Hi Pear! I have a question I forgot to ask you on chat during Nano, so here: How do you organise your different writing projects? Do you use a spreadsheet, a regular folder with files in them, a notebook, ...? I intend to organise mine, but I realised I wasn't sure where to start and on what base. Thanks in advance :)
Honestly, if you took a look at my room, my Evernote, my computer, and my Scrivener, you would be more inclined to wonder if I’m the right person to ask about organization. This turned out really obnoxiously long and I’m sorry.
I have a box in my closet of things from middle school and high school that I keep because I’m sentimental about them, but I’ve progressed far enough that they no longer hold much inspiration for me. They’re history, a look at how far I’ve come, and they’re important. I no longer have the files for them, so there they stay, taped up, with shoes on top of the box.
There’s a pile of notebooks–I don’t mean nice, artsy notebooks, I mean ugly spiral-bounds–beside my desk full of notes about my current WIP series. While most times I write on a computer, I sometimes think things through better on paper, so I plan and worldbuild in notebooks that aren’t special in any way. These notes stay in these books until I refer to them enough times, and get frustrated enough when I’m away from them and need them, that they sometimes get transferred into the computer. If they’re notes on an existing long project, they get retyped into the project’s Scrivener. If it’s not a long project or doesn’t exist yet, they stay there. Eventually, I either recycle the notebook because I (A) have all the information in another format so it’s no longer needed, or (B) clearly am not going to do anything with it. That decision for (B) doesn’t happen for about three years. If I keep looking at an idea and getting excited, I’ll keep it past that, but I have to feel something about it. If I don’t, it’s a dead-end, unlikely to ever become a project, and not something I’ll probably ever be inspired to write. Dead ends either get recycled or stuck in the box in my closet.
A personal note about fancy, artsy, nice notebooks: I don’t use them. They’re too small for my personal liking, the bindings are always in the way for me, and I don’t keep a journal, so mostly they sit in a drawer looking pretty. Despicable. I purposefully buy boring, ol’ top-bound notebooks so I don’t feel like I’m desecrating something pretty with bad writing. Most times I keep one notebook for each project, but if I don’t think the notes about that project will take the whole notebook, I have been known to go to the back and write on the back sides of the sheets if some new something hits me and I don’t have another notebook on hand.
On my computer, I have large, novel-sized projects in Scrivener. Each book has its own Scrivener project, and within that there’s a main folder for the book’s text itself. That folder is split into more folders, one for each of the main events of my 10-point plot model, and then scenes are broken down within those. Those scene documents are movable, so I drag and drop those into the plot point folders depending on where I feel it belongs in the overall outline. Alongside the manuscript folder, there’s a folder for world-building notes for that project. These are unorganized but titled relevantly. It includes pictures, notes transferred from the notebooks, and notes-to-self files. Each novel’s project has world-building notes relevant to that book only, so the religion that’s first introduced and outlined in the text of book two will have the notes on that religion, not book one or three that doesn’t feature that religion as prominently. I don’t keep character notes, letting them grow in-text as I write rather than filling out character questionnaires.
Outside of Scrivener and my big novel projects, I have two folders on my computer. One is from when I was beta reading for some folks, and they were beta reading for me. It has the PDFs of my rough drafts of my novels, but nothing else. The other folder is labeled “Writing” and inside are two other folders: “Prose” and “Poetry.” Inside Prose are short stories and story starts. There’s a folder of published things within each of those, including where and when it was published. There’s a submissions folder within each of those with where and when it was submitted. Inside the submissions folder there’s a rejected folder to make sure I don’t resubmit the same version to the same place. The actual short stories and story starts that I’ve not done anything with aren’t organized in any special way. If there are a few that go together, they’ll get a folder with a “series” title, and probably eventually a Scrivener project.
I also utilize Evernote when I’m writing away from home, and that’s a mess. Because I use it for short periods of time, it has very little in it except what I’m working on at that moment (like right now it has my NaNo in it from when I’d write at work). That’s set up very much like the Scrivener set-up: A Notebook for the whole project, then documents inside that are labeled for where they go in an outline, inspiration, and notes-to-self. There’s a separate Notebook for miscellaneous stuff, but if I haven’t worked on it in a year, it either gets transferred to a document on my computer or deleted.
I’m also a firm believer in naming documents so I know what I’m looking at, which is why I don’t bother organizing much beyond just putting short stories and story starts into a folder on my computer. Something as distinctive as “Sirensong,” I’m going to remember that later and know whether I finished it or not. I used to title short stories and story starts with their completion status: “Remarian Castle (unfinished)” or “Please Forgive Me (complete)” or “Bent Feathers (v4).” I don’t do that much anymore unless I’ve sent something out to beta readers. Seeing as I haven’t had betas in several years, there’s only one version of most things.
It also depends on if I’m planning on publishing it over on silvershears (my trashy personal writing blog). If I am planning on releasing it there, it’s a complete draft or a complete installment of a serialized story, and lives in the drafts folder of tumblr.
In short, I’m a mess, but it works for me. And that’s the point. You need to find a system that works for you. Writing is an inherently messy business, so try things. I’m a mostly digital writer–if I hand-write, it gets transferred to a computer as soon as I feel like it’s complete or I no longer have the drive to write on it–so much of my systems are digital. Find what works best for you. If you write a lot from different places, consider finding online cloud-hosted systems like Evernote and Google Drive to keep your stuff available from any device anywhere. If you tend to write on paper, invest in some filing folders that you can label and keep in one place. If you mostly write in one place and digitally, find a system of folders on your hard drive that works for you. If you’re not planning on publishing, you won’t need my system of tracking that. Whatever you do, it must be tailored for you.
Here are some articles from writers talking about their own struggles with organization that may be of some assistance when thinking about it:
I always forget in Le Morte D’Arthur how early Mordred shows up–I’m accustomed to dwelling over the TH White narrative where he’s the young harbinger of Camelot’s coming destruction, the rising action and not the exposition.
but Malory has him around for the whole thing, one of Arthur’s first knights, before even Lancelot, riding out with his brothers and lending Dagonet his shield to joust with, mocking Percival with Uncle Kay, the whole mess with Lamorak…like, he is A Part of It