Organizing the Writing Files

Most of the time when I Google organizing + Writing, I get a lot of articles and posts on outlining. So not what I’m looking for.

Writing, by its very nature, is paperwork. Like:

  • The story itself
  • Other versions of the story (i.e., drafts, publisher wants it in rich text format, etc.)
  • Correspondence (i.e., submission letters, rejection letters, general correspondence)
  • Contracts

And there’s even more.

It’s also easy to lose paperwork, especially if it’s not labeled correctly.

Because of space limitations, I want to do electronic filing. But what I’ve found out there on organizing isn’t very good. Most of them seem to be left-brained, very terse and with generic one word titles like “Docs.”

I can’t find stuff in folders like that!

I can’t even figure out where to put stuff with folders like that!

So the way everyone says really doesn’t work for me. The result I’m trying to figure out what does work for me because I really need to.

Goal #1

It should really obvious where a file should go. At one of the places where I worked, they redesigned a shared folder structure based on a senior boss’ email. The problem was that person had organized the system with those very terse words, like Meetings, Reports, and Presentations. If you’ve been to meetings, you know that the contents of said meeting could fit in all three folders!

Goal #2

Another goal is to take the time to make sure that what I name both the folders and the files makes sense to me. That’s been a problem at work where I’ve often just saved a file with someone else’s name and that doesn’t always reflect what I know about the document.

On the writing side, I just simply don’t always take the time to name them properly.

Goal #3

Find files without mining through files that are not relevant. Some files do become out of date, but still need to be saved.

Naming Stories

So what I’m trying to do is spell out the full name of the short story. Just normal spaces. None of this lines for spaces nonsense (and I know some programmer out there is horrified). When I read, I hop form word to word. The space is a natural hopping spot. With lines, no hopping. It looks like one word to me. So:

Name of Story

But I also have different versions of the file. I might send it to this magazine, who wants it in .doc format as opposed to .docx. Or another magazine wants no contact information on the manuscript at all. So:

Name of Story vDOC

Name of Story vNO INFO

That way, if I run into another magazine that has the same requirements, I can simply reuse it. (My old method was to delete the extra file, which makes more work for me). The “v” means version.

Files like rejections look like this:

04-08-2015 – Rejection – Publication name – Name of Story

Naming the Folders

The short story folders are in a folder called “# Short Stories.” The number sign is so that the folder will pop into a particular order. In this case, I can’t control the folders other programs install in the Documents file, so this forces a different sort order.

Inside, the short stories are organized simply by their name. In the folder title, it’s the name first, then genre, and subgenre. If I don’t have that on the folder, I won’t necessarily know what genre the story fits. I currently have 39 active stories, so they can really run together.

I thought about breaking it down into genre subfolders, but that started to get more complicated and increased the risk of not being able to find a store because it got stuck in the wrong folder.

The format looks something like this:

Stain of Ghost – Fantasy – Steampunk

Inside the folder, there are more folders, because there can be lots of files. So far, what I have:

  • Submission Versions – This is where I put all the different versions for submitting stories. I just make these up as I need them, so it’s not automatic that I create one without any identifying information or a .DOC file.
  • Record of Submissions – Submission letters, rejection emails, acceptance emails. I also saved the User Agreement on a site I submitted to and saved it here as part of the submission.
  • Contracts – For any contracts associated with the story.
  • Research Notes – Any notes I did for the story.
  • Old Files – That folder gets named Z – Old Files, so it falls to the end of the folder structure. Pretty much, it can be anything that’s not current. I want to be ruthless with this one because it’s really easy to get a bunch of old files in the main folders that I now have to search through to find current file. Just like at work. If I submit a leave slip, once the leave is over, it’s an old file.

I still have to think about what’s going to work for me for the more generic paperwork — author biographies, author bibliography, that kind of stuff.

What’s your filing system like?

7 thoughts on “Organizing the Writing Files

  1. Most of my stuff only exists in digital form and I’m still trying to figure out how best to organize it. It doesn’t help that I have notes spread across multiple programs–Scrivener, Evernote, Tinderbox, and I even have a paper notebook I used to carry around with a bunch of stuff in it. Every once in a while I consolidate some of it, but really I need to make a concerted effort to get it done.


      1. Yeah, I actually use a cloud service to back up my digital stuff and it’s synchronized on more than one computer in case something like that were to happen. I definitely need to type up the stuff I have a paper notebook so that can get backed up also, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I lost it. It’s just something I used to carry around for a while to jot down stray ideas, so it doesn’t represent the bulk of my notes.

        Sorry to hear about the computer failure. I hope you didn’t lose too much.


  2. livrancourt

    Wow…my mind is a little bent right now, which is kind of making me giggle. Your process is so much more precise than mine. Shouldn’t surprise me, though, because pretty much whenever I read about your approach, it’s the opposite of what I would do. I have a thumb drive, and I make a folder for each project, then dump everything to do with that project in there, labeled so I can more-or-less tell what it is. When I get a project to a stopping point, I save it to Dropbox &/or email it to myself so there’ll be copies floating around. If I’m querying a project, I’ll make a spreadsheet so I can see where it’s been sent & what the response was. Unless I forget. Sometimes I forget…



  3. That makes it really easy to lose stuff. I had a computer failure in December. I’d made backups on a flash drive, but I managed to miss two stories. Because I was just dumping all the files into a folder, I also managed to lose a third story after the hard drive failure — and that was backing up to flash drive. I’m having to pay to recover the files from the old computer.

    The other stuff, like the rejections is because, from what I’ve, if I want to go in business as a writer, the more documentation, the better. You never know when you might need it, and the time when it’s really needed is not the time to go on a hunting mission.


  4. Pingback: The Why of Organizing Writing Files | Linda Maye Adams

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