Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to stay organized if you are a disorganized writer

Tip of the Day: It’s never a bad time of year to get more organized!

Now I’m not sure if it’s an oxymoron for a disorganized writer to talk about organization, but considering I’m trying to reform myself, I’ll give it a try.

I don’t know about you, but I find it tough to be organized as a writer. Sometimes I’m dealing with hundreds of story ideas, multiple drafts of a project, and even two or three books at a time. That’s a lot of computer files, paper, and general confusion. Frequently I find myself knowing I typed a scene, and it takes me hours to find it in the mix of multiple files.

Here’s some things I’m trying to incorporate in my own writing life to stay more organized:

  1. Keeping a “Story Ideas” file. I use this for any inspiration I have much like a writing journal. If I don’t have this file, I wouldn’t remember any ideas or be able to easily combine ideas to make an actual story. I can’t live without this file now and often just keep it open all the time as a reminder to write down ideas. I think when it starts to get bigger I’m going to have to start separating it, but right now it’s just one file that has a massive bullet list. I’ve just recently started categorizing ideas, such as “character” idea, “plot” idea, “setting” idea, “fashion” idea, etc, which should hopefully help when I’m trying to decide stuff for the next book. But I find the more ideas you write down (no matter how small they may be), the more inspired you get!
  2. Rename your new drafts something easy. I don’t do this, and I pay for it frequently. I rename files a lot, only because I hate the thought of loosing something. But I can never find previous draft info easily because I only change the computer file from Draft 1, Draft 2, etc. It might be helpful to try calling the renamed file something longer that’s more descriptive of what you are doing in this draft, which I’ve done a few times and it helps. Or at the very least rename them by date.
  3. Keep all your beginnings in one file (this is probably only necessary if you write a million beginnings like me). I’ve found this helps me see everything as one document and helps me choose and pick the most appropriate one. And if you are super organized you could even label them with your draft numbers. This is seperate from your draft files and only for comparison purposes, but I've found it's easier to decide stuff if it's copied into one file and you can look at it vertically together.
  4. Cuts file: I love this file, because I hate cutting stuff and thinking it will be gone forever. But I’ve found I will rename my drafts less and make them more organized if I have a large “cut file,” which is basically all the info/chapters/scenes/word, etc that get cut. All I do is physically divide each scene with a straight line, so it’s easy to find the separations, since some lines/scenes were cut chapters apart. Then near the end of revisions I just look over the cut file and make sure none of the info needs to be put back in.

What about you? Any tips for us on getting even more organized?

And does anyone else find it weird the minute it gets sunny that you feel the need to be more organized? Or is that just me?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious


DeenaML said...

Organization is like spring cleaning. :) I also have the CUTS file...but will I use it again???

Kate Fall said...

I love your tips Emily! Especially keeping an idea file open. That has to be better than my million index cards all over the place. I think I need to start putting the date in the names of my draft files, too. My descriptive names don't mean that much to me months later.

Emily Marshall said...

Deena, I don't use my cuts file that often either, but every once in awhile, I'll find a piece of info that's important to use. I usually end up rephrasing it in another scene. I just like that the file exists. It makes my mind relax a bit more and then I don't feel I have to rename so many files for fear of loosing something.

Kate, that's a good point about your names not meaning much a few months later. Maybe we need a draft name, date, and description for the file title. Should would make it long, but maybe one of them will trigger a memory when trying to find stuff :)

Lisa Schroeder said...

I like the idea of your idea file, too!

I hardly ever print anything out. Is that weird? I hear of writers who have pages of paper everywhere and I really don't. I'll often print out and read something as a final check, but that's it.

Emily Marshall said...

Okay, Lisa, I don't print stuff that often either. Most of it is computer files that's making me unorganized, since there's like a bazillion of them. But I do print stuff occasionally because I just have to see it to make edits. I rarely print entire files though. I just can't bring myself.

Kristina Springer said...

Cuts file=very interesting. Never thought of this! I just have an ideas file, a notes file, and then I keep revs of everything. Like EspressoRev45. Ha!

Emily Marshall said...

Oh yeah, Tina I do have a notes file too, and LOVE that one. Forgot to mention. But it's nice to have all your changes and notes in one place. Totally.

Christina Farley said...

oh these are good! My files get really messy sometimes and I hate loosing stuff.

And don't forget to save your work in many places. Just in case.