Thursday, April 14, 2016

Where's that file??

Organizing Your Writing Projects

Before I founded Writers’ Wings, I was an organizer, helping people declutter and establish sustainable systems of staying organized. So when my writer clients say they struggle with being able to retrieve the latest version of the poem or short story that they want to send me, naturally I want to help.

The biggest complaint I hear is the difficulty of being caught in a transition period between files or binders of printed work, pieces that are written in Word and are filed on one computer or another, and ones that are written on (or comparable cloud technology) that they can access from any device, AND the ones that are on back up drives.

Some work is replicated in a variety of places, others only in one place. And it is frustratingly easy to lose track. For poets this is especially challenging, because they tend to produce a much higher volume of individual projects. Essayists and short story writers can have a folder (hard copy or digital) for each project. And writers of longer works are usually focused on only one project at a time, so the organizing is more internal to the project itself, rather than finding it amidst other work. Let’s look more closely at the various aspects to consider.

Do you write in a notebook or on a digital device?

If, like many writers, especially of poetry, you scribble your thoughts in an ongoing notebook dedicated to writing, at what point do you type it up to share? When it is fully edited and ready for the world? Or do you continue to work on it once it is a digital file?

First, the notebook should be dated on the front cover so you can more easily retrieve something. As you take a piece into a digital life, be sure to check it off in the notebook and if possible note the final title of the piece. If you don’t like clutter and don’t care about your ‘archive for posterity’, then once you have fully checked off everything that might be of use, you can tear off the covers and recycle the notebook.

If you write and/or edit on a device, (whether in Word or on a cloud) and if you create multiple versions, then a folder for that piece is a good idea.

Here is an orderly way to keep your writing organized.

In Documents or My Documents create a Writing folder.
Within that folder create a subfolder for each of your genres-Poetry, Fiction, Memoir, Essay, Nonfiction and so on.
Now, let's say you've got a poem called “Geese” and you have several versions of it.
Within your Poetry folder you’ll want to create a subfolder, perhaps Birds or Nature. Then within that folder, create a folder called Geese. That is where you will save your versions of your poem.
If that sounds like your current work is buried too deep to remember to work on it, then keep the most current file on your desktop, but DO file it away when you are done. And if you forgot which version you were working on because you didn’t update the name, remember that you can always sort by Date Modified and that should lead you to the most current version.

If you have determined that the latest version is absolutely ‘it’, you can trash the previous versions to avoid confusion. Again, if you are interested in your ‘archive for posterity’ these previous versions are insight into your process, so you might keep them in a separate archives folder. But mark the final version clearly.

If you only type up your work when it is in its final edited stage, then you don’t need a folder but do file it in a way that you can find it again.

And always be sure that your work is backed up!!!!

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