Friday, 3 January 2014

My filing cabinet

The other day, while reading through my WIP, I remembered a scene I wrote a long time ago (a scrappy half-scene scribbled down in the early hours of a random morning) that would fit perfectly.

So I headed to my filing cabinet to search for it.

I didn't find it, but what I did happen upon was everything else I've ever written... or so it seemed. Endless copies of stories that never got submitted, let alone published. Reams of handwritten sheets that I deemed not good even to even be typed up. Half page, half-imagined scenes. Lists of names, page 6 of a manuscript without evidence of 1 to 5 or beyond, the first line of a story written several different ways, and a lot more.

My cabinet is a fascinating exploration into my head. In short, it's a mess. It needs sorting - the cabinet, I mean, not my head... which is probably beyond help at this point. I need boxes, and I need a black marker pen, and I need a day or two - and I need them NOW!

And the worst part is, I still haven't found that scene, and I know it's perfect.

How do you organise your writing? Have you got a proper archive?
Do you still have paper versions, or are you completely electronic?
I need advice!

52 comments:

  1. LOL, I want to look in your filing cabinet!

    I have a bunch of work that was handwritten back in the days before I had a computer, and it's all in box files. Most of it is organised, but there are a few bits here and there that are in the wrong folder, or have bits missing.

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    1. I let someone else have a look in there once... I haven't seen her since :-)

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  2. I try to be organised with my writing but am often found lacking! I have cardboard files, I have notebooks (mainly under the bed!) and I have computerised notes. It's sort of a system but no way is it perfect!

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    1. It still sounds a lot better than me. Under the bed is a great place to store stuff!

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  3. I'm still trying to work out my own system. I have paper notes in a folder with dividers, I have at least three notebooks and some more ideas and half-stories in my Dropbox folders.

    I think something like this is a fluid system, and changes as your writing habits change. It's nice to have a sort out though, I find I come across things I'd long forgotten about and get the impetus to work on them again.

    I hope you find your scene :-)

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    1. Thanks Heather. I often come up against old ideas that spark my muse again. I think the scene might be lost, or at least very well hidden.

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  4. Would it be wrong if I said the line about your head being a mess made me chuckle?
    I'd have to really dig to find any of my old stuff. Miracle I happened upon the original version of CassaStar.

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    1. Ah, you haven't met me in person yet Alex... I'm not kidding about my head! Fate was certainly in your corner when you started working on CassaStar again, wasn't it?

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  5. I have some novel outlines in manila folders, two rough copies of completed novels in paper and on thumb drives, so I guess I'm in a bit of the same place as you. I kind of like having all that material hanging around.

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    1. Having previous work lying around does make you realise how productive you are.

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  6. I don't have a filing cabinet but I do have desk drawers full of notes, plastic tubs full of folders, notebooks in all stages of being written in, etc. I keep saying I'm going to take the time to organize it all but that never happens. I do manage to clean out bits and pieces though, so that helps.

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    1. I know my post sounded like a bit of a complaint, but actually I like the mess, and your's sounds great :-)

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  7. All of my writing is on the computer, so at a quick glance it seems tidy and organised. I do have a lot of files called things like 'unfinished' 'ideas' and 'other' though.

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    1. Files named 'Other' are fantastic, because you never quite know what you're going to get :-)

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  8. Nope. Most of the random stuff I write is scattered all over my room and tucked into nooks and crannies.

    My rough drafts are in notebooks, which at least makes things look neat on the outside. Oh and I never bother to look for specifics among my random writings. If I need something, I write it from scratch, because I KNOW I'll never find it otherwise. ;-)

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    1. All these random things have poured out for a reason, so I know I have to use them at some point. I've found loads of other stuff I'd forgotten about!

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  9. I don't have a filing cabinet. I have some file folders (organized by novel) and notebooks, piles and piles of notebooks, that are in boxes and on shelves and everywhere else, and when I have that moment when I have to find a scene I may have written down in one of them at some point in time, my writing room looks like a tornado went through it.

    I do have a "misc scene" folder on my computer where any deleted or replaced scene goes to live, but I'll never be completely electronic.

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    1. No, I could never been completely electronic either. I love my notebooks far too much!

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  10. Hole punch and put in notebooks,I would never depend on a computer for files of things I wrote. Sometimes you can get ideas from old stories, or use a line and start a new one. Here is a confession: I save old "bluebooks," remember them? from college or final essay exams or papers I wrote in college (the good ones) and re-read the comments the profs made.

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    1. I thought I'd kept my English exam coursework - but when I was looking for it to show my son, it's vanished. Perhaps that folder and my missing scene have absconded together??

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  11. I have an electronic file called "Drafts and Ideas" and anything I started or had a glimmer of an idea about in the past 7 years I can probably find there.

    Once I get seriously started on a project, I keep all my notes, brainstorming, timelines, proposed scene ideas, and research links in Scrivener. I don't draft in Scrivener though. The word processing is too clunky.

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    1. I've never tried Scrivener, but then I don't plot so I'm not sure how useful it would be. Splurging ideas onto scraps of paper is totally my style!

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  12. I have a paper file that's messy, but then my word file for ideas is even messier . . . but I've taken to dating my ideas into yearly folders - poetry 2014 just started, and story ideas 2014 will probably be started next week - that helps me keep some of the mess a little straighter. If a character or idea gets several starts, I make a file just for that. However, I still have a mess - just a slightly more organized one. I actually think it's fun to find old ideas now and then. :)

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    1. Dating your folders is a great idea. I might implement that, thanks!

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  13. Pretty much all of my writing is typed up and saved onto my computer, but I have had the occasional moment where I couldn't find the piece of writing I was looking for. I feel your pain.

