I may have the messies when it comes to everyday clutter, but without an underlying system of structure and organization, I would go mad. I’m the girl with dust bunnies peeking from under the sofa, but the spices in my cabinet and books on my shelves are arranged alphabetically (mostly – I do have a bulging shelf with to-be-read books). I can handle general chaos, but pinched for time, I know exactly where to find what I’m looking for.
Parlay that into writing, and I’ve used the same principles. Only this time I’ve reduced it down to three letters of the alphabet: F – L – S - sort of like floss, if it will help you remember.
F – FOLDERS: Both real and virtual.
- I put everything in folders and label them– conference notes, character worksheets, plotting diagrams, future ideas, expenses (one folder per year), contract and publisher correspondence, etc. They can be kept in a file cabinet or cardboard file boxes, with like items grouped together or alphabetized (your choice).
- Frequently used folders: passwords, website navigation instructions, church phone numbers, and any current writing project folders go in a basket next to my writing space – my recliner!
- A few times a year, I go through the “messy” piles I’ve let accumulate, sort and file. AND TOSS all the stuff I will never look at again.
Virtual Folders: These come in several varieties.
- I make a new bookmark on my browser bar when I start a new book. All research materials are bookmarked to that tab and easy to track down when needed (Yes, I know there is writing software that allows this, too, so this is just a similar approach).
- Document files in your word-processing program: Create folders for different aspects of your WIP: one for the document itself, one for publisher correspondence (especially when edits and other files are being created such as acknowledgements or discussion questions), and one for marketing (different folders for each book). This eliminates having to scroll through scads of single documents when searching for what you need.
- Email Folders: Most email programs allow you to sort mail by folders (some even have smart folders). You can set rules so that incoming mail automatically goes into the intended folder. It helps prioritize which mail you need to check first, and messages from your agent or editor or critique partner don’t get lost in the flood of mail.
L – LISTS: I’ve always been a list maker. Nothing is too big or too small to be jotted on the list!
- Long-term goals. Yearly goals. Monthly goals. These belong on their own list, preferable in a notebook or a file that you review and revise periodically.
- Short-term goals. A weekly or daily list of current projects and errands that must be addressed now or in the near future. This is usually scribbled out and added to daily as a reminder of what needs to be done. I include both writing tasks (blog posts, word count goals, notes to write and send, etc.) and personal or family tasks (appointments, graduation cards to buy, pay bills, do laundry, etc.) I cross off each item when it’s done. There’s something very gratifying about accomplishments, so whether they’re big or small, you get a sense of doing something. Making the list also helps ensure that you haven’t overlooked an important task.
- Calendar: I check this daily and look ahead for the next week or two when making my list and include upcoming events. Syncing the calendar on your computer with your phone allows you to schedule lunches or other appointments wherever you are.
- Clump together errands and do as many as possible at one time to ensure more quality writing time.
S – SPREADSHEETS: What would we do without them?
- For Writing: My friend Myra Johnson made me a believer in using spreadsheets to keep track of my writing. You can view and download her Novel Planning Workbook Excel Sheets here: http://myrajohnson.com/Myra_Johnson,_Author/Writing_Helps.html. The beauty of a spreadsheet is that once you have a template (master), you just “save as” for your new project and you’re good to go.
- For Marketing: I tried something new with the release of Stardust and made a spreadsheet to keep track of blog posts I was committed to, appearances, and articles to write. I included the following headings: NAME (Blog or event), email contact, Type of request, Date Info Rec’d, Due Date, Date Sent, Post Date, and whether a giveaway was included. When I sent an article or post, I changed the font color to indicate I was finished. This was easy to add to as new requests came in, and I had a quick overview to see where I was scheduled for the day. It was a HUGE help!
- Database: Again, an important document for writers to have. Once it’s set up, it’s easy to add new contacts for your newsletter or mailings for special events. Update frequently to avoid panic when it’s time for a new mailing or to announce an event.
There is no single right way to organize your writing and your time, but find what works for you. I constantly revise and try to find new ways to organize, so like they say, I’m a Work-In-Progress. I’d love to hear any tips you might have, too.
How about you? Do you have any tips to stay organized? Be sure and let us know in a comment below.
Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. A child of the fifties and sixties, she recalls it as a glorious time when the summers were lazy, colors were brighter, and music filled her heart. Carla’s desire is to take readers back to the times when they knew they were loved, to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.”
Her award-winning novels include Chasing Lilacs and Broken Wings. Stardust is her newest release. She loves readers and participating in book club discussions. You can learn more about Carla and ways to connect with her at www.carlastewart.com.
In the bayou country of East Texas, the neon sign of the STARDUST stands silent, no longer beckoning visitors to its cozy cottages. But two days after Georgia Peyton buries her unfaithful husband, a curious thing happens: the STARDUST sign sputters to life and winks at her. Sustained by a memory from the past and determined to build a new life, Georgia acquires the STARDUST with hopes of breathing new life into it too.
But the guests who arrive aren't what Georgia expects: her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past. Dreams of a new life are crippled amid the havoc. Georgia's only hope is that she can find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxie to face the future. One thing is certain: under the flickering neon of the STARDUST, none of their lives will ever be the same.
You can find me here:
My website: www.carlastewart.com
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/#!/ChasingLilacs
Amazon link to Stardust:
Stardust Video Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp4VwmNvTbc