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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Quick and Dirty Tip For Organizing Computer Writing Files

Photo: Organize at Creative Commons

Between writing essays, novel chapters, articles, cover letters, short stories, and drafts of the note explaining why I snapped and killed everyone, I used to have a hell of a time finding anything after it fell off my "recent documents" list.

My current method seems to be working beautifully, so I thought I'd share. When saving computer files, I put a category name first, then give a few words of description on the subject so I know what it's about.

So under articles I have:
Article Harvey Girls
Article Horseradish
Article Top Ten Places to Hunt Fossils

Under essays I have:
essay my grandmother loved you with food
essay breastfeeding
essay london tube adventure
essay I suck as the toothfairy

Some of my other current categories include:
article idea
business card
cover letter
essay idea
press release
query letter
short story
short story idea
novel draft
novel idea

No one has to understand the description after the category name but me - thank god. And this system makes it easy to look up alphabetically in my files. So describe things the way your own twisty brain works after you put it in a category, and if you're the one reading it, you're golden.

The Lazy Way to Organize
Too busy to sit down and find all your old files and rename them? Every time you open a previously created piece of writing to work on it (or when you accidentally open the wrong file thinking it's the piece you're looking for), rename the sucker. Eventually most of your stuff will be refiled.

Warning: Don't describe files by the publication you're sending them to. I made this mistake early on and then ended up selling multiple articles to one publication. So "Article Missouri Life" didn't do me much good as an identifier after I had more than one accepted at the magazine. Stick to content descriptions. Then it doesn't matter if you send it multiple places; you'll still be able to find it.

And when an "essay idea" develops into a polished, heartbreaking work of staggeringly finished genius, I hit "save as" and change the category to "essay." There are probably better ways to do it, but this works for my lazy self. Anyone else got tips on figuring out filing your writing?


Lisa R. said...

I go one step beyond and organize everything into folders first: features, essays, query letters, book proposal, etc. You can also usually make sub folders within each folder, then label each document within each folder.

It's helpful, while still in draft form, to put the document's electronic name at the top of the first page (remove before submission).

Once in a while, print out the document list.

Tricia Grissom said...

Excellent idea. I need to do some spring cleaning on my computer and that will help me organize further.

Why do you print out the document list? Do you keep it in a paper file?