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    1. At least when you lose it on the computer you can use the search box! I've tried calling it's name, but no luck yet!

      Your blog won't let me comment, so I hope you see this: Congratulations!! What a romantic finace you have, using your grandmother's ring :-)

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  14. You are definitely not alone. :)

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  15. I'm mainly electronic but I do have a lot of notepads around the house. Every now and then I try and go through them and pull bits out. Mostly, though, I'm ruthless. If I don't use a scene I am most likely to bin it! Good luck with the sorting!

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    1. Bin it!!? I've come over all faint... No, I could never do that. The last time I threw my writing away, I was about 12 because I was embarrassed and didn't want my mum to see what I was doing!

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  16. I think you're doing all right, Annalisa.
    I work on the computer but find it necessary to print out when I'm a few chapters in because it feels comfortable to sit with sheets of paper, then something is inserted, re-written and more printouts are necessary, until the drawers are crammed (nowhere to put the jumpers), and that includes the drawers under the beds (nowhere to put the sheets). I do bin whatever I've finished with. Notes for whatever I'm working on are in shoe boxes.
    Sometimes I can't find what I know I've written, too. It's a headache!

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    1. I bin quite a lot once that particular piece is published, but I've always kept the first drafts. I am fascinated by the first drafts of famous authors like Austen, so I've got mine tucked away, waiting for the day I am famous and a museum wants to display it (Sad, but true :-/ )

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  17. I use notebooks. I like the pretty hard backed kind that fit in my purse. That way, all my thoughts are bound in there (or taped if if I make a note on a scratch piece of paper.)

    I have thought of going totally digital, but it's so much easier to grab a pen a my notebook and scratch out my thoughts than to log on, etc. And it has become my multi-purpose notebook...grocery lists, to do lists. Then when it is filled, I go through and tear out and throw away all the junk and only keep the good stuff. Once a little gem becomes a project...that project has its own notebook and I for real cut and paste notes to the new notebook.

    Now that I explain it all...it doesn't seem at all simple...but I am a parchment and quill kinda gal...still.

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    1. My boys bought me a Doctor Who notebook for Christmas :-D

      I like your method of ripping out the junk from your notebook - but you never know when a shopping list will inspire you. After all, I wrote Omelette because I was eating an omelette :-)

      I'm a cut-and-paster too. I love turning pages that have several layers, they have a lovely crunchy feeling.

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  18. I think it is so cool that you have a filing cabinet. I have a file that I put everything in. I have so many ideas in there, but I have yet to use any. I use to plot all my ideas out on paper, but then I got lazy and did everything on the computer. My creativity was so much better when I used to plot it out on paper. I hope you find that perfect scene that you are looking for and that 2014 will be an awesome year for you.

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    1. I definitely find using a pen and paper makes me more creative - there's something beautiful about seeing your handwriting on the first page of a new notebook.

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  19. I have no filinfg cabinet - just a series of files and a few pen-drives. Every so often - not often enough, but that's life - I type all my scribbled notes into an 'Oddments' document. Must look at that again now you've reminded me! Happy 2014.

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    1. Happy 2014 to you too. Yes, definitely have a look at that doc!! :-)

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  20. Your filing cabinet sounds like a literary treasure trove! Lots of stories in there, just waiting to pop out!

    I'm stopping by to wish you a happy, peaceful and productive 2014, Annalisa!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Oh yes, that's what I'm hoping, Michelle! Happy 2014 to you too :-)

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  21. How do I organize my writing? Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. HAA ha ha ha ha ha ha. HAAAA ha ha ha ha! AAHHHAAHAHAHAHA! Wait...give me a minute. Nope...hahahahahaha!

    Good one, Annalisa.

    M.L. Swift, Writer: The Best is Yet to Come

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  22. very funny post. I have it all electronic. We just got a new PC and Ray managed to transfer everything without loss. Whew! I think if you go to sleep thinking about the piece you want, you'll find in your mind dream file....try it.

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    1. Oh, if only my brain worked in that way!!

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  23. Um, organize? Hmm, the rest of my house is now that way, but all I have is a few binder clips keeping my manuscripts in some sort of order. Hehehe.

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  24. Yikes! About seven years ago I started typing everything new on the computer. It all goes into my writing folder with subfolders that designate the story world or specific title, and although I've moved computers 3 times since then, it's still all together. I never delete a file but hold onto all my drafts. That said, I have a GIANT organizer from when I was 12 on. It's bursting with stuff, but most of it is so ancient I cringe. The creativity is raw though, so it stays in the crate, and I stay on my computer until I need an flash of inspiration.

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    1. I love the neatness of having everything on my computer, nicely tucked away and easily searchable, but I love writing by hand and I love editing the printed document.

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  25. i always start on paper, so i have tons of pages of ideas, started stories, notes, etc. good luck finding that perfect piece! but i bet you can remember it, you wrote it once...

    happy new year!

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    1. If only my brain worked that way, Tara - unfortunately, I write things down so I don't have to remember it! :-)

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  26. Hi Annalisa .. I was interested no-one mentioned Evernote .. and there are others .. but Evernote is one I really want to use - must do so in February .. make a real effort to master it. I have blog files for each year .. some of the 'posts' get taken over year by year ... !!! I have a filing cabinet - but that's full of other stuff .. I bought a tie 'chest of drawers' - small drawers ... and that's full and then there's paper around in bags usually! So at least it's vaguely together ...

    My 2014 year is sorting this lot out and getting some methodology going ...

    Good luck to both of us .. with our sort out .. cheers Hilary

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    1. I've not heard of Evernote. I spent yesterday clearing out my cabinet. It's not as empty as I hoped it would be. Good luck with your sorting too :-)

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