Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How to Name Writing Files for Easy Access

by Cynthia Owens 

Recently, I spoke with our local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter in Anderson, South Carolina about how to organize writing files. Two simple tips we discussed really got those writers excited. So, in honor of National Clean Out Your Computer Day this Monday, February 13th, I’m sharing them with you today.

Oddly enough, neither of these tips have to do with actually cleaning out your computer. Instead, they help you name your files so you never lose track of what you have, which may make cleaning out your computer a much easier task.

Tip #1 – How to Name Book Manuscript Files

When writing a book, we know there are going to be many additions and revisions. Sometimes people do this haphazardly. They’ll have their main book file, let’s call it My Awesome Book. Then they’ll do revisions and call it My Awesome Book—Latest or My Awesome Book—Current. Do this a few times and suddenly you know why there’s a National Clean Out Your Computer Day.

The worst part about this naming method is we become uncertain about which file is truly the latest version. There’s a simpler way.

Let’s start again with our My Awesome Book manuscript.
  1. Create a folder on your computer just for this manuscript. Name it your book title. In this case, the folder would be called My Awesome Book.
  2. Move the latest version of your manuscript into this folder and name it 0-My Awesome Book. The 0- in the title is very important. This puts your manuscript at the top of the folder. Now, no matter what else you put in this folder—research, pictures of your characters, cat memes for when you need a break, etc.—your current manuscript file will always be at the top.
  3. Work in your 0-My Awesome Book file. Make any changes you want, then Save your file.
  4. Now this is the crucial step: Immediately after saving your file, select SAVE AS and save your file again with the day’s date added. Ex: My Awesome Book 02.07.17. This means that 0-My Awesome Book and My Awesome Book 02.07.17 will be exactly the same for a little while.
  5. The next time you want to write, go back to the 0-My Awesome Book file. Repeat steps 3 and 4 (Save, then SAVE AS), and you’ll always know which file is your current work.
Tip #2 – How to Name Blog and Article Files

Blogging and articles are a part of writing life. Even if you only want to write fiction, one day a potential publisher is going to ask, “Where’s your blog? How many followers do you have? Where else have you been published?”

Prepare for those questions now and make your files easy to find by following these simple guidelines.
  • Create a Folder for Each Writing Area: One folder is needed for your personal blog. If you have a regular column on someone else’s blog or if you write often for a certain magazine, create a folder for each of those, too. Finally, create a folder for random guest posts or articles. For example--If I had my own blog, wrote posts for other blogs, and had a regular column in Guideposts, my folders would be: My Blog, Guest Posts, Guideposts.
  • Use a Date When Naming Your Files: Think about the date when your article or blog post will be published. If you’re not sure of the publication date, use the day you plan to submit the article. Then, add that date to the beginning of the name for each file. An article named “Simply Gorgeous” that’s to be posted March 15th would be have 03.15.17 Simply Gorgeous as it’s file name. Picture files for this article might include 03.15.17 Camellia and 03.15.17 Conch Shell.
  • Keep All Items Associated with Your Article in the Same Place: This is the step where most people stumble. I see writers keeping their article pictures in one folder, the text in another, and any specialty files in a third area. This forces them to visit multiple places when they need to post or email their articles. Instead, save all of your items in one folder. For example, if “Simply Gorgeous” is an article I’m posting on my website, these files would be in the My Blog folder. Because their filenames all begin with 03.15.17, they’ll line up together and be easy to find. Problem solved.
Having logical, consistent naming systems for your files will save you time and mental energy.

How do you keep your computer files ordered and easy to find? Are there some simple tips you can share?


Cynthia Owens is The Efficiency Addict, a technical trainer helping writers, speakers and small business owners work more effectively. She runs www.TheEfficiencyAddict.com, which specializes in computer training, business organization, career development and event coordination. 

Connect with Cynthia on Twitter and Pinterest.

Organizing Your Computer for Writers and Speakers
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  1. Thank you for your post, Cynthia. About a year ago--after much trial and error and much confusion--I started putting everything related to one book in a file with the book’s title. Now I place all dated drafts of my story, all pictures, all research, all book covers, etc., in that single folder instead of separate folders labeled research, pictures, etc.. Putting everything related to the book in one folder has saved me much time and frustration.

    Thank you again for your post. I have never seen this topic addressed and am so glad you did.



  2. Great stuff! Thanks for this helpful post.

  3. Wonderful advice, Cynthia, as always. :)

  4. three books in and I pretty much know what i need in each title folder - images, PDF's, research, etc. Several years ago when I was first working on my debut, some computer glitch happened and I lost several pages, never to be seen again. When I was able to allow myself to go back to the story I created double files - title, and title-copy. I work of the copy file, then do my save and save as, just without dates. AND i save to a back up folder at the end of the day and copy everything i've touched to my flash drive.

  5. Cynthia, your organizing tips are the best. This post proves it once again. Thanks for today's tips.

    Teach on!

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  7. From one who is NOT blessed with the gift of organization, thank you. You've made it simple to do, so I have no excuse. Great post.