Organizing Your Work

Once you have multiple pieces of writing that you intend to send out into the world (submit to publishers, journals, contests, etc.), you need a good way to keep track of everything. If you have one or two books that you’re sending out, it’s not too difficult. If you’ve got a dozen short stories, it’s going to take more thought. If you’ve got upwards of 100 poems, your complexity goes up significantly.


I thought I’d share a couple of options for keeping track of what is in need of edits vs. what is ready for submission vs. what is out there (hopefully) being reviewed by an editor vs. those pieces that (thankfully) have been published and that you need to not send out again (except possibly as part of a compilation).


I’m going to describe two approaches, one using typical office software and another using some specialized tools. I’m not talking about trying to organize hard copies or using a notebook for tracking, as that way lies madness.


The Office Way

I used to use a word processor to house all my poetry. This was fine for formatting, but it was difficult to find a poem. I kept them in the order they were written, which was good for editing, as I often edited in a batch and poems written about the same time had been left to “breathe” the same amount of time. When it came time to submit, however, I had to scroll through an increasing large file or search.


When I thought something was ready to be submitted, I added it to a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet had the title, date it was written, number of lines, current submission, date of submission, date of response, the response, previous submissions, and other comments. This works fairly well, especially because it is easy to sort a spreadsheet.


On another tab, I kept information on the places where I submitted. This included the name of the journal/website/publisher, the URL, submission method (through email, Submittable, etc.), number of poems to submit, whether simultaneous submissions are okay, whether a previous publication is okay, expected response time, style preferences, and other comments. Again, sorting on a spreadsheet is simple. It’s also easy to add a column when you think of some other piece of information you need.


This method is fine for tracking information. My problem with this came with storing my poems in an easily accessible way. I have a big chunk of “old” poems that I wanted to keep separate from the newer work, in part to make the number of poems in a document more manageable. The problem then became accessing multiple files to get to all my work. I had contemplated having each poem in its own document, but I honestly didn’t remember the title of every poem, so I would wind up opening multiple documents. It was awkward at best.


Scrivener and Duotrope

Scrivener is a tool developed by Literature and Latte (http://www.literatureandlatte.com) that is a complete writing studio. You can organize your poems into binders, similar to different documents in the Office approach, but since everything is maintained together in one project, viewing the documents in a different binder is only one click. There is a bulletin board view that lets you organize your work in any order with a simple click and drag. You can add descriptions, statuses, and other data fields to your documents. My poems have a status to indicate whether it is in progress, done, published, etc. I have fields to show the original creation date, date of the last edit, the date I had it critiqued on Scribophile, and a form if there is one applicable.


You can also create collections and add poems to a collection. You can order the collection independently from the overall project, which is great for playing with the order of poems in a chapbook without messing up the overall project. You can add information on submissions in these extra fields or in the description, but there is a better approach.


Duotrope (http://www.duotrope.com) is a website that has marketing information on more than 5,000 journals and publishers. You can list your pieces for submission, track your submissions, and save your favorite markets. The site also compiles statistics, so you can tell whether to anticipate a response in five days or five months.


While this approach costs a little money (Scrivener is currently $40 and Duotrope is either free or $5 per month, depending on your option), but I find it well worth the money due to the number of pieces you have. A spreadsheet is a totally reasonable way to track your items and submissions. A word processor may work fine for editing and storing your poetry, especially if you are more patient than I am or have a better approach than I did. I would love to hear other methods for organizing your work. Please share in the comments below.


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