Okay, the title of this blog may be slightly misleading. I am not going to give you advice on how to clean your house just like I wouldn't give you advice on cooking. I am about as far from Martha or Betty Crocker as anyone can possibly get and still be a functional adult.
I don't cook if I can help it (and in 2012, there are a lot of ways to help it. I could write a whole blog on how to avoid cooking...maybe tomorrow.) and we clean our house top to bottom every Sunday and only vacuum or do dishes in between...so my house is far from what Martha would like.
But if you are on this adventure of writing with me, cleaning might be something you need to do. People are often surprised by the many pots I have going in the writing world (I keep up the bloggie, I have five contracts so far for 2012 and only 2 are re-releases and two more contracts in the works on other new stories...not to mention the wips, the reviewing and the editing.) and with the writing, I still have the kids (two of whom charter school) and am a full time student myself.
So organization is really important to me in the writing world (although this past couple weeks, between Spring Break, my mom and my little court fun with the exhub, I have been admittedly frayed) and spring cleaning of your writing files is always worth a minute to talk about.
I think I invented that term but if you are going to get serious about writing for a living, then you should borrow it. It is pretty easy to create a folder on your desktop for each story you write. In that file, you can stick your notes on the manuscript, any research you did, pictures that inspired you while you were writing...and once you sell the manuscript, you can use the same file to keep all of your edits, cover art and such in that one folder.
But you should have other files as well.
For instance, I have a file called submission stuff.
Submission stuff has a word doc in it that I made a chart on that has a list of publishers. Why do you need a chart with a list of publishers? So you can keep track of Publisher A who accepts manuscripts from 3k-100k, what genres, what is their royalty rate and how often do they pay out, what they want in their submissions (synopsis, first three chapters and a query)...and Publisher B who only accepts 10k-150k and perhaps has a different set of guidelines.
I call that doc in my computer something like "Publisher Guidelines" and I track all the pubs who I have worked with or ones I am considering submitting to in the future...as well as who I contact and their email addy...and everyone who rejected me in the past. This way, I know, within a few clicks, who to submit my newest story to.
Then, once you have a few manuscripts out there in various states, you should make another chart. I call this one "Subs Sent and Responses" and I use it to track my completed manuscripts.
It has six columns and I broke it down like this...(If you click on it, you can read it clearer)
The columns are: Title of Work Submitted, Genre, Submitted To, Date, AutoResponse, Response. So, in a glance, I can see that I submitted ManuscriptA to Publisher A, when, if their system sent me back an autoreply and if they accepted or rejected it...or if it is still floating out there undetermined.
If I compare this doc to my Publisher file, I can see how long it should take for them to reply according to both their website and my previous experience with them.
Once they have accepted the manuscript, we move over to yet another of my Submission Stuff files...Edits and Release Dates.
This doc tracks ManuscriptA which was contracted by PublisherB on January 1, that came back for edits on Febuary1, when the cover art came in, and what contests I held prior to release.
Why is this file handy? Well, if you have more than one manuscript out with more than one publisher, you need to keep track of your own due dates and marketing so that you can compare sales to when you did different things. Not to mention, over a period of time it helps you build up expectations as to when they are going to send things back on future manuscripts.
How organized are your files? Do you know what is blinking red because it is overdue?