Sunday, July 7, 2024

Organize Your Writing Life: Tips for Storing Writing Ideas and Labeling Computer Files


by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

As a writer, I’ve come to realize the value—and the elusiveness—of writing ideas. They come and go like beautiful blossoms in spring. And just like flowers, if we don’t pick them and save them, we lose them. So today I’d like to share some tips for storing writing ideas, especially when it comes to computer file names.

Every single writer should have a system of keeping track of ideas. I have several. I also save the same ideas in multiple places to make them easier to find. Here is an overall peek at my storage system.

Computer Files: I have multiple files on my computer for ideas. Here are just a few
  • Blog posts
  • Devotions
  • Quotes
  • Book Ideas (divided into fiction and non-fiction)
  • Article Ideas
  • Links

As I said, I may store the same idea in multiple places. For instance, an idea for a blog post, might also work well for an article. Or I might expand it into a book idea. The reverse is also true. I may take a book idea and pull it apart and put multiple things from it into blog posts and articles.

I keep several different quotes files, including writing quotes, inspirational quotes, and Bible verses. These will often grow into ideas for articles, blog posts and devotions.

I also keep a list of links. If I come across a cool idea on the web, I paste the URL and a quick description of what I think I could write about.

I have a place on my iPad and iPhone where I can write ideas.

I’m also a big believer in making audio recordings. Especially when I’m driving or if I have a long idea, I can just record it on my iPhone’s voice memo and transcribe it later.

I’ve also begun to do some sketching. Trust me, it’s nothing I want to share yet, but it seems to jump start my creativity. So I keep some colored pens and pencils—with a small sketch pad—in my computer bag.

I’ve discovered that taking pictures is also a good way to record inspiring ideas. I take pictures of interesting people, places, even geometric shapes in buildings and clouds.

Finally, in case electronics fail me. I always carry a small notebook in my purse. The trick here is to remember to transfer those ideas to my other files so I don’t lose them!

Labeling and Working with Computer Files

I've spent years trying to come up with a system for labeling computer files. For far too long, my files looked something like this:
  • Soul Care for Writers, First Draft
  • Soul Care for Writers, Working Copy
  • Soul Care for Writers, Final Draft
  • Soul Care for Writers, Final Final Draft
  • Soul Care for Writers, Real Final Draft
  • Soul Care for Writers, For sure final draft
  • etc...

By the time I finished a book, I'd have so many similarly names files I couldn't find anything. 

I'm ashamed by how long it took me to wise up and create a system. 

Now EVERYTHING I save on the computer follows the same formula:

Title, descriptive word or two, date. 

Here are a few examples from my Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference files
  • BRMCWC, Faculty proposals, 2025
  • BRMCWC, Classes, 2025
  • BRMCWC, Schedule, 2025

I've found that putting my files in this order keeps things that are together, together. 

Working File Folders

I also keep everything separated into folders. When I'm working on a book or an article, I have a folder with that name. If I do multiple articles for the same place, like Focus on the family, I'll have a Folder called, Focus on the Family. Inside that folder, I'll have other folders with the title of each article. Here's what I put in the individual article folder. I'll use an article I worked on for Focus on the Family.

In the article folder for Teach Your Grandkids to Pray:
  • Teach Your Grandkids to Pray, draft, 10.2.23
  • Teach Your Grandkids to Pray, research, 10.4.23
  • Teach Your Grandkids to Pray, deleted bits, 10.2.23

I keep all the research in a separate file because often I'll use it for future products. 

By using this method of naming computer files, I'm much more likely to be able to lay my hands on things I need, even years from now.

Now I'd like to sidetrack a little bit. There is one single tip I have that will always help you stay organized and on track.

WORK AHEAD. Plan your personal, drop-dead due date, at least a week before anything is actually due. This will always make sure you’re on time and ready for anything life throws at you!

Now it's your turn, I've given you all my tips. I'd love to hear how you stay organized and what things help you keep track of your writing life! Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation
Edie

TWEETABLE


Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. You are very organized. I will follow your instructions one folder at a time.

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  2. I need to work a system like this. The files on my book manuscript look like your Soul Care example. Thanks for these tips.

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  3. I do this too! Though in some instances I put the date or time-stamp first because I need to keep track of certain files by the order they're saved. I'm still working on being consistent with this system, but it's improving a little more each year.

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  4. Many thanks Edie. After over a decade of limping with an outdated Toshiba Windows Vista laptop that can't be updated, I finally got a new one last week "just for my writing" (yeah...right), so your file labeling ideas are timely. P.S. I often tell new writers about your site, as your archives are incrediable.

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