It’s a Mess: Organizing Electronic Files

With several writing projects now underway, I am embarrassed to admit my electronic files are a mess. From story ideas and outlines to character descriptions and drafts, I never realized how much “stuff” would be accumulated at this point of my writing journey. It is becoming more difficult to keep all of the files organized so I decided to search for some new strategies. Here are two posts with items easy to implement into any project.

A post by Sarah Selecky titled, “Organizing your story drafts: a 3-step tutorial” provided very practical tips for how-to organize story drafts using dropbox. Even though the tutorial was written with short stories in mind, I think the overall concept will be helpful for any type of writing project saved on electronic files. I especially like the suggestion of naming files and subfolders according to steps used in the cooking process (i.e. fresh ingredients, cooking, finished, etc.) which is always a plus.

Another post on the Organized Writer blog titled, “Organizing Electronic Files”, had great information on naming files and stressed to be consistent with everything associated with that file. Good examples were provided on the blog as a reference.

Time to put a few of these strategies into place and get organized. If you have a great idea for organizing your files, I would love to hear about them.

The Hidden “Quirks” of Writing

You have a huge project to complete and a deadline looms. It might be a writing project, a paper for school, or a work assignment. So what happens? You plop down in front of the computer and get prepared to work. But before starting, there is something special you need to begin. If this one thing (or several) is not around you, or this activity isn’t completed beforehand, your productivity will suffer and the final product will be unsuccessful.  Does this sound familiar?

These little habits, or maybe annoyances, are also known as quirks. According to Merriam-Webster, a quirk is defined as, “An unusual habit or way of behaving.”

The scenario mentioned earlier is what I face each time I start a project at work or begin writing. I have several quirks I don’t mind sharing and can easily be summed up by the acronym M.m.m.m.m.

Confused? Stay with me for just another minute, I promise, I will explain.

My quirks have been narrowed down to a “Top 5” list in order of priority:

5. Mantra (or Plan of Attack)

In order for me to be productive, I need a plan of attack, a clear idea of what has to be accomplished at that given time. I frequently separate tasks into manageable chunks to prevent becoming overwhelmed. This has been one of the most important things for me to remember as a new writer.

4. Mechanical pencils

Don’t laugh. That’s what I said, mechanical pencils. No matter where I may be working, I always carry one with me or have at least one resting on my workspace. These pencils have come in handy whenever an idea for a story appears. I just grab one, jot down the idea on whatever writing surface I can find, and then I don’t have the worry of it being permanent. I can just erase it and start again.

3. Mess-free workspace

This is a big one for me. When I get started on a project, I like my workspace to be neat and tidy. Now, that doesn’t mean it stays that way. I just need it to start that way.

2. Munchies

Ah yes, food. These must-have munchies come in the form of so many different treats depending on my stress level and/or the craving. I usually alternate between a sweet and then a salty concoction, repeating the cycle over and over. I have been known to rip open a bag of chocolate bittersweet morsels or spoon out a few scoops of Nutella right from the jar when I’m in dire need of some real sustenance. Shocking?  I know.

1. Music

This is an absolute must regardless of what I’m working on at the time. I circulate between different types of music depending on my mood. Music is so important in my life and often it becomes a muse for me; the thoughts or emotions evoked when listening often become incorporated into the scenes I write.

So enough about me, I’m dying to hear about you. What are some of your quirks or must-haves when you work?

A Busy Month of Writing

It has been a very busy month for me filled with writing, critiquing, participating in two writing groups, and attending a local writing conference.  If not working, I am constantly looking at things around me in terms of a story to be told. Sometimes when I sit in one spot and stare at nothing in particular, I have to remind my family I’m not being lazy, I’m just working.  These are the best moments for developing ideas or working out a story in my head. If only I could find a way to write when I’m driving, which seems to be the place where I get most of my ideas.

Now that it is summer, I’ve had a little more time to work on a manuscript for which I hope to one day turn into a novel. Before that can even happen, I must finish the first rough draft (one of many) and the goal is to complete it by the end August.

Up until last week, my first draft was moving along really well, and I was ecstatic to finally reach a writing goal of thirty thousand words. Then it came to a screeching halt.  I couldn’t move forward with my story and I realized that the plot just didn’t work. This was a big blow to my confidence but it seems this happens a lot during the process of writing a novel.  Since then, I stepped back to focus on the core of my story, namely the plot. Now it looks like I’m going to be reworking the whole story before I even finish the first draft. Yes, it is a definite set back, but I know that the end result will be worth the work and a much better story in the end.

I’m also stepping out of my comfort zone to work on a non-fiction piece titled, “The Flight of the Discus: Life Lessons Learned” that I plan on submitting to a few writing contests in August.  The story provides a personal glimpse of lessons I learned with my dad as my track coach and the trials I faced while learning how to throw the discus. In the spirit of Father’s Day, it was a great way to reflect upon our relationship and all of the great things I have learned from him.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Books-in-Progress Conference at the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning in Lexington, KY.  It was two days of break-out sessions provided by several well-known authors and literary agents.  Some of the highlights were Ann Hagedorn presenting story structure, Brian Klems talking about developing a writer platform, Neil Chethik inspiring others to make nonfiction come alive, and Paul Levine discussing traditional publishing tips and tricks. I met some great people at the conference and came back even more inspired to write.

As I review my notes made during the conference, two statements made by Anne Hagedorn stand out. The first was, “An unwritten book is a defeat without a battle”.  When I returned home, I typed up the quote and keep it nearby as a reminder to finish no matter what struggles I face along the way.

Lastly, when I am sitting at the laptop, struggling for the right words and ideas to come, wondering if I can really do this, I will remember another bit of advice she gave during her session. She said we are not alone in our difficult journey to write. In those moments, there are other writers sitting down doing the very same thing.  This became obvious when I talked to people at the convention, when reading several of my favorite authors’ posts on social media, and when talking with other writers in my critique groups.  There is a community of writers that are plugging along, struggling, and facing the same battles together.  I am not alone in this journey and that is the best incentive I can think of to keep writing.