Thursday, April 28, 2016

Calm Out of Chaos: Organizing Your Hard Drive, or, How to Save What's Left of Your Hair

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

Woohoo, talk about a sexy hot topic! Welcome to my next post in my Organized Writer Series. I daresay this isn't a topic everyone's been dying to read, but I will say that making the effort here, especially early on in your writing career, can prevent hair pulling and frustration later. Especially when we're in a hurry, because of course it's when someone asks for something at the last minute, and you're pressed for time, is when you can't find X on your hard drive! (Or which thumb drive you'd saved the thing on, or hunting through your emails to find the file that your cover artist sent you)

The Chaos...

I actually canNOT calmly look at my mother's computer. She's an artist, and oh-my-god her files are a mess on her computer. Just the desktop alone is scattered with icons everywhere. It drives me nuts. Especially when she's asked me to help her post some of her artwork somewhere, or some other task that requires us to find files. In an earlier post on creating a Production and Marketing Bible, I talked about a writer friend who'd recruited me to help her submit her book to a website. One of the problems that became immediately apparent was that she had no organizing structure on her hard drive. She had to remember where she'd saved her cover art from her agent, and then where she'd saved her epub files, etc. This would drive me crazy myself. Maybe it's because I'm lazy. I truly think that a lot of my need to organize is to cut out repetitive stuff in my life because I dislike doing something over and over that can be streamlined.

The Calm...

So, how do I organize my files? I'll say upfront that this isn't necessarily the best structure. It just happens to be how it makes sense to me and helps me easily find files. However you break it down, the important thing is that your structure needs to be such that it's a no brainer where you've put something when asked for it. And for me, I've found that creating the same structure for each book ensures I remember. And having topical folders under them helps keep the number of files to sift through to a manageable number.

First I have a folder called Writing (because I do have non-writer stuff on my computer), and then underneath this, I have a folder called:

_My Books

The underscore in front of it is important--that way it's always sorted at the top. On the same level, I have other various folders that are part of my writing world, but not tied specifically to a book, like classes, beta reads I've done for others, financials, and more. Organize them however you see fit.

But it's the part under _My Books that I thought I'd go into more depth. Underneath this folder, I have a folder for each book. Then within each book's folder, I don't just dump everything under it, but I create the same folders inside it each time I start a new project. Here is my folder structure that can be found in each book's folder (the indents in front are just so I can visually show the hierarchy here in this blog post):
Contests (Word docs of all the various contest entries)
Drafts (my Scrivener file goes here, as well as the different compilations it's gone through)
Feedback (The edit notes, and Beta read docs I've received from others)
Marketing (where misc marketing and promo files go, like my facebook ads, or teaser quotes, as well as my media kit for this book)
Blog Package (these are only the files that I have to include as attachments whenever I send docs for a blog tour, like my photo, the book's cover, blog post items, etc., so that I can just go here and bam-bam-bam select all these and send)
Trailer (all the files associated with making my trailer)
Production (this is where my cover goes in all of its sizes)
eBook (all my ebook files)
Print (all my print files)
Audio (all my audio files)

For some who have several series, with multiple books in each, you might find it better to have a folder for each series under _My Books, and then a folder for each book. That way you can have folders under the main series folder for stuff that is common for each book, like your series logo, or your series bible, or what-have-you.

I feel silly in a way posting this, as I'm sure a lot of you organize your files as well. But I thought that my mom and that friend might not be outliers or you might just like to see an example of how another writer organizes their files in case you're inspired to tame the chaos or tweak yours a bit.

What about you? How do you organize your files? And is there an aspect of your writing life that you struggle to get organized with that would make a great topic for a future post?

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

About Must Love Chainmail: A Time Travel Romance

Trapped in the wrong time, she needs a knight in shining armor, but this damsel in distress might be the real savior.

A damsel in distress...

With a day planner attached to her hip, the last thing Katy Tolson wants is a romance that threatens her well-ordered life. She's set to marry the safe--but bland--guy, but something's not quite...right. A careless wish thrusts her through time into medieval Wales and into the arms of...

A knight in somewhat shining armor...

Sir Robert Beucol, half-Norman and half-Welsh, lives with the shame of his father's treason and vows to reclaim his family's holdings and thereby his honor. To prove himself to his king, he must be more Norman than a full-blooded Norman. What better way to show loyalty than to fight his mother's people? He has no desire to be sidetracked by the mysterious wench with pink toenails, peculiar habits, and passion smoldering behind her cool, collected exterior.

A rebellion that challenges both...

