Challenge,  On Writing

Stay Organized…

In Other Words, Do As I Say, Not As I Have Done…

Spent more hours tonight than I care to think about getting organized from at least three or more years of not being organized, just writing.

Yes, I am reverting to a spread sheet for some stuff, and file folders to gather up story files. But trust me, when you get upward of a hundred short stories that are not tracked or in any kind of order, and you are writing as much as I am, it is time to organize. Don’t wait until then. Too stupid for words.

And even more annoying, I found at least five, maybe six (not organized enough yet to count them) short stories that I wrote at some point in the last year that are novel starts. Not really short stories. Three of them are Thunder Mountain stories, one is a Seeders, one is a Cold Poker Gang, and I damn near started into one of the Thunder Mountain starts, but managed to hold off.

I have missed a few days on the short story challenge, but not unexpected. And I am not worried. I think of the things that caused this miss was just this horrid feeling of being out of order. So tonight I made some progress.

And I got a lot of other stuff done today as well, so a good day.

So now off to work on Smith’s Monthly for a short time, then get a good night’s sleep and back at this organization tomorrow, and maybe even a new short story to put into the new organization.


  • allynh

    And even more annoying, I found at least five, maybe six (not organized enough yet to count them) short stories that I wrote at some point in the last year that are novel starts. Not really short stories.

    I remember you mentioning those at the time and wondered what happened to them.

    It’s too bad that your brain is not built to do a chapter a week, mixed in with the short stories a day, so that when you stumble across a novel start that you can remember to finish it.

    Because stumbling on a novel start is common for you and it will happen again.

  • Connor Caple

    I have a big pile of printed materials. Shorts. Novel starts (usually 3 chapters or so) that got forgotten or abandoned. And a collection of thousand word story starts that never got continued. I also have digital copies of most of them.
    The unfortunate part is that they are all filed on my computer (and cloud, learnt that lesson) by date!
    Date!? What good is that? Laughing at myself here.
    It’s because of a habit I got into around 2004 of writing a short piece every morning just to see what my unconscious would come up with and naming them things like “20040127 20 minutes Pirate” in my document folder then printing a hard copy (without a title) and popping it into an expanding A4 file.
    Just kill me now. ?
    At some point I am going to have to read, rename and refile 16 years work.
    I have a publishing schedule to hit this year, so may not get them done.

  • Dawn

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    I read this post this morning and since then I’ve had one thought running through my mind: if Dean can’t keep track of his stories, what hope is there for me? Then, I start wondering about what information I should be tracking. I have spreadsheets set up for my novels which track various aspects of them. I have a spreadsheet setup for short story submission, but since all I’ve ever filled in on it are rejections, I wonder if I would even know what I would some day want to track.

    Worse, now I can hear all this critical voice running around in my head and it has stopped me cold. Fortunately for me, I finished my weekly word count goal before it really grabbed me and pulled me under to start second guessing myself.

    So, Dean, what information should we be tracking on and for our stories? What do you consider as essential data for writers?

    PS. How does Kris do her tracking? Curious minds want to know.

    • dwsmith


      I can’t keep track of things because I write 20 times more than most other writers and hundreds of times more than a lot of other writers. I am working on writing 365 full short stories this year alone, on top of the other 500 plus stories I have already written.

      And my focus is on the writing, not what I do with what I wrote.

      What do you want to track? Title, word count, series (if any), genre (maybe). Where published, meaning if it sold to a magazine, or indie. If it has been in a collection or not. I also track if I have done a cover and the artist name and location I got the art from. If it is in paper edition, I track the ISBN.

      I don’t need much more. I also have a spread sheet of all the stories that have appeared in Smith’s Monthly, the two hundred plus of them so far, and their series, and what issue they are in, and if they have been put out in stand-alone yet.

      If you only write a dozen or so short stories a year, this is not a problem until about twenty years down the road. If you write at my pace, it is always a problem.

  • Tina Back

    After finishing the short story challenge, I realized I had to find a way to build some kind of archive. Spreadsheets would not work for me. Sadly, despite my efforts I’m Excel intolerant.

    I ended up using Scrivener. The project is called “Story Archive”. Every story is filed as a chapter. I figure I’ll do these in collections of a hundred stories each.

    In addition to the info Dean listed, I add a log line at the top to know what the story is about at a glance.
    And the sales copy. Tagline. Cover. MS.

    There’s a “plans” section to remind me if the story was a novel start or one of the dreaded series starts. Or the name of the short story collection the story will be published in. And ideas for marketing etc.

    Basically, I use the story archive before as well as after publishing.

    Still have fifteen stories or so to go, but the archive is a timesaver because I put everything in one place and not squirreled away in half a dozen hidey-holes on three different hard drives.

  • Kris Rusch

    I have a bibliography of everything I’ve published that I keep up. I also have a file for unpublished stories, which are alphabetical by title. The messy file is “current stories” because I change titles, have half finished stuff, and a lot of one-sentence starts. However, when I feel the need, I reread them and sometimes finish them.

  • Jacquelyn Smith

    I used to have a very rough ‘system’ for managing all my writing files… But that Organization lecture from Allyson was a real eye-opener for me. I took it a couple of years ago, and I am SO glad I took the time to set up a proper structure afterward. Honestly, I don’t even know how I managed to find anything before, doing it the old way–especially as my list of files has expanded. I can’t even imagine how many titles and files you and Kris must be working with… Good luck!

  • Linda Maye Adams

    I’ve been using Evernote to keep track of my stories (I’m doing the Great Challenge and have 20 new stories as of the writing of this. I did an annual review, which asked what projects I’d completed, so I pulled the list of short stories and it was fun writing a short sentence about the story.

    All my stories indie published go in there with a template of all the information–have one for stories and one for collections. Granted, all of that is from a certain point forward. I have about fifty that I’ll need to add.