Organizing your writing projects

I used Word to write The Brevity of Roses. I already had a Documents folder labeled Writing with a sub-folder labeled Short Stories. That’s where I saved the story To Be Missed, which is what later became the novel. As the “story” grew, so did the files associated with it, eventually I moved all of them out of the story folder into their own sub-folder within my Novels folder.

Very soon, the Brevity folder spawned sub-folders, some of which spawned their own sub-folders. At that point, it took a bit of effort to navigate the maze to find any particular “notes” or “scenes” or “character” files I needed. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.

Then, I heard about free writing organization software and tried a couple of them. For one reason or another, I didn’t feel they worked for me.  Now, I’m trying Scrivener for Windows beta. (The Mac version has been around for ages.)

The program is more functional for me as well as more intuitive. For me, it’s a big time saver. My book text, scenes file, character sketches, notes of every kind, even reference photos and videos are all in one file. Click.

That’s not to say I’m a whiz at Scrivener for Windows. I’m still learning. Since it’s a beta version, each new update adds functionality, so it’s even better than when I first tried it last fall. I’m saving my pennies to buy the full version because I believe Scrivener is my answer to organizing each writing project.

Let’s discuss how to organize writing projects. Do you use writing software? Are you so well-organized in your word processing program that’s all you need? Do you click back and forth between an organizer and a word-processor?

25 thoughts on “Organizing your writing projects”

  1. I’ve thought of these special programs. Even “bought” one (can’t remember what it was called… started with an L lol) when it had a one day ‘download for free’ sale. It’s on the dead computer. I tried it once but it, and what I’ve seen of scrivener, seemed kinda confusing with a lot of features I didn’t think I needed. I keep considering giving it another shot though.

    I just have a word file. For my novel, I have one big file with my whole manuscript in it. (a separate file for each draft.) with a few extra files, like scenes I cut out that I could use for snippets on my blog, etc. Most of my ‘notes’ are written in a note book and all my research I printed out from the net.

    Short stories are in separate files in a two or three folders (fanfic, stuff to edit, fan fic to work) and all my drabbles/100 pieces are all saved in four files (100 drabbles that were a challenge, two files of related drabbles and one file for everything else).

    For someone who likes to be organized… this doesn’t sound organized. LOL


    1. Thank you for sharing your method, AuroraLee. Yes, it sounds like you have a lot of folders like I do. But I have nothing written in notebooks … well, one small one I carry in my purse to jot down bits. I’ve been addicted to Word files, I guess. 😉


  2. I write mostly in Word, one file per draft, though I have been using Omm for first drafting lately as it’s pretty. I have all kinds of notes collected in OneNote and I like that – I don’t have it open all the time, just when I need it.

    I save everything to Dropbox and have a folder each for novels, novellas and shorts. My shorts folder has folders: to finish, on submission, and trunked. The novel/la ones have a folder for each different novel/la and only documents within those, no other folders. It’s the same system I have used for awhile now, and it works well for me. I always know where things are, can easily see which stories are out (there is a ‘sold’ folder inside the submission one so I can find reprints easily).

    I use duotrope to track where I have sent things and responses for the pieces etc, it’s an awesome tool.

    It really is about finding what works for you, or making the things you have access to work for you (and discarding the things that don’t work!).


    1. Thanks for sharing your method, Cassie. OneNote is part of MS Office, right? But you can’t actually write your text in that, can you? So to me Scrivener is like having OneNote and Word combined. I only have to have one program open and only one file. Sometimes in Word, I have 4 or 5 files open at the same time, clicking back and forth to check a fact, or make a new note. But you’re right, we each have to find what works best for us. 🙂


      1. We do, we do. I think in the long run I’ll get something like scrivener (for the reasons you just gave) but right now I don’t feel like I have the time, will power, or energy (or mental head space) to learn a new programme! One day, though. One day.


  3. I’ve sort of come to the conclusion it’s impossible to truly “organize” a novel. The process, at least for me, is too messy. Files and folders and notes and stacks of printed paper with edits and lines and what have you everywhere I look. I do try to keep a single electronic folder for each novel.


  4. I’m uber organized to the point of being almost clinical in my obsession. Like JC I use Word and Onenote, but I also use Excel. I keep everything organized in Onenote because of the added features it allows, such as voice recordings of poems, chapters, and shorts. The at-a-glance tabs are great for instantly finding research, character charts, storyboards, bookcover art, etc. Backup systems are in place, both electronic and hard copy.


    1. I think trying to be “uber organized” might be a little too much for my brain, T.A., but I do need to simplify. I’ve looked at OneNote, but when I saw that I’d still have to use Word for the actual writing, I went back to Scrivener. I don’t know how to create spreadsheets, so no loss there. Scrivener automatically saves everything and you can also backup to another source — Dropbox for me. I keep visuals in my head, so I don’t even know how Scrivener uses multi-media. Could be OneNote is better for writers that use those things.


      1. The important part of keeping it together, is that YOU are comfortable with what you use. I’ve had the most experience using the formats that I mention, but as you said about OneNote, who’s to say that Scrivener may not be a better choice. As long as in the end we know where the stuff is at – that’s the key!

        Also having read your Frugal series, it might be that if I decide to self publish I need to look at options that require less formatting and reformating. Word does seem to present some problems.


        1. True, T.A. being able to find everything quickly is a major plus. If someone looked through all the folders within folders within folders in my Writing folder, they’d think a crazy person created those files. 😉

          Apparently the Mac version of Scrivener is able to create an ebook file. I don’t know how well that works, but maybe by the time my next book is ready, the Windows version will have the capability and I’ll see for myself.


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