Last week’s blog might’ve seemed absurdly condescending, but it’s astounding the amount of writers who don’t think ahead when it comes to the administration of their files. They’re so focused on the act of writing that it’s almost as if they believe the rest will take care of itself.
It’s not just their filenames, but also where they’ve saved their files. I’ve seen writers who have to trawl through their computer (or computers) to find whatever they’re working on. Did it save in My Documents? Or maybe it was on the Desktop? Again, here lies madness.
It doesn’t cost anything to get organised, and it can save you a lot of heartache.
Firstly, do not save your files directly into My Documents. Operating systems (whether they be PCs or Macs) use My Documents as a default dumping ground for other standards, e.g. My Pictures, My Kindle Stuff, and so on. You don’t want your files where they’re not getting exclusive attention.
Create a folder just for your writing in My Documents. You can call it whatever you like. E.g.
- My Writing
At least then you know exactly where all your work will go. But the segregation doesn’t end there. Because you don’t want to open My Writing and see (using basic filenames) …
- Another Short Story (Draft 1.01).doc
Article (Draft 1.01).doc
Article (Draft 1.02).doc
Blog (Draft 1.01).doc
Book (Draft 1.01).doc
Essay for School (Draft 1.01).doc
Poem I Wrote (Draft 1.01).doc
Short Story (Draft 1.01).doc
Short Story (Draft 1.02).doc
Short Story (Draft 1.03).doc
That’s messy. Also, it gives you no idea about your volume of work in each field. Time to break down your directory structure into further folders. Yes, folders. E.g.
Now we’ve covered most types of writing. We could push it further if we wrote in other fields, e.g. Novellas. As an aside, there is no Novel folder. Why’s it covered just as Books? Because you might’ve written a novel, a nonfiction book, and an autobiography. Each of these could have their own folder, but it seems (even by my insane standards) excessive to have single folders for each field when that folder might contain only one work. Better to have them listed under Books, which covers Novels, Nonfiction, and Autobiographies and any other sort of book you might write. (Of course, if you’ve written ten novels, eight books of nonfiction, and five novellas, you might consider that continuing segregation.)
The point is we’re trying to give everything you’re working on its own logical home. This is something we can keep pushing.
Let’s use our Stories folder as an example. Instead of opening it and seeing all your stories lumped there together, how about giving each story its own folder? E.g.
And so it’d continue, a folder for each story.
For stories, I’d keep all the drafts in their own story folder. So if I open the Finding Truths folder I might see:
- Finding Truths (Draft 1.01).doc
Finding Truths (Draft 1.02).doc
Finding Truths (Draft 1.03).doc
Finding Truths (Draft 1.04).doc
Finding Truths (Draft 2.01).doc
Finding Truths (Draft 2.02).doc
Finding Truths (Draft 2.03).doc
The same applies to our other folders. If we open them, they should contain a folder for each individual piece of work.
Let’s say we open the Books folder – we might see this …
- Fascinating Life of Iguanas, The
For the Method
Other Me, The
Through the Waterfall
The Fascinating Life of Iguanas might be a nonfiction book I’m working on, For the Method and Through the Waterfall novels, The Other Me an autobiography. This is one of the few places I’d rely on my own memory to distinguish them, although if you wanted you specify:
- Fascinating Life of Iguanas, The (Nonfiction)
For the Method (Novel)
Other Me, The (Autobiography)
Through the Waterfall (Novel)
That’s up to you.
With books – if I’ve reworked them extensively – I might give each rewrite/restructure its own folder. E.g.
- Draft 01
That’s just my preferences, hinged on my burgeoning compulsions.
Blogs would have to be ordered differently, because you’d want to keep a structure of the dates they went up in. E.g. You might’ve written a blog ‘Visiting the Great Wall’ on 1st February, ‘Braying for Fun’ on 14th February, and ‘Aardvarks and Me’ on the 28th February. If you let your computer do the sorting, it’ll have:
- Aardvarks and Me
Braying for Fun
Visiting the Great Wall
But that’s not the order they were written in. You could have the computer sort them by date, but again, that’s changing the way the things operate by default for just one directory.
Here, I do finagle, giving each its own folder, but numbering it. E.g.
- 01 – Visiting the Great Wall
02 – Braying for Fun
03 – Aardvarks and Me
This is where we use computers’ numerical sorting against them, (which – no doubt – will thwart their inevitable takeover of the world). The files themselves I wouldn’t (prefix with a) number. They’d be named as they’ve been established. Once they’re in their folders, they sort themselves.
If you have additional material for anything you’ve written, give it its own folder within that piece’s main folder. So, for example …
- Through the Waterfall
And as with naming your files, name the files which have come back from friends. E.g.
- Finding Truths (Draft 1.04) [with Blaise’s comments].doc
Again, it’s logical, it’s orderly – I know whose feedback it contains, and which draft they’re providing feedback on.
There you have it.
It might seem incredibly inane, but it keeps everything in order, and whether that’s what you want or not, it’s what you need.
Keep everything as neatly sorted as possible. You’ll only berate yourself if you can’t find where things have gone, or which file is meant to be which.