Monday, August 14, 2017

Organization Tricks

Terry Shames, here, giving some hints about how I deal with:

BUSINESS:  Tricks for staying organized.


Excuse me while I try to gain control of my hysterical laughter.

Tricks? No. Hard-won methods? Sort of.

I used to be organized. I used to write lists, do tasks at once so they wouldn’t back up, and generally have control of my life. That was before I became a published writer. Who knew being published took up so much time and energy. Here’s how I thought it worked: write a book, get an agent, find a publisher, turn over everything regarding the book to the publisher. Do the book tour the publisher organized. Collect the money. Repeat.

Now a pause for me to wipe my eyes from weeping.

What follows is a list of what I have done to stay at least somewhat organized:

1)         Start a new file folder for each book. Seems easy, right? The problem is what to call the folder: Book Three? Possible Africa mystery? France? I was halfway through writing a book before I realized I had another whole folder of notes for the book that I had forgotten about.
2)         Flag emails that are important. Seems easy, right? A few hints: different flag colors for different categories (I wrote the colors down and promptly lost the cheat sheet). There need to be flags for things that need to be done soon and those that will occur eight months from now. Another hint: remember to flag things. If you have forgotten to flag one email that is relevant, your whole system is useless. Guess how I know this.
3)         Write things on your calendar. There are actually calendars that have ways of color coding what you are writing down (i.e, personal, business, family, urgent) I actually have one of those calendars. If I bothered to use it, I bet I’d love it.
4)         Drop emails into separate folders with useful names. Sorry, but “To Do” is not useful unless, unlike me, you have the discipline to look at it every day, not once every six months.
5)         Keep a file cabinet for paper documents. Especially helpful if you file things in it, instead of “filing” papers in a big pile on one corner of your desk.
6)         Send remainder emails to myself. Only useful if I actually read them, instead of thinking, “Oh, I know what that is. I’ll get to it.”
7)         Keep a list with the names and email addresses of: book store contacts to set up readings; publicity department contacts for newspapers and magazines that publish notices when I have a new book; all the miscellaneous people I meet who might be willing to give me a plug, an interview, etc. I have such a list. If I kept it up-to-date, it would be really useful.
8)         Keep a running list of blogs that I enjoy reading and that might be willing to host me when I have a new book coming out. See last line of #7.

And here is a list of things I wish I had done or hope to do:

1)         Keep a book bible—a list of names of people, places and things that crop up in each book with a short description. Great idea. Instead, I seem to enjoy spending tedious time looking back through books, trying to find out what I called “that barbecue place on the road to Bryan,” or the name of Samuel Craddock’s banker, or… In my search, first I have to figure out which book it was in, and then where it was in the book. I seem to enjoy this because if I didn’t, I would have kept a book bible, right? I actually start one with each book. Start one. Not finish one.
2)         Hire an assistant. What keeps me from this? I don’t actually insist that the person has to “think like me.” No, what I think is, he or she has to BE me. Also, if I hired an assistant, I’d have to give her instructions. Enough said.
3)         Learn how to use the following effectively: my computer, my word processing program, my printer (ha!), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all other social media. Gosh, it’s so much easier to stumble around making stabs at being effective, finding something that works sort of okay, breathing a sigh of relief, and failing to write down the discovery.
4)         Go through all those folders, deleting or pitching out everything that has become irrelevant. Of course that requires deciding what is and is not relevant.

Don’t even get me started on photos. I have some wonderful photos from readings, meetings, and conferences. However, would it really be interesting to anyone if I were to publish a photo from a reading I did three years ago and never got around to sharing? How about that zany photo of a favorite author whom I posed with back in 2013? If I posted it now on Facebook, would he think I was stalking him? I must have 200 photos of conference panels with tiny little faces on the panels because the photo was taken from the back of the room. Do I really need to keep these? I will delete them. Eventually. Just give me time to get organized.

And speaking of photos, here is one from my fabulous vacation in British Columbia:


Paul D. Marks said...

Great stuff, Terry! I especially love the filing system on the corner of your desk. Like you, I have filing cabinets but much prefer the same system you use :-) .

Susan C Shea said...

Wonderful list, Terry. I am with you every sloppy step of the way - every one! I also have filing cabinets, where good ideas go to die.

Peg Cochran said...

At first I thought you were writing about me! Especially the book bible-why oh why don't I start one right away?? It would save so much time. And sending myself reminder emails. Ha! If only that worked. But somehow we manage, right? said...

Thanks for the great list. I do have one question - for your story bible what would you recommend. A smaller one like a Tul from Office Max or an Arc from Staples. Maybe a three ring binder or is that too big?
Cyn Naden

Terry said...

Thank you for your comments. I seem to have hit a nerve (in a good way). Somehow I had the fantasy that everyone else was totally organized. Pam Stack told me that she purges her email inbox everyday, sending everything to folders. I'm going to kidnap her and make her do mine!

Terry said...

Cyn, I wish I could give you advice. My ideal book bible would be in a Word file....but since I don't have one, I don't know if it work or not. Knowing me, I'd be smug and satisfied--until I went to look up something and found I had forgotten to put it in.

Susan C Shea said...

Terry...or your computer died.

Unknown said...

Wow, your list of disorganizations and good intentions is so much like mine! I'm glad you got a good laugh anyway :)

Leslie Budewitz said...

And wait, there's more! How on earth do you file contracts, royalty statements, paystubs, notes for future website updates? And on and on.

I can say, I do keep a bible for each series (two) and stand-alone (one). It's a three-ring binder, although I keep notes and character info on the computer, then print it out. The synopsis, if the book was sold on one, goes in there, as do calendar pages. Plastic sleeves hold pictures of outfits or buildings ripped from catalogs and magazines. It's the one organizational tool I know I'm doing right -- it's an enormous help for a series, and for revising.

advocates in delhi said...

If you have any issue, just consult a best lawyers in delhi.

Terry said...

Leslie Budewitz, when can you come to my house? HELP!!

Sheila Good said...

Ha! Love this and can I relate. When I was working (many years ago) my secretary forbid me to file anything! I like to think I'm an organized individual, but the truth is - NOT! I may file under the title, subject, publication, genre, revision, etc. You get the idea. Months ago I wiped my computer clean and started over pulling only the files I really wanted. HaHaHaHa. I'm beginning to believe being organized is overrated. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles