By Misti Sandefur
When I first got started in freelance writing it wasn't too bad. However, as time went on and more work started to come in, I found my workspace to be very unorganized. This is when I developed an organization system so I could find things easier, and so my desk didn't look like a tornado ran through it. Besides, my system of organization helped me to work better; you wouldn't believe how much easier it was to work and think more clearly with an organized area.
I took a break from my work, then I began to organize my writing. First, I gathered all the papers that laid cluttered on my desk, and I separated them in to piles to be filed. For example, all the magazine guidelines I had printed out were one pile, all writing notes were another and so on. When I named my folders for each publisher, I also included (in the same folders) any research I had done on that publisher, their mailing address, Web site address, e-mail address and any other contact information or etc. that related to that publisher. In addition, I stapled the pages together to go with the correct publisher.
After I separated my papers, I pulled out the hanging file folders I had bought months ago; they sat there so long they had collected dust. For each folder I labeled them as follows: book publishers, magazine publishers, e-zine publishers, poetry publishers, magazine guidelines, clips, writing notes, short story ideas, article ideas, poetry, book ideas, research notes for title of piece (a folder for each), title of article (a folder for each), title of book (a folder for each), title of short story (a folder for each) and etc. This is how I labeled my folders, but you may label yours however you wish. Soon after I prepared the folders for my papers, I filed them all in alphabetical order (so they would be easier to find later).
Once all my papers were in order, I started to submit query letters, sample chapters and etc. Then I realized I needed to organize those too. When I organized where my submissions had been sent, I was able to follow-up and keep track of them without getting lost or re-submitting the corresponding piece to the same publisher, magazine or etc. What I did here was create a table for tracking all my submissions -- to whom they were sent, what was sent (query letter, sample chapter, etc.), the date the submission was sent, the date to follow-up, the name of the person and company the submission was sent to, etc. Each article, book, poem or etc. had its own table.
For the follow-up column, I set up a reminder to be e-mailed to me. The reminder I set up told me to follow-up. (I set my reminder for the follow-up date.) I would go to my reminders and delete the reminder if I got a rejection or acceptance before the time to send my follow-up. If I received a response that asked me to send the piece, I updated my reminder and my table to reflect a new follow-up date. If I received a rejection I recorded this in the column titled "results." Plus, if there were any personal notes left from the editor I recorded them in the same column, then I applied the suggestions from the editor to my query, piece, synopsis or whatever I had sent.
Once my workspace was organized, I printed everything out so I could have paper copies, and I also backed everything up on my computer. (I placed my files and information on blank CDs.) You never know when something could go wrong with your computer (viruses, hardware failure, etc.), so it's a good idea to ALWAYS back everything up, and to ALWAYS have paper copies of everything as well. Why paper copies? Simple, just like your computer, a blank disc could also become damaged, and if the disc you backed your work up on ends up damaged you will lose the information on that disc. Again, you never know, so like the saying goes, "better safe than sorry."
I hope that my system helps you cut down on your messy and unorganized work area. If you find my system useful, or if you have any questions about it, please post your comments to let me know.