Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ten Do's and Don't for Organizing Your Writing by Linda W. Hurst

Is your writing space so cluttered you can’t find the desktop, let alone write anything worth printing? Do you feel like screaming, throwing things, or worse--calling the Clean House television show to come to your aid? Take heart…help is just ten steps away. Just follow these ten simple Do’s and Don’ts—and you’ll discover that your writing muse has returned—along with your sanity!

1. Do set aside space that will only be used by you—and dedicate that space, however tiny, to your writing. Make sure you have good lighting, a comfortable chair, and a shelf for your Writer’s Market Guides, dictionaries, etc.

2. Do purchase several loose-leaf notebooks, and plastic storage tubs or file boxes. Use these to organize writing projects. (I use a notebook for each writing project, keeping notes, research, manuscripts, and query letters together in one place.) Organize notebooks with tabs—number chapters, notes, etc. The plastic tubs are perfect for keeping notes, photos, artifacts, etc. for individual projects together.

3. Do invest in an Organizer. This could be the traditional type (Day-Runner) or try using technology to keep your life orderly. Whichever you choose, use it to keep your schedule, i.e. writing groups/ conventions/ contests. Use it to file contest information/guidelines behind the deadline month so that you never miss an opportunity to submit. (I personally use my Smart Phone, which I keep glued to me like an appendage. I love using the reminder tool—it is persistent and never lets me forget important dates/times.)

4. Don’t be a clutter bug! Throw away or shred paper files and research if this information can be located on the Internet. There is no reason to clutter up your space any more than necessary.

5. Do utilize your computer to make your life easier. For example, Use a spreadsheet (Excel) to keep tabs on writing expenses and sales. Keep a basket on your desk to contain receipts until you have time to enter them into your spreadsheet and file them away. (NOTE: You can use an Excel file to keep up with your submissions/rejections too!)

6. Do use Microsoft Power Point (or just plain paper stapled together in a booklet form) to create dummies for picture books. This will help you visualize what your book will look like and even to determine the appropriate word length. Remember, picture books come in specific page lengths—32 pages is the norm.

7. Don’t let old magazines stack up. Save important articles by removing them from the magazine and storing them in a file designated for that purpose. If you choose to save a copy or two of a magazine, make sure these copies are current. Remember, magazine styles and needs change, as do their editors.

8. Do keep a submission/rejection notebook. (I use an Excel spreadsheet.) Visit this a minimum of once per month so you will remember what you have out and what/where you need to resubmit. This will save you from sending the same piece to the same editor more than once! After all, editors are human too…really!

9. Do keep a portfolio of your best pieces. If it becomes cumbersome, pare it down to your favorite pieces.

10. Don’t take chances! Invest in a couple of “thumb” (sometimes called “flash” or “jump”) drives. Use one for saving your writing—and the other for a back-up. You won’t clutter up your hard drive—and you can carry your writing with you wherever you go. For peace of mind, keep one flash drive in your purse/pocket and one at home. Another idea—create an e-mail site for the sole purpose of storing your writing—that way you have access to your writing regardless of your location or the condition of your hard drive!

So, if you really want to increase your writing productivity, consider these ten items. You can have an organized work space with just a little effort. It will save you time—and make you money in the long run. What are you waiting for? Get up, get busy, and get organized for success!

LINDA WHITTINGTON HURST has written articles in several professional journals, including the Kansas Journal of Reading, The International Reading Association’s Language Experience Forum, and Collaborations: the Journal of Louisiana Early Childhood Education. Her first college textbook, Making Connections for lifelong learning: A step-by-step guide for developing thematic units that work came out in the fall of 2009. Two of her short stories appeared in an anthology entitled, Veterans of Freedom and Other Stories. Two more were included in The Storyteller with a third, entitled You’ll Never be a Writer, scheduled for publication in the April/May issue. Her middle-grade novel entitled, The Seeing Eye Detectives: Case of the Missing Dog, coauthored with her best friend, Linda Lee won the 2009 Bloom Honor Book award. It is scheduled to be published soon. Recently, the Rowlett Writer’s Workshop Anthology entitled, Quills and Crossroads (available on featured four of Linda’s short stories.


  1. Oh Linda...can you come to my house??? You make it sound sooo easy. I'm definitely in need of organizational skills, but I will try harder thanks to your ten do's and don'ts.

    Great blog!

  2. Linda, Thanks for the list. I have boxes of data for non-fiction books I have never finished. I have critiques for my poems and short stories that need to integrated into my work. I need to clean out my work area, but I do use a computer. All kinds of writing projects that just need structure. I look forward to trying out what you have outlined. Thanks also for the critiques you have given in the past.

  3. oh, Oh, OH, how I wish I could get organized!