How to Stay Organized as a Writer: Part 2

Get a handle on all your paper! Sort your story notes and file away your worksheets with my tips on staying organized. Click through to check them out!

Welcome to Part 2 of TLWB’s Getting Organized Series! This week we are working on my favorite thing to organize: paper!

Don’t worry, I am fully aware that the above sentence is a weird one.

I was always one of those kids who liked playing school, because of all the amazing worksheets (reasons why there are so many on this blog) and calendars and bulletin boards. I loved it.

So now, as a writer, sometimes I have to remind myself that just because I’m a writer doesn’t entitle me to all the pretty paper products…

Nevermind…being a writer totally entitles me to ALL the pretty paper products!

Maybe that’s where I get that uncanny ability of constantly acquiring paper, notebooks, pens, workbooks, note paper, stickers, sticky notes, cute erasers…

Today, we’re going to corral all our paper products/ writing materials/ supplies/ etc and get down and dirty to get our paper in order!

So we’ll start with the easy bit first…

 

Printed Resources and Books

I think it’s one of the Ten Commandments of Writers that says we acquire more books and papers than anyone else on planet earth, aside from librarians, of course. Especially once writing blogs and websites entered the scene, there seemed to be no end to the written resources available to writers and readers.

There are a few different ways to organize your printed resources and you have to find what works for you, but here, I’ll share how I organize my stash of books on writing and resources I print out from around the web.

  1. Books

I have a lot of books. So does my husband. Our last count had us at over 200 and that was after a pretty intense combing and purging of our possessions. We also live in a small apartment with two (yep) bookshelves. Which requires us to get a bit creative.

Personally, I keep the books I reference the most in our office. We have shelves over my desk where we keep our favorite books, along with the ones we reference the most. I don’t have too many books that I reference often enough to keep them close at hand, so these shelves serve both for function and beauty. I keep books here that inspire me and my writing…somehow having Jane Austen and J.R.R. Tolkien nearby incites a certain inspiration in me.

However, printed resources…those are a doozy.

  1. Printed Resources

Like I mentioned in Part 1, quite a lot of writing ebooks that I download from the internet are kept on my iPad, on my iBooks app. However, some resources just warrant being printed out, particularly worksheets, workbooks, and lists I know I’ll want to reference with ease.

I keep these printed resources in a filing cabinet. I don’t have a multiple-drawer filing cabinet, but a small addition to my desk with a few drawers, one of which serves the purpose of holding my files.

I organize my files under categories:

    • Writing life: inspiration, encouragement, and ways to make writing easier and more efficient

 

  • Writing resources: this is where worksheets and references for things like outlining, character development, creating interesting dialog, etc. find a home
  • Writing prompts: I create all the writing prompts on The Lexicon Writing Blog, so I file those away here, as well as any others I find online that I want to go back to sometime
  • Workbooks: Here is where I keep workbooks for online courses or writing exercises. Things with a little more bulk to them.
  • Miscellaneous: Anything that doesn’t fit in the above categories

I also keep a folder as a Portfolio, to store scanned copies of my published articles for reference and as a backup to my actual, bound book portfolio.

Story Notes

Before you panic, take a really deep breath with me…in for five…out for five.

Okay. Let’s conquer those story notes you’ve got literally oozing out of your living space.

The best solution I’ve found to the problem that story notes present is far and away three ring binders. I’ve tried a variety of things: file folders, a small notebook for each story, keeping everything on my computer in a program like Evernote or Google Docs, and even just a big stack on my desk. The last one drove me nuts.

So I sought a different solution and I think I’ve found the one that actually works, doesn’t drive me bonkers, can even look pretty. Especially since my story notes end up both on my computer and as physical notes and it’s hard to keep track sometimes of where I put something or made a note of something.

This system enables me to keep the scribbles from taking over my workspace, my brain, and my writing life. The whole system is based on one principle: each story, whether it’s a series, a novel, or a short story, get a space to call it’s own. Whether that’s part of a binder or several binders, each story I write has it’s own space to hold every fleeting idea or plot changing moment.

I keep one binder for all my short stories. They don’t take up much room and the notes are significantly less than their longer novel counterparts. Each short story section will contain sub-headers for plot outlines, characters, and setting, as well as a section for any other notes, and if I’ve finished the short story, a copy for reference.

This is helpful if I ever want to expand on a story, or as the case may be, turn a short story into a full novel.

For novels, they each get their own binder and follow a similar process: a section each for plot outlines, characters, setting, notes, and if applicable, a finished copy.

It’s simple and straightforward, and I wasn’t even sure if it was worth sharing because it’s so easy. But then again, sometimes the simplest solutions are, in fact, the best.  

What are your lifesavers for keeping your physical resources and story notes contained? I’d love to compare solutions!

Cheers!

 



Alexis Truitt

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