I was originally going to title this post “How to Organize Your #Amwriting Life” but honestly I don’t want to tell anyone what to do in their own writing process. So, I am going to share how I organize my writing life with the hope that you can find even a single gem that might help you in your own writing life. I’ve included a spreadsheet template that is a copy of what I use for my own submission tracking (found at the end of this article).
Okay, I’m not going to lie – I am nowhere near as organized as I should be when it comes to what I write with. If I don’t have a notebook on me, I’ll use my tablet or phone. When I sit down to write for an extended amount of time, I use my laptop. But even then, I have separate files that are grouped together based on the project. My tablet has OneNote, in which I organize my projects in notebooks; these notebooks connect with OneNote on my laptop so I can access my projects there as well. I use Word on my phone and laptop, which I upload to Dropbox. I use Dropbox on every device I come in contact with, so my documents are everywhere and I can pick them up anytime.
Keep your writing space clean of everything that is not writing-related. I first read this advice in the book How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours by Andrew Mayne. And this is sound advice. When something is on your desk that is not related to writing or your project, that opens the door to possibility that your mind will wander on something – anything – else. When you sit down to write, your mind needs to be protected from all distraction.
I only keep a few ornaments on my desk – my porcelain Rapunzel, my fake-butterfly-in-a-jar-that-moves-when-I-tap-the-jar (if there are batteries in it), my butterfly lamp, and my Galileo thermometer. Everything else I keep in drawers, for I need an ample amount of space on my desk to fit both a laptop and computer. Too easily, I want to place every cute thing I own on the desk, but then I don’t have enough room to write. Don’t fall in this trap; pick a few items that you either absolutely need, or items that give your writing space some personality. For me, I chose a few curios that give my desk a personality, so every time I sit down at my desk, I psychologically trick myself into thinking “this space is for working.”
When writing poetry, I have a process that I’ve used since I started writing poetry. The poem starts in my notebook or cell phone or scrap of paper. The poem is then edited and makes its way into my poetry journal. If I want to submit the poem, I go back to the poetry journal and type it in Word, making any necessary edits as I go. By the time it is typed, the poem has been edited at least twice by this point. Each project has their own folder or file in my Dropbox.
For novels and novellas, I start with an outline. I usually handwrite the outline first, so I have the freedom to draw out ideas and reorganize with arrows and any other doodles that make sense to me. Once the outline is complete, I type it out in chronological order of plot points. I always keep the outline with me – in Dropbox, in my computer, and printed out. I handwrite parts of the work-in-progress and type others, synthesizing the two formats later. I have a folder specifically for novellas and another for novels.
The Submission Record
Primarily, I use Google Sheets on Google Drive. On this spreadsheet, I have spaces for the title and format of the work submitted, which press I submitted it to, the date for when I submitted it, the submission status, and any notes that I may need to remember referring to the submission circumstances. This table reminds me what I submitted, where I submitted to, and when. Under this table, I have notes to remind me where I want to submit work in the future, and what works I want to submit. This is one of the most valuable tools I have, and I’ve created a template for you to use for your own work – feel free to download it and customize it for your own writing process.
Every writer practices their art in their own way, and finding the process that works best for you can help your schedule – and your whole writing life – be more productive.
How do you organize your writing process? I’d love to read about it!