Filing Systems

Or, how’s this for an anti-theft device?

I’m not a particularly organized person. I can be if I have to, but it takes more effort than I’m usually willing to expend at any given time. And I used to have an amazing visual memory, so I merely had to think about an item to remember where it was located. It’s not as good nowadays, but accurate enough to get by. I save everything, just in case, but I don’t always label things in detail. And having borked a couple of computers over the years, the salvaged files don’t always get placed in the right new home, because I’m so happy to see them again that I don’t take the time to sort through them. Also, I’m new enough to writing that my system has developed over the last few years, so what seemed logical when I began publishing five years ago, isn’t logical anymore. And in the case of the time travel story- the current WIP- I fought it so hard at first, that I just dumped everything in one folder for the first hundred thousand words or so, with no regard for organization.

The result is that my files are… eclectic. They usually have the story title somewhere in the file name, and ‘notes’ or ‘deleted scenes’ are labeled as such. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. If the scene is from an odd POV, I often note that, and the final draft is also noted. I don’t usually use a numbering system like ‘version 1.0’ or the like, because my brain won’t associate the number with the contents.

One of my weirder filing quirks is that all of my ‘working files’- the documents I actually write in- are one file type, and all of my backups are a different file type. This way, I can tell at a glance which one is open, and I don’t accidentally add something to one file but not the backup, or vice versa. I said it was eclectic.

Someday, in my copious spare time, I’ll organize everything. Or more likely- because I know myself- I’ll start organizing, get frustrated at my lack of progress, and find something else to do, leaving the files half-sorted. Oh, well.

What’s your filing system look like? Has it changed over time? Those of you who work in multiple media, do you have separate systems for each medium?

14 comments

  1. Filing “system”? I have everything from notes written on restaurant napkins in a shoebox to notebooks that also have research material from actual research (not just book research) in them, to hard drives with files based on programs going back to the early nineties.

    I currently write in Scrivener, with OpenOffice a text editor as a backup for fixing the occasional strange quirks that appear in formatting. Some of my stuff is on Royal Road (which really needs to be updated and improved), and others have yet to be clarified and written down yet. I’m currently writing a zombie/sci fi/??? piece that snuck up on me and is monopolizing the writing brain at the moment and kicking it onto the blog site.

    To call it a system is to give such a rickety contrivance too much credit. But I’m used to it, so…

  2. Electronic folder (documents) that is online, so some of the contents are actually links.
    Inside is broad sections– Fiction, Blogging, a couple of varieties of resources like first-aid ebooks, mythology/pop culture resources, fanfic, or pictures of scaley lizards!*
    Inside of fiction, there’s universe it’s in. Broadly, another person’s fantasy world, my scifi, my fantasy.
    Inside of universe, there’s the stories.

    I also have a discord channel where I’m the only member, sorted into my fantasy, and my scifi; each has pictures, snippets, and Nifty Links.

    This is the product of spending more time looking for stuff than I did writing; once I got a “work space” made, I started making progress in *actually learning to write*.

    * There’s one folder I didn’t mention until now.
    “Old.”
    It’s got all the files that I haven’t sorted yet– and anytime I find a recovered collection of files, into there it goes!

  3. I have been told that the horizontal filling system covering my desktop is suboptimal.
    Also, “a mess”.

    On the bright side, can find what I need, when I need it.

    Unless my wife moves it to a nebulous place called “away”. In which case I might find it the next time I have to move. Maybe.

    As to computer files, I was already an adult before I encountered Windows 3.11. So my file trees are actually pretty organized, simply out of self-defense. (Although it’s for my own use, so I do have a tenancy towards c:\UserName\UserName\Projects\Writing\Writing\WorkingTitle types of locations.)

  4. My organization is… evolving.

    Currently I write in a program called Dabble, which is not the most easily organized thing, I try and keep each series in a single dabble ‘project’. For on-computer storage I tend to organize by world, then by series/main arc, then by individual work. Some worlds this is more necessary than others. I have one multiverse with around 3 different series waiting on it. Another that is a single physical world with 5 and a couple of nebulous things. For world bibles I use an online service called World anvil that is helping but getting things organized on there is a bit tricky (just figuring out what makes sense to my brain.)

    For workflow tracking I’m setting up Trello. It was working pretty well, but I broke a few things and now need to fix them.

    Now if only I could stick with systems long enough to actually get used to them.

  5. I originally had to file things in good ol’ DOS, and today’s filenames are gloriously not only longer than eight characters, they can have SPACES and MIXED CASES.

