Tuesday, October 12, 2021

How to Prepare Your Writing Life for the Unexpected

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

There isn’t a person I know who can say that 2020, and truthfully 2021, hasn’t affected them. We haven’t seen such chaos and internal unrest since the 1960s. I remember as a child, being afraid to close my eyes to sleep and wondering if the world would end. Now, here we stand again, amid that same type of unrest and fear. Between Covid-19, its variants, and the civil dissatisfaction, I feel like I’m four years old again, reliving those same fears. In my 60s, I would lie if I didn’t say the angst keeps me up at night.

Though this last year, I’ve experienced loss. Of course, I’m not the only one, but it seems to be more loss than the average Joe runs sees. This past year Covid has claimed two of my sweetest writing friends, and cancer has taken another. My heart hardly had time to recover before the next death hit. It has become increasingly vital to address our writing careers from the backside going forward rather than the opposite. 

Just as we pre-arrange our final wishes for when we enter our eternal home, likewise, we need to prepare our writing careers. The loss of three well-established writing friends brought this reality to the forefront. Two had significant three-book contracts, while the third had a manuscript in editing due to the publisher. When death strikes, our writing career is the least important thing on our minds, but in the coming weeks, things will immerge that demand sometimes clueless families must handle.

Take time now to make arrangements for your writing work. 

Here are a few necessities to help you prepare your writing life.

Organize your work: I can’t stress enough the importance of this. Make one primary file on your desktop that houses individual project files. Title it something obvious, like WRITING WORK. Inside this file, make individual files for each work you have. Don’t lump work together. Keep each project separate. The exception would be blog posts which are fine, stored in one file. On my computer, I have files listed like this:
Under this, there are individual files
  • Blog Posts
  • Novels
    • Individual Novels ( Mercy’s Rain, Liar’s Winter, What Momma Left Behind, This is Where it Ends)
    • Current Contracted Novels (Houses individual stories that are under construction for contract fulfillment
  • Mentoring Work
    • Spreadsheet listing all work and the status, money received
    • Individual client files
    • Publisher Editing, WRAMS, Private Clients
  • Conference Work
    • ACWC
    • Current Year Conference Travel
    • Conference PowerPoints
    • Conference Classes
Having one file housing all your work makes location easy. There is no searching for your family or agent. Everything is fully labeled and accessible. How you label them is up to you but remember, your executor needs to understand how you’ve tagged them. Remember, simple is best.

Purchase quality off-site storage: There are tons of ways to store your work, but it is a proven fact that your files need to be stored off-site or away from your home. If you are new to the writing world, using a removable hard drive would work for a time, but once you start selling work, your files need to be stored away from home with a reputable company becomes a must. If you experience a computer failure or a home disaster (i.e., fire, storm, etc.), your files are safely stored off-premise and can be easily retrieved and restored. There is nothing worse than lost work. Trust me, been there, done it. It is not fun. Companies like Bask, DropBox, even iCloud provide off-site storage that keeps your files safe. Remember, these services are paid monthly or yearly, and if the bill is not paid, the work vanishes. Be sure you have that person who can step in and access your files and that they can maintain or download and secure your work.

File box for contracts and royalty reports: Heaven forbid should the worse happen, but a physical file box is a must. Keep copies of your book contracts, a notebook with outstanding private work, i.e., mentoring or editing) and all your royalty statements. This box should also contain a file with your agent information listed and your agency contract. Make a quick reference card with your agent name, address, phone number, and email so your executor can easily access them. Add a list of individuals who might be able to pick up your work on private editing or mentoring, and be sure unfinished work is completed, especially if you have paying clients who are owed work. This preparation applies to your accounting and access to your writing bank account as well.

Agent access: Your agent will have copies of your contracts set up through their agency, but giving them access to your off-site storage can be very helpful. If it becomes necessary to access these files, your agent can quickly locate, download, and complete contract fulfillments. Should something happen to you, the next most important person to get this information is your agent. Agents are able then to complete, cancel, or see-through, open contractual obligations. FYI, having a writing peer who knows your style as well can be helpful for an agent, should a work in progress need to be completed rather than canceled. Remember, there are details that agents must handle, like details with advances, ongoing royalty payments, etc. Talk with your agent so they know your feelings and what to do in the event of something catastrophic happening.

No one likes to think about end-of-life decisions, but the truth is, it’s a necessity. Be responsible to your family, agent, clients, and publishers. Take time to make these simple files. It is a kind thing to do.


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for christiandevotions.usand inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.


  1. This is something I have not thought about. Thank you for the excellent advice!

  2. I know...we just don't think about what happens if we pass and our work is in limbo. Hard to write about...but important.

  3. A great reading and helpful advice. Thank you for writing and sharing with all of us!

  4. Great, concrete action steps that I can do to be better organized right now. Thanks for these!

  5. Cindy,

    I'm sorry for your losses. We lost many friends or had friends who lost relatives. Great advice, for sure. I'd second that for indie writers as well.

  6. Thank you. Important for your career.