Monday, March 3, 2008

The 20th century way

Do you remember the 20th century? Back before you could text your friend with your cell while sipping on a latte?

Despite all of the great technological advances I still use a fairly simple system to organize everything pertaining to my projects.

I use Manila folders.

My folder system works quite well because my creative bursts tend to come when I'm waiting for my daughters to finish ballet or when I'm walking through the grocery store. That is not the moment to leave a voice memo "Kill off Tom after Cindy gets cancer." You get funny stares that way...even if people DO know you're a writer.

What I do is for each book project I have a folder where I put every scrap of paper associated with that book: Online research, slips of paper or receipts with marketing ideas scrawled on them, sketches of the town as it appears in my mind [no, I'm not artistic. It is ususally houses made of squares with street names so I can remember where various things are laid out.]

The other part of my folder system works for my marketing and article writing. For articles I've labeled the folders like this:

Article ideas

Here is how these help me.

Article ideas are usually slips of paper where I've thought up a line, a title or a subject for an article. On creative days I go to this folder and see which articles will come out. Once I've written a RD I then print out the RD of the article and put it in the RD folder.

On NON-creative days I go to my RD folder. I read through the article and edit or add to it. When I'm not feeling creative I can be more brutally honest about the quality of the "Masterpiece" I'd previously written. I also write the name of 3 or 4 markets for that article. I start with the one I'd most like the article to appear in [based on their pay, audience, &/or circulation].

When an article is complete I write the query [or cover letter depending on writer's guidelines] and I submit. I write the submission date next to the name of the publication directly on that printed copy. If it is accepted I staple the acceptance letter to the cover of the article and slide it in the "accepted" folder. In 2 or 3 years I can rework it and sell it to one of the other markets as a reprint.

If the article is rejected I put a single line through the name of the publisher and move to the next one on the list. Once I've been rejected from every potential publisher I put it back in the RD folder to either look for new markets or to rework. If I'm not longer interested in trying to sell the article I put it in the rejection folder.

Finally there is the "Market" folder. That is when I run across a magazine with an interesting article and I'd like to submit to them but don't have an article idea yet. It is also when I hear of a new market accepting submissions.

While this may not be as fancy, I'll help you encorporate all of this on Friday to help you be a more productive writer. I went national when I had a 4 year old, 2 year old and colicky, 6 month old. Time was limited but by having these folders I could grab one quick if I only had 15-20 minutes and accomplish SOMETHING.

Tomorrow we'll be talking more about productivity...and how to increase it. I hope I'll see you there.