Organising my Short Story Files

The time has come to *shudder* organise my short story files.

I’ve been writing short stories since I was about sixteen. Before I had ever even read an actual short story!

Needless to say I have a lot of files. Countless short stories with countless drafts. Not to mention all the half-baked ideas where I jotted down a few sentences to a paragraph then forgot all about them.

I currently store everything by year and then by what ever I fancy.

The problem is, I can never find what I’m looking for, rarely know which file is the latest, and inevitable waste time trying to figure out, only to give up because dinner needs to get on or the baby woke up!

If this is you, it may be time to organise your short story filing system. Let’s see if we can make life a little easier.

Why I need an organised filing system, and you do too.

I always dreamed of being the person who shot off a short story to a new publication as soon as that rejection email hit my inbox. The reality is, I don’t submit often. By the time that rejection comes in, or the allotted time the publication gives you before assuming it’s a big fat NO runs out, I’ve forgotten what file I even sent them in the first place.

So I don’t resubmit.

I’m too busy to trawl through similarly named files to figure out which is the most recent and thus good to go.

When I do decide I have time, I waste a lot of it on doing exactly that. Sometimes I even decide to give it one more revision. Just in case.

And then, after all that, I submit one story.

I’m too busy to go through all that for a second story, a third, a fourth (yes, I have that many sitting idle).

So ultimately, the reason I need a new filing system (and quite possibly you do to) is to save time. But even more importantly, it’s to reduce or *fingers-crossed* eliminate resistance. If you don’t feel resistance toward a certain task, you are far more likely to complete it. Especially a task like submitting short stories, that is not essential to your daily survival and therefore easy to put off.

[Related post: 4 questions to ask before you give up on a story]

How to structure your new filing system

There are probably a lot of articles out there offering great examples of tried-and-true filing systems for all sorts of work. But people don’t always fit neatly into folders, like a google doc can.

Personally, I think to build a filing system them that serves your specific needs you need to take a step back from the sub folders and file paths and start with the ‘why’ of it all.

What do you need to get out of this filing system?

Know your goals

My goals for this filing system are clear.

I want it to be easy to batch submit and resubmit short stories.

To do this I need two things:

  1. to have one absolutely final file that I know is ready to be sent off without double checking. Let’s call these the Master Files.
  2. I need these Master File to be kept in the same single folder. The Master Folder.

If my new filing system is working, I’ll be able to go straight to my Master Folder, select the relevant Master File, submit the short story. My heart feels lighter just thinking about it.

The hard work

I’m not looking forward to this part. It’s going to be time consuming and messy. But I know it will yield results.

As the saying goes “If you do what is easy your life will be hard, but if you do what is hard your life will be easy.”

If I do the work now, it will save me so much anguish moving forward and I might actually start getting short stories published again (it’s been so long!)

So, what is the hard work?

Build the filing system

The easiest of the hard work, create the filing system. As simple as hitting ‘new folder’ on you Mac or PC.

The arrangement of folders I’ve decided on will sit in my overarching ‘Writing’ folder and looks a little something like this:

Short Stories

  • Archive (where I will move all draft files once a Master File has been reached)
  • Drafts (where all working files are kept until a Master File is reached)
    • Story 1 (a folder for each story to keep notes, drafts, fragments, research, etc.)
      • Draft (working file)
      • Notes
      • Etc.
    • Story 2
    • Etc.
  • Finals (Master Folder)
    • Story 1 (Master File)
    • Story 2 (Master File)
    • Etc. (Master File)

This is just one piece of the puzzle and I will need to develop filing systems for my other writing and idea fragments as well. But you can only eat and elephant one bite at a time (I would never eat an elephant FYI).

Fill the filing system

This is not just about moving files across while watching Netflix. At least, not for me.

This is going to mean, doing all the work I previously did before each story submission.

  • Searching for and identifying Master Files
  • Reviewing and revising Master Files
  • Gathering disparate working files
  • Moving files
  • Cleaning up the wreckage that’s left behind

I also want to start revising the short stories that have been sitting at the drafts stage for weeks, months, years so I can move them, or get them closer to the Master Folder.

And the results are in…

I don’t know how long this will take me, so don’t expect a follow-up post any time soon. I do believe that in the long run, reorganising my filing system is going to pay dividends and I’m excited to get started.

Not right now though.

I’m too busy.

How do you organise your short story or other writing files? Is it time for a refresh?

One response to “Organising my Short Story Files”

  1. […] you’ve read my post on organising my writing files, you’ll know I have some pretty big goals for reorganising my filing system. I’ve definitely […]

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