Book Promotion Company to do a cover launch, or a preview of a chapter, or something. Basically, this would be drafting a game plan.

You can make up an excel spreadsheet if you’re needing to take your time to come back to a project, but it’s essentially leaving yourself a note. If, however, I were to stumble across someone else’s unfinished project, I might divide their work into categories.

Oh Yeah? What about keeping your work organized in Portfolios?

I’ll be the first one to admit that I have several projects in hard copy, beta-read, that really should be revised and submitted. I’m incredibly guilty of philandering with a new idea and saying, “Oh, I’ll edit it after I’m done this draft”. So how do you keep track of projects?

The nice thing about MS Word is that it doesn’t care, and you can abandon a project for years and come back to it. MS Word also dates the last time you revised it, but it can be problematic if you open something and save an earlier copy, and you don’t know which is the most current file. I don’t think a screenshot is super important here, so basically how I organize my writing is as follows:

Main Drive: WRITING

First Set of Sub Categories:

Mine

Ron’s

Niece’s

Others

R.J. Hore is my beta reader, and my niece has joined me in making stories. If someone sends me a lot, they have a chance of getting their own subfolder. Ron’s stuff is mostly me asking questions back for his revision, but if he needs me to look over something quick (or vice versa) we’ll send each other emails. In general, we print out and swap manuscripts in person. Yes, COVID has made it tricky but we manage.

In Mine, I then have:

Short Stories

Novels

Non-Fiction

Blog Posts

Within Novels, there’s further subcategories because I put entire series together and just have subfolders within. I tend to keep series together, and each novel, novella or short would have its own folder within that. If it was something that stood on its own, like Dreams of Mariposa, inside I would have the main novel files, but then I would have further subcategories:

Unused

Legal

Extra

Unused would be scenes I cut entirely or rewrote, when I select all and cut.  I tend to just leave them, but I like having the ideas handy if I want to use them in a different project. They’re messy and raw, but let’s just say that a scene that took too long in another book got shortened, and I used a scene in Titan’s Ascent that I really wanted to use in a different novel, but acknowledge that the beast was long enough without it.

Legal is my query, synopsis, even copies of the contract would be here.

Extra would be notes for myself. This would be like, what color Aaron’s horse is and if the name has any significance. In particular with Tower of Obsidian, I wrote down pronunciation and notes Ron would send me. For instance, Kale and Aaron were knights in the first draft, but Ron pointed out that knights didn’t technically exist in Ireland until centuries after the end of the Viking age. They had men-at-arms and warriors, but let’s pretend the publishing process didn’t go nearly as quickly as I assumed. If I found a publisher later and an editor asked, “Why aren’t these guys knights?” I could easily turn around and reference my notes, then find supplementation to explain to them.

When I start editing with someone else, I learned the hard way that editors are human and make mistakes. Make a subcategory with the date. “Feb 2018 Edits” or “March 2018 edits” might be fine in the title of the file, but I want to be certain I’m not redoing work.

And to clarify, here’s what a series like Rogue healer would look like:

Writing – Mine – Novels – Rogue Healer :Witchslayer’s’ Scion

                                                                           :Magus’ Gambit

                                                                           :Titan’s Ascent

                                                                           :Underman

Clear as mud? Obviously this isn’t the only way to do things, and you can make spreadsheets for your stock, keeping track of expenses and however you find them to be a useful tool. Just keep your receipts if you’re going to write off anything; last thing you need is to be audited over parking.

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