You can read this article on Medium too.
I’m an engineer, and I probably have some disorder that a psychiatrist could easily name. I have a standard for about everything I do. Well, not literally everything, but let’s simplify.
Of course, writing is included. Not the actual writing, of course, but the system that I put in place to manage my drafts, my editing, my publishing, and so on. Anytime I have an idea for a post, I write it down in a note, and those notes are organized. The same is for the drafts and the archive of my writings.
Maybe, my system has probably gone a bit further what usually is for a “healthy” writer, but it works like a charm for me.
Ideas become drafts, drafts go into editing, edited pieces are published, and so on. Anyone has a different process but the basics are more or less the same for every writer, and so are the stages that our writing usually goes through. Professionals, especially when related to the traditional publishing industry or writing for clients, are used to definite and sometimes complex processes, while others are
So, I just tried to give a different box, or name, to different things. Not to force myself to follow a path but to have a system which can give me full control of every stage of my writing, and keep my archive in order.
Starting from stages, I gave them names, using letters for brevity and automatic sorting:
- A. Archived (discarded) ideas or drafts. No reason for resurrecting them.
- B. Suspended ideas or drafts. They don’t work but maybe one day…
- C. Ideas.
- D. Drafts.
- E. Editing.
- F. Finished. Ready to publish.
- P. Published.
Oh, no. It doesn’t stop here!
Stages C, D, E, and P can have three different levels each, and I use a number for this. For example, a C3 idea is a good candidate for starting a draft, while a C1 idea is a low priority. So, the full stages system is the following:
- A. Archived ideas or drafts.
- B. Suspended ideas or drafts.
- C. Ideas. C1: someday. C2: good idea. C3: work on it soon.
- D. Drafts. D1: started (as soon as I start elaborating on the idea). D2: significant progress. D3: seems finished, but it’s early to celebrate (includes revisions).
- E. Editing. E1: heavy editing phase. E2: fine editing. E3: final touches for publishing (subtitle, pictures, links, etc.).
- F. Finished.
- P. Published. P1: “normal” or temporary pieces. P2: good pieces. P3: selection.
It happens that a draft goes nowhere, so it falls back in the pipeline. A D2 becomes a BD2, so I know that that piece is suspended, but some work is already in it, and this may differ from a simple B, for the future.
If you’re a professional you might need to extend the levels of the draft and edit stages, or to add an extra stage for collaboration.
I know it seems complex, but it’s straightforward and consistent once you’re used to.
But where do those letters and numbers actually go into?
Stages from A to C stay in Evernote, in different notebooks, one note for each idea. That way, I can write them from everywhere. I can also attach some quick notes or even a few sentences to them.
Starting from D (drafts) the process switches to Word, one file per story, different folders for different stages. For convenience, all drafts and edits stay in one folder, but their file name is prefixed with the stage code (for example: D2 – My Writing Bucket System.docx).
Actually, I keep a D notebook also in Evernote, for a few drafts that I start writing when I’m not at the computer. And there are also A and B folder on the PC, for drafts which felt back in the purgatory.
Also, I make an exception for the long writing. Books – while belonging to this process – are kept in separate folders.
I use Evernote, but you could use any note-keeping system, of course. I also use Word and a PC, but you could use the Google suite or anything else. I just recommend not to leave your writings only in your publishing platforms. Keep your original copies, and you sleep much better.
But titles and prefixes are not enough for everything. You’ll have attachments and metadata (dates, publication, etc.) to manage, so…
When a piece is a serious candidate for publishing – so, from E2 on – I start to feel the need to track it, and its data. So, I give it a code, which means a new place in the registry of my writings.
Why a code? Because when something has a code, everything related can be easily attached and retrieved.
I’ll prefix that code to the file name, and to all related files. So, all the files of a single story start – for example – with 001167. You can see them together, when sorting by filename, and can be referenced by an external register.
My typical story ready for being published is usually named 001167 – F – [title].docx.
I keep the register of all my writings in Zoho, but you can keep it simple with a spreadsheet. For example, you may want to keep track of:
- Type (post, book, …)
But when you start compiling that register, you’ll soon notice that a single story may be published in more than one publication. You can just add columns to your spreadsheet but, in my case, I prefer to keep a second register with the publishing information. I may have more publishing rows for each story, with the following data:
- Reference to the story (code and title)
- Publication name
- Publishing date
Sooner or later, your writing will gravitate – or will need to gravitate – around a few topics, categories, areas, or targeted audiences/clients. Your different identities as a writer just cannot be dozens, if you want to gather an audience (or clients) around your writing and have an impact.
In my case, I further split my writing into four different categories:
- Blogging/writing (English only)
- Self/life (in English)
- Self/life (in Italian)
- Tech/pro (English only)
To facilitate my gathering the files, I further prefix them with #writing, or #en, or #it, or #tech. Actually, I also split my Evernote notebooks into categories, besides ideas levels (e.g., Do.Blog.C3.Writing).
You may not need categories in your case. If you do need them, keep them at the bare minimum. It’s not just a matter of system. You won’t be able to handle many of them anyway, so it’s useless to make your categorization too granular.
Am I overdoing?
I’m not a professional, so I’m certainly overdoing. But writing has a primary place in my life, and I’m not going to stop writing. I already have hundreds of written pieces, several pieces in draft or edit mode, and hundreds of ideas in my bucket. I need some system in place, or I would easily lose control of my bucket and my archive.
Also, I need a sense of control over my writing process. I need to know where to search for ideas for my next post, or where are my drafts, or to know how many posts are in the queue for publishing, or to easily pick my best pieces in a category. When focusing on writing, I need to know that what’s around my writing is – or will be – in place and won’t be lost. Keeping the system simple is a must, or you won’t use it regularly and consistently. Just don’t make it too simple. Your future self may be grateful for your putting a little extra effort in keeping things