Staying organized as a writer can be hard. If you’re like me, you write both on paper, and on the computer, so you have notes and thoughts and scenes and things to remember spread out all around your desk, your purse, your bedside table, your coffee table, the living room floor. And it’s not just physical notes either…your computer is probably stuffed with story ideas, lost outlines, character profiles, timelines, etc. No wonder we can feel so frazzled!
Getting organized, whether that means compiling all your notes for your stories, keeping track of your favorite resources, or simply making it easier for you to focus on writing when you sit down each day if vital to keeping up your momentum and your creativity.
Plus I just love organizing.
So in the spirit of spring cleaning (perhaps a little late, but whatever) let’s get organized!
For Part 1 of this series, we’re going to start with an area that most of us writers are probably the all too familiar with: our computers. I do most of my writing on my computer so it’s very important for me to have a well-organized folder system.
Let’s start with…
1. PDF Resources
Ah, the wonders of email sign up bonuses. I love a good PDF, whether it’s on character development, inspiration, or plot work. However, I don’t particularly enjoy reading these on my computer. If you have an iPad, a Kindle, a Nook, then boy do I have a treat for you.
To organize all these great resources I find on the internet that arrive in my inbox in PDF format, I use my friendly iBooks app on my iPad. I’m a big reader so I have the iBooks app, the Nook app, and the Kindle app and I have each one organized for different purposes. The Kindle app is for library books, the Nook app is for ebooks I purchase and the iBooks app is for all the writing guides and PDFs I get off the internet.
For example: I discover a new writing blog and sign up for their email and in return, I get an ebook on, say, how to create good characters. I will then transfer this ebook to my iBook app to read at my leisure!
Here are directions on how to get PDFs onto apps on your iPad or iPhone, your Nook, or your Kindle.
How to Add PDF Documents to the iBooks App, the Nook app or the Kindle app easily and quickly.
This really couldn’t be easier. When you receive a PDF or ebook in your email, click the link to open the file. It will open in your web browser app. Tap the screen once and a light white bar will appear at the top of the screen. On the left side of the bar, it will say “Open in iBooks…” And on the right side of the bar, it will say “Open in…”.
-For iBooks: Touch “Open in iBooks…”. iBooks will open and the file will open.
-For the Nook app: Touch “Open in…”. In the window that opens, click Copy to Nook. You’ll be taken to the Nook app where the file will open.
-For the Kindle app: Touch “Open in…”. In the window that opens, click Copy to Kindle. You’ll be taken to the Kindle app where the file will open.
Of course, the other option is to print out each of the PDF’s that you find, but I’ll talk more about that and organizing them in the next post in the series.
2. Using Pinterest As an Organizational Tool (And Other Options)
Pinterest is pretty much the bee’s knees when it comes to inspiration, help with projects, and best of all, article storage. You can create a board for literally anything, and almost everything you encounter on the interwebs these days has a pinnable image so you can keep track of the things you want to remember.
I use Pinterest for a variety of things, but in my writing, I use Pinterest as a way to keep articles I want to reference in the future, or worksheets I want to remember to print out, or a place to keep resources like e-courses and workbooks. You can even pin videos now and items you want to buy later one!
I create boards depending on the topic or the theme and reference them frequently. For instance, I have a board just for writing prompts (feel free to follow it and use the prompts whenever you want!) that I refer back to all the time for ideas when I’m stumped and need something, anything to write.
In addition to Pinterest, I know there are a few other tools people love. The main one is Evernote. I have minimal experience with Evernote but my father, who is also a writer and published author swears by it for everything from notes for his books to planning family vacations. Instead of boards, you create notebooks, and compile links, images, videos, etc and you can access it all offline as well!
I also know that Trello can work similarly although it’s more of a planning tool than an idea organization tool. However, I use Trello daily for keeping track of my blogging schedule, dumping post ideas, and keeping The Lexicon Writing Blog’s style guide all close at hand.
Use what works best for you and don’t be afraid to try out other programs! The beauty of Pinterest is that you can make everything public, so you can hop over to my boards and grab some information and I can hop over to yours for writing prompt ideas and we can all share inspiration for our stories. It really creates a community of sharing that’s unseen on any other social media platform and that’s why I love it so much.
3. Organizing Files and Documents On Your Computer
If there is one surefire way that you could find me procrastinating (Me, procrastinate? Never!), it is with reorganizing files on my computer.
I have literally hundreds of files on my computer, most of which are incomplete novels, short stories, songs, poems, character profiles, timelines, outlines, subplot charts, and all manner of supporting documents for the really big ones: my stories.
Now before I go into the actual organizing bit here, I need to stress the importance of backup. Whether you have a program like Backblaze going constantly, or you add things to an external hard drive a few times a week, there is nothing worse than having your computer crash or getting a new one and transferring the files, only to find you lost your next great work or that plot bunny you wrote down and meant to get to but never did only to find it lost when you found the time.
It’s happened to me. There were fountains of tears. It wasn’t pretty.
Use what you must, to give yourself peace of mind. Especially if your computer is an old one, like mine is and could kick the bucket any day.
Now onto the fun part! (Is anyone else obsessively interested in organizing like me?)
I like to keep my desktop simple and clean so I only put folders on my desktop that I’ll access on the regular. Right now, that’s four folders: the folder containing all the world on my Elves series, a folder with my other writing projects, a folder of resources I want to keep at easy reach, and of course, the folder for this blog, TLWB.
I use a Mac so in the dock, in my Documents folder, I keep everything else: printables, recipes, e-courses, etc. But all the important stuff…the stuff that I access every day, and use consistently is on my desktop for easy reach.
Within each folder are more subfolders. For this blog, I have a folder for branding, a folder for blog posts, a folder for social media, a folder to other business items. And the tree continues with more subfolders in those. I like to sort things by year, then the month, then by name. So when I create a workbook, say for a blog post in June, I’ll have the workbook, the blog post, the Pinterest and Instagram images, all in one folder with the post title. That’ll be in the June folder, in the 2016 folder. See?
For e-courses, I do something similar. I have folders on common themes in the e-courses I take, such as social media, email marketing, fiction writing, etc. and within those folders are subfolders for each e-course, and within that folder is all the information I acquired during the course.
It’s a great system for me because it keeps every layer is kept simple and quick to browse, which is exactly how I want it. I don’t want to waste time scrolling through files looking for something for five minutes when a bit of good organization would have helped me find it in one minute.
What systems do you use for online or digital resources and for organizing your stories if you write on your computer? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Part 2 will be all about organizing physical materials. I can’t wait to share it!