Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Organizing Research—Electronic Files

When I first began writing, all research I did was at the library. Now with the internet, I find myself turning there first. When I find a reliable site with valuable information, I save it.

Knowing that not all internet sites are reliable, I still use books, too. I like to keep paper to a minimum, though, so scanning articles or saving them to a file are great green options.

How do you save all this research and still be able to find it when you need it? First, there is the old standby—My Favorites on Internet Explorer. Create folders and sub-folders as you need them to separate by subject. Keep the folder structure parallel to the structure in your computer files. Export your Favorites file on a regular basis to back it up.

You can also save your bookmarks to online sites. There are social bookmark sites like and, which share your bookmarks with others. Or there are sites like, which saves your favorites on the internet so you can access them anywhere from any computer.

When you come across a site with information you'd like to save, just add it to your Favorites folder.

Knowing how the internet keeps changing, and sites disappear, I like to create a backup of my pages. I copy and paste the content into a word document and save the document on my computer using the same folder structure as my Favorites. Then when the page disappears, I still have the information.

If you are the type who likes to keep paper to a minimum, then I suggest scanning any articles or book content you want to save. Rather than keeping a hard copy of the article in a file, scan it and save it. You can always print it out later if necessary. If the source is not obvious on the page, be sure to note it somewhere in the document.

You can save your research by project, or by subject. Sometimes information is needed across projects, especially if you are writing a series. These articles should be saved to a general folder. Then articles specific to a project can be saved with that project.

What are some of your favorite research sites?

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Thank you everyone for your participation in my guest appearance on the Acme Authors Link blog today.

Congratulations to Stephen and Rebecca, who were the winners of my booklet, "101 Organizing Tips for Writers."

I hope to see you all in cyberspace again soon.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Find Me On Acme Authors Link Today!

I'm a guest blogger on Acme Authors Link today. Click here
to read an article about time management for writers.

Comment for a chance to win a copy of my booklet, "101 Organizing Tips for Writers."

Thanks for visiting!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Product Recommendations for Managing Projects

Starting a project is exciting. It can also create anxiety. How will you keep track of all the tasks that are part of the project? How will you store all the paper generated by the project? How will you schedule your time to see that the project is completed on time?

In this post, we're going to look at storing the paper generated by a project. We'll look at products for small and large projects, and also the portability factor.

The first aspect to determine is the estimated size of the project. Will you be writing an article for a magazine? Then you probably won't have too many papers to collect. Will you be coordinating a contest for your writer's group? You will have a fair amount of paper. Are you starting a novel? If so, you will have a lot of papers by the end of the project.

Knowing the size of the project will help you determine the size of your storage. For a novel, you will want something large, like a portable file box.
This will hold all your hanging file folders , one for each aspect of your novel—research, contests, submissions, hard copies of chapters, marketing efforts, etc. They are large, sturdy and portable. And once the book is published, the box can be stored away securely, and remain dust-free.

Another way to store a large project is a desktop file. These also hold hanging file folders, but are open on the top. They provide easy access to the files, which remain visible at all times. They are portable, but not as easy to tote around. And while they hold a lot, they are not good for permanent storage. Therefore, these would be good for projects in process, then could be emptied and reused once you begin a new project.

If you have a filing cabinet for storage, a hanging accordion file would work well. This would also work well if you don't like your desk cluttered with files. You can place it in a drawer and it's out of sight. It can also be moved to another file cabinet for deep storage at a later date. This product would not work well for portability.

For medium-sized projects, a traditional accordion file works well. These come in a variety of sizes, with anywhere from five to thirty-one individual pockets. Some come pre-labeled. Others have blank tabs for creating your own subjects. You can find them with or without a cover flap. A cover will prevent the contents from spilling out, but an open file will provide east accessibility.

Finally, there are a number of different products for small projects. My favorite of these is the Smead Project Folder. I have one of these for every client. I custom label the tabs—web site, contests, blog tours, etc. I can write account information in the Notes section on each pocket (User Names and Passwords). I record contact information on the inside cover, and other information such as mileage.
This can easily be used for a small project like a blog tour for a book. You can use a pocket for each blog, or a pocket for different aspects of the tour, such as a master list, guidelines, contact information, contest winners, mailing receipts, etc.
Other options for small projects are pockets. These can be plastic or paper (cardboard). They come all one color in a set, or different colors. A variety of colors is best for identifying contents at a glance. Some are pre-punched with three holes for use in a binder. Others are simple pockets. The pockets can be clipped together or placed in a larger expanding pocket.

This is just a sampling of all the possibilities. There are many colors and varieties. But this gives you an idea of how to manage the paperwork associated with a project. You will know what best suits your needs. And you needs will change between projects, so you may find one of these good for one project, but another better for a second project.

What systems have you used to contain your paperwork for a project?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Organizing Your Research--The Written Word

When I first began writing, all research I did was at the library. I looked at microfiche or checked out books. I took copious notes, which I kept organized in binders by subject. I also copied pages from books and kept those with my notes.

Now, I also use the internet. But even with the internet, the most reliable sources are still books. So I still use them. I'm sure you do, too. And like always, keeping track of this research is challenging. Keeping it organized is necessary.

You have several options for organizing your research. One is to keep the hard copies of everything—your handwritten notes, pages you copy, or articles you remove from magazines. These should be kept in a binder or file box, depending on the size of the project.

Another option is to scan in all your notes and keep them on your computer. You can discard your hard copies, which reduces the amount of paperwork in your office.

Or, you can do a combination of the two. Keep some notes in hard copy, and scan pages from books. Only you know what you are comfortable with.

Let's look at hard copies first. You'll need a binder or file box to house the notes for the current project. Within the binder, insert dividers for each subject. For an historical, these might be fashion, transportation, society, architecture, etc. For a thriller, these might be weapons, self-defense, or police procedure.

Whenever you take notes or copy anything, make a notation of the source on the pages. You may need to find it again in the future, or prove your source to an editor. To save yourself time, create a master list of your sources. Assign each source a number, then write that number on the pages instead of the title, author, call number, etc. Also keep track of where you found your sources (library, friend, etc.) in case you need to borrow it again.

When done with a page, place it behind the corresponding divider. You can further divide within each subject. For example, fashion can be subdivided into Men, Women and Children. Whatever your needs, keep adding in sections. There will be some similarities between books. Others will be specific to your project.

If you scan any of your notes, keep the subject files in your computer corresponding to the subject headings in your binder. Consistency is key.

As you write, and find you need to do some fact-finding, you'll be able to find what you need in just a few seconds.

So how much of your research is still done in the library, and how much online?