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UPDATE: Templates for the organization files below are now included in each welcome email for the Community of Readers & Writers. Enter your email below to receive the following:
Tips for keeping your writing and submissions organized!
For many people, “get organized” is at the top of the New Year’s Resolutions list. And for writers, organization should always be a priority. (You can’t lie to me—I know how we are.) Finding a system and sticking to it was key to my personal productivity. So I’m going to show you how I stay organized, and hopefully it will give you ideas or inspire you to find your own method of organizing the madness.
Ok, here we are on my laptop. (Yes, my background is Derek Jeter. Red Sox fans, I’ll respond to your comments below.)
Let’s start with my writing folders. There’s nothing fancy here, just nested folders. But just keeping everything organized makes life much easier.
I have folders for everything, but the only ones I really use are "Short Stories" and "Novels" (which doesn't include a whole lot of organization—it's basically just Scrivener files). To that end, let's check out the "Short Stories" folder:
Feel like writing but don’t have any ideas? Check out the “In Progress” folder. Maybe you started something and didn’t follow it through. And moving files to “Published” as soon as you receive an acceptance letter ensures you never submit a piece that’s already been accepted. Rejection is enough; no need to embarrass ourselves with success.
You can always break these down further according to whatever categories your writing tend toward. For example, within my "SUBMIT" folder, I have a couple folders for short shorts (under 500 words) and exclusive submissions:
Ok, your files are organized, and you’re submitting. I’ve talked in previous posts about how important it is to submit frequently. But once you start submitting in high volumes, it becomes easy to get confused. Submittable is great for viewing your submissions. So is organizing your inbox. But what happens when some markets have their own submission managers? Or you lose your receipt of submission email? Things get cluttered fast. That’s why I keep a spreadsheet.
Here’s a screenshot:
This is for short story submissions, thus the file name ("Short Story Submission Tracker"). From left to right, the columns have the name of the piece(s), the name of the market (magazine, website, etc.), the date I sent the submission, the date I received a decision, the response, the number of days since submission (or until response), and notes.
The “Response” column is color-coded with “Rejection” in red, “Acceptance” in green, “Pending” in blue, and “Withdrawn” in white. This way, I am always aware of where a piece is and how it’s doing. If something is accepted, all I have to do is search the spreadsheet for the piece’s name, and withdraw it from any market marked “Pending.” It also helps you know when a piece needs to be seriously revised or retired by how many rejections it’s received.
And for those who enjoy keeping track of your acceptance rate, it’s easy to create a formula for it. Here’s mine:
The top number is the number of rows marked “Acceptance” in Column E (Formula: =COUNTIF(E:E,"Acceptance")). The next one is rows marked “Rejection” or “Accepted” (Formula: =COUNTIF(E:E,"Acceptance")). That way I’m not including pending submissions or withdrawn pieces. The number at the bottom is my acceptance rate.
For anyone wondering how many submissions I’ve made in my life, the answer is 270. When I switched to this system, I spent some time sifting through old submissions and including them in the tracker. Just so I would know that number. (And yet I can’t gather the willpower to pick up my socks.)
I have a similar spreadsheet for queries. I mark columns “Agent Name,” “Agency,” “Date Sent,” “Response Date,” “Response,” “Current Days Out,” “Notes/Feedback” (typically used for notes about the agent, specific interests, comp titles, etc.”), and “Website” (a link to the agent’s submission guidelines).
All right, I’m able to track my submissions. But how do I know where to submit?
I’ve got a file for that, too.
It’s titled “Submissions Calendar,” and it is not a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet might be nice for this, if you’re savvy enough to make one. I am not. Therefore, I have a nice table.
The table’s got three columns, “Month,” “Markets,” and “Last Chance” (markets whose current reading period ends in that month). I know to start with the markets in “Last Chance” and go from there. I never delete anything. I use strikethrough when I’ve submitted to a market so I know not to submit again (I actually scroll down through the months and strike out the market each time it appears, so I don’t submit again the next month.) The current month is purple because I am a simple person, and color-coding works well for me.
Unsurprisingly, the markets are also color-coded! Bold means it’s a paying market. Italics means flash fiction only. Blue means an online-only magazine. And red means there is a theme of some kind, and I need to write a piece specifically for that market. I also include notes in parentheses (i.e. SF/F, exclusive subs, etc.). If you subscribe to my newsletter, I do something similar for the calls for submissions included there, except it uses symbols ($*@) rather than colors. Also, there is a large chunk of the table dedicated to rolling submissions.
This is also where I list my publications (along with my website and my CV). There’s no real reason for that, except that this is adapted from an old file, when I could fit all my writing-related things in one document!
Well, friends, that’s about all I have on organization. I truly hope something in this post helped you. If anyone is interested in templates for any of the files I mentioned, just let me know in the comments! I would be glad to create templates and make them accessible to anyone who might use them.
Did this help? How do you organize your writing and submissions?