    That being said, I just cleaned up a couple of folders at work for some files where some used a – and some used an _. It may not seem like much, but now everything can be found alphabetically, which is important when you’re sorting through 30 or 50 schools named by two or three initials. (When I started working at this place back in 2005, I shortly declared a standardized naming system for team photos—yes, as the newest member of the team–since there WASN’T one, and they were having to create them two or three times because they couldn’t find them. This? This is nothing. The files are a miracle of proper organization. It’s the artists who don’t put things in alpha order.) (Yes, I am an artist. Who also spent a year and a half in engineering classes.)

  6. I do files by story title, under genre (“OFam” in “Familiars” in “Urban Fantasy”). Once I get to the “I’m ready for edits” stage, it goes into big folder “publications” smaller folder “Fiction” sub-folder “Fam.” Then “Fam21” because Overly Familiar will be the 21st book in the primary series. I also moved all of these into “Documents” because an OS update on my Day Job computer shattered my old filing system, and it took me, oh, a year to find almost everything again. Almost.

    I use the same system in my on-line back-up (which I pay for).

  7. Drafts and world-building, etc is corralled in scrivener. There’s a publishing folder for word docs that are either finalized or going into/coming out of editing. Anymore, Amazon or Draft2Digital will make the ebook files as long as you have a linked table of contents, so don’t have to wrestle very hard with scrivener’s export functions as much as I used to.

  8. My system is more or less randomly changing systems.

    I have a computer, I put files somewhere. Then I have another computer, and put files somewhere else on it.

    For a while, it felt like I had a consistent way of sorting files across several computers, at least for the important stuff. And I was organized on keeping track of paper.

    I’ve stayed up too late, and may have just gone too skeptical of my stuff.

    Creative writing, and a bunch of other stuff, text files.

    I use spreadsheets at times.

    REcently, I was keeping some notes in paint until I needed to reboot for an update.

  9. For a while I used post-it note stuck to my desk and my monitor bezel. I’d also discovered that Windows had a built in post-it note system, so I was using that too.

    That actually got kind of funny, because from a distance it looked like I’d actually stuck post-its to the screen itself…

    So right now, half of it is folders in My documents, half of it is in One Note. Half of it is emails to myself, and the rest is written notes in about two different note books, a flip pad and more post it notes.

    Also loading stuff in rtf files on OneDrive…

    Now that said, the writing is currently just all in a set of folders on a personal OneDrive with notes in a couple of notebooks, but I expect it will get as fully crazy as my day-job stuff…

  10. Because when teaching I had to be organized by class and semester, (i.e. POLS 101 F19 for that class in the Fall 2019), and journal articles (with external referee comments), I started something similar when I started writing fiction. There’s a big file “Writing” which has subfiles: Blog Posts, prompts, Short Stories, Book 1 Title, Book 2 Title, WIP Title, etc. There are files names “Title Outtakes” for those bits which I cut, but think might still be useful. No version numbers for anything though except when goes to publication, then it’s Title Final. Considering I named my dissertation file “Voldemort” I think that’s about as organized as I’m going to get.

  11. 1. Stack of books with Post-it tabs sticking out at interesting pages.
    2. Word documents on various topics, basically collections of notes from the books with keywords and citations.
    3. Evernote files, preserving keywords and citations.

    In theory, over time #1 gets translated to #2, #2 to #3 and in the end I’ll have a beautiful collection of notes on the Italian Renaissance, magic, cookery, warfare, medicine, costume and so on, all organized in Evernote. In practice, #1 grows significantly faster than I keep up with the translation process, because lying on the couch reading is much more fun than typing notes or fooling around with Evernote. I’m about two books away from running out of space to stack them on the coffee table, and there’s a shiny new book on Urbino begging to be unwrapped…

  12. Filing system, I’m oddly organized. Business stuff resides in a filing cabinet, with company names on the folders and the date they were started. No effort to do alphabetization, waste of time because I know roughly where things are.

    For writing, things are in multiple locations, multiple formats, multiple operating systems and some are off-site, finally. There’s an up-to-date copy of all my business crap and all my books on thumb drives, laptops etc.

    I plan for catastrophe, and it has saved me once already. “What if an evil wizard killed my whole network?” is the founding concept. That happened, and it was my own fat fingers that did it. I recovered everything because of paranoia and constant backups.

    Given the appalling behavior of governments lately, I’m also starting to be a fan of DVD drives, hard-copy and hardcover books. It’s hard for Mickeysoft/Arpple/Gargle/Farcebook/Tweeter to reach into your library and erase a dead-tree book.

    Sometimes I feel I’m going to end up like one of those little old Italian grandmas that kept a roll of hundreds and a half-pound of gold under a board in the barn.

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