Sometimes the simplest advice is the best. Writers hear so many great tips about craft, publishing, and marketing. Today, I’m going to give you a tip that applies to all three areas. If you don’t have an electronic filing method, begin today. Don’t wait until you spend more time looking for misplaced information than you spend writing. Because eventually, an unorganized electronic filing system (or no filing system) will feel like looking into a black hole.
You probably already have some files on your computer, so don’t begin by trying to organize EVERYTHING. You’ll feel like I do when cleaning out my attic–overwhelmed and despondent. Begin by organizing your newest project. Then slowly, you can organize one old project a week.
Before you begin, decide where to keep your folders and files. I use Dropbox. Some folks use Google Drive. Others use flash drives. I prefer cloud storage to removable devices. Let’s not argue about this point here. We want to get to the meat of this article–organization.
First rule: Every file must go into a folder. Think of this as putting your clothing away. You don’t throw clean socks onto the bedroom floor until you’re ready to wear that pair. You place each item inside a drawer (let’s hope). You have a sock drawer, t-shirt drawer, and money drawer. I was kidding on that last one. No money drawer in my bedroom. So, place each file in a folder.
I’m going to advise you to go with your gut on this and organize in a way that matches your brain. Let’s examine my brain. Are you holding on tight? Okay. I begin a new folder for each book. Inside that folder, I place more folders. I make new folders with the following names: Research, Critiques, Draft, Final, Artwork, Marketing, Excerpts, and Archives. You can see that I have quite a few folders, and I use them all.
Second Rule: Accurately name your files. I name files inside each folder to reflect the contents. For instance, inside “Marketing,” you will find one file with upload details. That particular filename uses this pattern: BookTitle.UploadDetails.docx. If that file was only named with the title of the book, I’d waste time by opening it to examine the contents. Also, I can move a file (maybe I’d like to place all EXCERPTS for all books in one folder instead of by book folder) and I can identify the new file no matter where I place it.
Third Rule: Take a deep breath. You can organize files and folders one project at a time. This is the method to my writer’s madness. It saves me time. And we all can use more of that.