Sunday, October 31, 2010

Save Time. Get Organized to Write

“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.”—William Pollard
I decided to finish a book I’m writing. However, I felt frustrated. Years of writing compost—research, documentation, word pictures, illustrations, biblical word studies—plus every version of every WIP chapter and every critiquer’s document with their feedback littered one main folder titled with the book’s working title. Umpteen folders and miscellaneous documents filled the main folder. I even had another “main” folder containing everything recovered from a hard drive that crashed. I didn’t know if the recovered documents were duplicate files.

At one time I knew why I’d created every folder and oodles of documents and which chapter the information went with. But I no longer knew why I’d saved some of the information or what chapter I was thinking about when I saved the file. No longer a benefit, my writing compost pile was a burden.

I surveyed the confusing electronic folders and documents. When I wanted to write, I couldn’t find what I needed. Every time I started a new chapter, I opened and searched document after document trying to find the research or illustration that I knew I’d saved. When I wanted to polish a chapter, I wasn’t sure of the latest version of the WIP. I like to make the most of my precious writing hours. Trying to find specific information amidst the jumble of documents seemed like such a waste of time.

I’d completed a first draft for a new chapter and received critique feedback, except for a three or four paragraph illustration from Saint Augustine’s life that I still needed to write. To make sure the context from Augustine’s life worked, I wanted to re-read his book Confessions. When I discovered that I’d already downloaded Augustine’s book, but forgot Confessions sat in my unorganized folders, I decided it was time to bring order to disorder.

Before cranking out any more chapters, I ignored the urge to finish the Augustine chapter to spend a week organizing every file. I created folders for:
  • “stuff.” I dumped every folder and document into the stuff file, and then systematically opened every file to decide which chapter that information went with. If I wasn’t sure where to dump a document, it stayed in the stuff folder until recapturing my original vision.
  • the finished book proposal and pitch sheets. I placed the latest versions of the book proposal and pitch sheets in their respective folders.
  • each chapter. I created a file for each chapter (Chapter 1: Working Title) and then dumped every document into the respective chapter folder, including critiques. For each unwritten chapter, I created a working document that includes the chapter summary, problem, solution, and value statements and placed it in its chapter folder.
  • endorsements. I dumped all the endorsements already received, sample endorsement request letter, plus names and contact information for those I intend to ask.
What are some ways you organize your files, enabling you to find info fast while you write?


Jeanne T said...

Scoti, it sure seems hard to keep everything organized when writing. :) Thanks for sharing your frustrations, but even more, what you did about them. As I begin in earnest in this "adventure," I'm going to take notes and copy a great idea (yours!). :)

Roxanne Sherwood said...

Thanks for sharing your dilemma and how you solved it. I'm a poster girl for being disorganized with my material. I hope to become one of the "reformed" real soon! ;-)