The Welsh uprising fits perfectly into Robert’s plans. Katy’s on the other hand? That’s a no. As they embark on a perilous journey through the heart of Wales, each passionate encounter pulls them closer together, but farther from their goals. When everything they value is at stake, can they save each other and their love?


  1. I sort of do the same organizing. I have a folder named "stories" and then subfolders "old stuff" "published" "current" etc. Also, I make sure to keep backups of my "stories" folder on a thumb drive and I save my work in progress by attaching it as a file to an email that I send to myself. That way it's in "the cloud" and if my hard drive catches fire, I still have my work saved.

  2. That's great Gerald! As long as you have some hierarchical structure to make it easier to drill down to a file you need in a hurry! I also backup mine (to OneDrive)

  3. I have my files organized but not this thoroughly! You make me feel guilty and lazy, but that's a good thing. :-)

    ~Joyce Scarbrough

  4. Inspired!! Now to tackle those files of research!! Thanks!

  5. I do have a my books folder--but inside it I keep folders for each book. Once a month, though, I have to purge my download folder and make sure I move things over to their proper place.

  6. Great tips! I'm horrible at computer file organization. This will help.

  7. Great tips! I'm horrible at computer file organization. This will help.

  8. These suggestions come at a good time for me. I wish I had had them ten years ago. My structure is similar, but it is out of control. Because I use several laptops and one desk top computer, the most recent version of my manuscript might be on one or the other. I don't want to lose anything that I might want to go back to, so I will save a file on the PC I'm working with and also a backup file on a thumb drive and/or a portable hard drive. After a while these many files start to pile up and I have to consult the details to find the latest version by searching the 'modified' column. I started putting a hint in the file name (like, "Title after Renee" (My editor). The problem is that I end up with more versions that I can really keep track of. I finally settled on saving the latest version in a folder by itself, say (Active Version) and move the previously modified copies to a folder called "archives." I still have too many copies to track, but every once in a while I need to go back and recapture something that I deleted from the active file. I guess my main problem is I'm just too sloppy. I've never been good with file management.

  9. this is crazy! this is the fourth post i've seen this week on being / getting / staying organized—and it's the topic of my own post tomorrow! i organize my desktop similarly to yours (took screen shots for my post even! ha!) my most frequently used files are on desktop with the various sub-folders. oh, and i use (a) zero(s) in front of a folder name same as you use the underscore! great post!

  10. This is so helpful, and such a smart idea. I hadn't even thought of doing something like this for marketing. Thank you!

  11. I have a folder: books, then I organize by draft #. This is for books I am publishing. My writing is on another computer and I have different drives for: books I am outlining, books written, books writing. It's my art work that isn't organized very well, I can spend hours! hunting a picture file...because there are so many and repeats on several computers... I organize the art but I still get Lost in computer land! Then there are the 2 hard drive crashes where I did lose pictures, so I can look for pictures that are not anywhere, too.

  12. oh, I didn't finish that line of thought, organizng: books, draft # and then series, then the separate books.

  13. This is an excellent post. I just lost my hard drive with all my manuscripts on it. They are trying to retrieve everything - for a price. So far I've spent $80.00 for two new batteries, $80.00 for an external hard drive (in case they can get my writing off the old hard drive), $275.00 for the new (and empty) hard drive for my Mac. The cost of retrieving my stuff will be $350.00. My activation numbers for Office and Scrivener were on the old hard drive. So none of that either. That said, I now have Carbonite. And will organize my hard drive. No more icons all over the place. I'm not saying that is why mine died, but it could have been. Tell your mom. She does NOT want to be me. Thanks again.

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  15. I am a computer Geek sand unpublished. I probably over over-organize because I have these under my Writing Files Folder:
    1- Scrivner files
    2 - In Progress
    3 - My past Writing
    4 - Daily Writing
    5 - Learning the Trade
    6 - Other Research Projects
    7 - Tools to Use
    8 - Misc and Categorized
    Just a Caution if you use Windows. If you drill too many folders down and have longer file names Windows has a bad habit of deleting files when the path name gets too long. I now store all my stuff on an external hard drive and back that up on a drag and drop formatted DVD Rom disk.

  16. I'm so lazy I can't bare messy stuff. I must find without any problems what I'm looking for. Your classification is brilliant: I think I'm going to use it for my work. Writing fantasy, it is difficoult for me to organize all the part of the world building because classification is not so clear and precise. I think "research" is a too wide category for all the notes and ideas which come to mind.

  17. Thank you for your insightful article - I do organise my writing files, but not quite as thorough as you, but I now realise that my covers are in a separate file from the book, so best I go and sort this out now while I think about it.