If you want to turn your writing talent into a part or full-time career, you will need some organisation to avoid chaos.
Your actual methods need to be tailored to suit your needs.
If you write for more than one genre or type of outlet, (such as novels, and short stories) you may need separate systems for each.
Finding a happy balance means avoiding chaos and confusion on one hand (because you can’t find important information), versus being bogged down by excessive and unnecessary systems on the other.
Your needs will probably evolve over time, so establish some basic systems to get you started, and develop more as required. Ask yourself: What is most important for me to keep track of? What will help me most?
These are the basics for me, as a freelance article writer:
· File cards, with titles in alphabetical order: one for every article I send for publication. These cards include the following information: a code number, my title, the length of the article, the date it was sent for publication and to whom, and whether or not it was accepted for publication.
If there is more than one article on the same subject, and they are similar (perhaps they were written slightly differently for separate publications), I use the same card, but the code numbers have a letter after them, to tell the difference, such as 154a, 154b, etc.
· A list of all articles sent to publishers, in order of the date sent. This also includes the code number, name of publication, whether or not it was accepted, any comments by editors, and payment received.
· A dated list of all correspondence to editors, including the name of the editor and the publication. This has saved me many an embarrassing moment, as it is easy to forget whether or not you have queried editors on new article ideas, or asked them why they haven’t replied to something you sent a long time ago.
· Every article is printed out in hard copy (I’m ‘old-school’, in that respect), and noted on a list showing the name and word count for the article.
· This information is also kept on my computer (and backed up).
If you get and keep in the habit of making use of your chosen systems while you are in the process of sending articles to editors (rather than doing it later), you will be much better equipped to cope with the varied jobs required to keep a freelance career going smoothly.
If you do a lot of research, for non-fiction books especially (and also possibly for fiction), you will need to invest some time and effort into developing reliable ways to keep track of the information you obtain. Those methods, as well as keeping financial records, are outside the scope of this article.
Getting organised is hard work, and a hassle sometimes, but I remind myself that putting time aside for it is like putting money in the bank: you may prefer to spend that money as you wish, but investing it pays much greater dividends in the long run.