I may have a file addiction. It began after hearing the wonderful Paul Fleishman speak at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s conference in L.A. The second he spoke a certain magic word, organization, I leaned forward in my seat. From that moment on, I ignored everything else. He went on to describe how he stays organized while writing a novel. I leaned even farther forward as he outlined how he creates separate file documents on his computer. Documents such as: a “work in progress” file, a “working it out” file where he outlines story problems he encounters and possible solutions, an outline file, and a back matter file for title ideas and people he needs to acknowledge.
I could not scribble notes fast enough. These files, I thought, are exactly what I need. I am happiest when I am organized. Yet, most of the information for my current work in progress was crammed into two humungous documents. And believe me when I confess that each file was a dump of tangled, knotted, piled together information. So, I decided to try out Paul Fleischman’s file ideas. Wow. What a difference.
I now have, in addition to my first draft document, a file for my characters, a revision file where I note what I will need to fix after the first draft is completed, a “to do” file, and a file of calendars and time lines. I also created a “darlings” file. Here, I stow copy that I adore even though it is not working in my manuscript. Writers are supposed to “kill their darlings,” which means nixing the copy that isn’t working, no matter how fabulous the writing may be. Hatchet murdering beloved sentences, phrases and even blocks of writing that came from blood, sweat, and tears, though, seems a bit harsh. Now, I send my darlings away to hang out in a cozy document. Much better than cold-blooded murder, I think.
Yes, I’ve been hitting the “new blank document” button on my laptop enough that I am wearing out the plastic key. Whatever. This is a small price to pay, I think, for the bliss of organization. Now, if I could only work this file magic on other disheveled elements of my life that often take a backseat to my writing. Yeah, those.
So, tell me: How do you stay organized?