Keeping Writing Files Organized

You’d be surprised at how quickly files stack up when you’re writing. Even if you’ve gone full digital, there’s going to be more than you know what to do with and, if you’re not careful, it’s going to be easy to lose sight.


Here’s a few tips on how to keep everything organized.

Paper Files                  

Not too long ago, my stack of papers was limited to a printout of The Nobodies, some copies of The UCONN Free Press, a couple college papers and a spattering of drawings. Thinking that would be all I’d have, at least for a while, I stashed them in a brown accordion folder. It worked to keep them contained, though the pile continued to be just that, albeit now vertically.

After printing Trezka for review and starting work on my children’s book, the number of pages ballooned rather profusely. I needed more space. So, I took over the upper part of a filing cabinet (though I’m certain I may eventually need more), giving each general portion of my writing its own label.

For instance,

The Nobodies
• (Children’s Book)
• College
• Short Stories

There are variations on this, of course, such as Trezka having a folder solely for its second draft, which allows me to keep all the paper goods attached to each story or segment in one location.

Note that in the picture below, I also organized the folders so the most recent (and the ones most likely to be referenced in the immediate future) are at the front. In short time, I also anticipate these will be joined by a general Reference folder, though one is not needed just yet.

• Always label folders
• Put folders in an order that makes sense and is easy to follow
• Use multiple folders for the same item when needed
• Keep your files in the same location unless you have separate backups

Digital Files                 

It’s much simpler to keep files organized when they’re easy to move and take up less space than a Beatles song. However, they’re also easier to lose and/or delete (mistakenly or not). As such, it’s always important to back up your digital files. I recommend using a cloud interface if you have one available, including just as email attachments. An external hard drive or flash drive not connected to your computer that you update on a semi-frequent basis is also helpful.

As to storing the files themselves, as with paper files, be sure to keep it simple and organize in a way that makes sense to you.

Here’s an example of my general setup:

> FICTION_Published
    > The Nobodies
        > Helpful Info
        > Old Drafts
As you may note, within each parent folder (in the above, for instance, "The Nobodies") are subsets, as needed. While it wouldn’t necessarily make sense in printed folder organization, if I have an abundance of imagery for reference or otherwise, they’ll all go into one folder ("Imagery," "Chapter Heads," etc.) while previous drafts will also be pushed elsewhere ("Old Drafts") to avoid confusion with finals. For stories with an overwhelming number of reference documents (such as outlines, character profiles, timelines, etc.), it’s also helpful to create a Reference subset (or, as is the case here, "Helpful Info").

I also keep a generic Reference folder digitally for any documents that would apply to the entirety of my catalog, such as weather charts, character lists, timelines, important dates, annotations, etc. Again, anything directly related to one story would be placed within that story’s individual folder.


• Put folders in an order that makes sense and is easy to follow
• Create new subfolders as necessary but don't go overboard
•Always back up your digital files in a location external to your hard drive

Anyway, I hope this helps give you some ideas about how to better keep your own files organized. You never quite know when you’ll need to find something in a pinch, and organization helps in those particular emergencies a great deal.

Have any other thoughts or idea on keeping files organized? Let me know.