Tuesday, June 2, 2009

O is for Organization

It’s hard to keep writing projects organized when working on several things simultaneously, but without some sort of plan, productivity can come to a crashing halt.

Successful writers – freelancers, columnists, poets, novelists, essayists, or a combination of several of these types – have a system for keeping their work on track. Many tout the benefits of submission tracking software or websites, while others prefer working with a hard copy such as a writer’s calendar book. Either way, busy writers benefit from having a reliable system in place instead of trying to remember where work was sent or when a first draft or article is due.

Making a tickler file for keeping deadlines and ideas straight is one method of taming the chaos which regularly threatens to invade writers’ desks. Maintaining a production file in our workspace encourages the productivity flow. When projects and their parameters are compiled in a neat and accessible fashion, we spend less time searching for pertinent information. General orderliness helps the inspiration muse do her magic.

Whatever system is used, a handy reference, calendar and idea pile will always be nearby. When writer’s block threatens, opening up a production file full of ideas, quotes, research notes, and/or project due date reminders jump starts the creativity motors.

Filing systems can be housed in word processing documents, in expandable folders, on spreadsheet programs, in a recipe file box or good notebook set aside for just that purpose. For travelers, a zippered binder will fit inside a laptop case for carrying ease.

The type of production file a writer chooses is less important than being dedicating to using it. Organizing thoughts, ideas, data, and deadlines benefits writers of all genres, no matter how long they’ve been in the writing biz.

Typical categories for Work in Progress (WIP) entries might include: Title of Work; Themes & Settings, Plot (Opening, Middle, and End), Threads, Character Traits & Personality, Physical Descriptions, Education and Profession, Synopsis, Outline and Miscellaneous.

Important data for each project should contain detailed contact information, expectations, submission deadlines and anything pertaining to the successful completion of the project. Having a place to store “extras” for each task, such as photos, magazine pictures, ideas for future use, research, sketches and notes is also helpful.

Organization keeps writers in the writing groove. It makes for productivity and saves time. Story ideas develop with more ease, and deadlines don’t fly past. With discipline, sweat equity and a workable production filing system in place, writing enthusiasm isn’t far behind.

With all that said, my home office still looks more like this, but it's on my To Do list to remedy soon:

Thank you for voting in the Whose Right poll. I am now officially entitled to a fine meal and an admission from my friend that she is wrong about the humanity of agents! :)

What's your best organizing tip?


Scott said...

Angie - how'd you get that picture of my desk? I mean, seriously.

My desk does look like that, but I'm more organized than I seem on first glance. Every writing project has it's own folder within Word and/or Excel if I need a character spreadsheet where all documents related to the project go. I also have pretty purple folders (we were getting rid of them at work and I'm all about recycling) for each project as well for any loose notes I take throughout the writing process.

For querying - since they're mostly emailed, I just use the calendar feature in Outlook to mark them for follow-up. It works for me.

Oh, and congrats on being right!


Angie Ledbetter said...

Your desk matches mine then, Scott. But there's method to our madness, right? Have you tried Query Tracker yet? It's on my To-Do list to research. And, yeah, it's nice to be right sometimes. I'll enjoy that meal! :)

kimmi said...

Hey, that's my desk!!!!! : D

Terri Tiffany said...

Ok--so when I started reading this, I thought "Is she really this organized?" Whew--you worried me cause I doubt I will ever get that close!

Angie Ledbetter said...

LOL, Kimmi. I'm beginning to think the creative soul needs certain messy piles in order to create. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Terri, never fear -- a few junk piles keep the soul happy and the creativity flowing. hehe

Jill Kemerer said...

I love being organized, but right now my organization has slipped out the window. I really need to go through my files and office drawers.

ChristaCarol said...

I'm organized in every aspect of my life but myself (my kids, house and husband come first before I realize it). My writing stuff is spread out between digital voice recorder and journals, and my pile O' writing stuff behind my printer because I keep forgetting to make a file I tell myself I'll make. Good stuff though, certainly inspires me to try harder!

Lady Glamis said...

Ahh, organization. Well, I work only on one WIP at a time. That will change one day, I am sure. But this post is filled with some awesome tips and advice. Thank you! I can put these into play even with one WIP. :)

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

Alas something to aspire to!
I have to have something to organize first.
But I am slowly getting my feet wet.

Great ideas and suggestions.


Red Bird said...

Well, this was a great post! I learned a lot!
I'm pretty good at keeping files for everything and I feel fairly organized... I date and number everything, too.
Having said all this, I know I have a long way to go!
Thanks, Angie!

Marguerite said...

Great post, Angie. My secret to the madness is making a list for everything and having a file for everything. With four websites to maintain, five social/business networks, six emails, eight online offices, and my blog, it would be absolute chaos, without organization. Plus, I'm a Virgo, which helps a lot!

Jessica said...

I'm not sure I'm ornanized but I'm not messy either. No tips here. Just take care of stuff right away and then you won't have a mess later. :-)

Melissa Marsh said...

Organizing? What's that? ;-)

I make lists. And I have a calendar - a real, bonfa fide desk calendar that I use a PEN on and not a keyboard!

Sharla said...

I used to use Query Tracker, but the submission list was so "busy" and crammed looking, that it bothered me to go there. Stimulus overload I guess! LOL. So I started an Excel spreadsheet to track all mine, and that works better for me. I'd love to have an actual space where I could have something physical in front of me, but since my writing life consists of whereever I can grab a chair away from noise and sit with my laptop, it all has to be electronic.

Debbie said...

Honey, I can give all kinds of tips but not organizing ones! At least not right now. I am drowning here:)

Anonymous said...

Who needs to organize. The computer was supposed to help. Ha.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Writers? Organized? I think I remember being that way once, long ago. All those files of each project and my recipe card submission box? That's what that stuff is. Guess I better go back in that room and refamiliarize myself. Is that a word?

Angie Ledbetter said...

Glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry for lack of individual replies. I've been working/planting in the yard for the last several days.

Deb Shucka said...

Great advice which I'm going to need to be paying special attention to here very soon.

Jennifer said...

lol... I have learned there is organization to chaos. Just ask my coworkers, they know where every single paper/project/lost letter is. And the funny thing, it's contagious.
Sharla- I understand about the laptop! My 'desk' currently is a very large black backpack. Can't find the purple one...

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