Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Get Organized

Organization is critical to many different aspects of life--but it's a particularly valuable skill for writers and editors. Some of you may not be very organized--well read on because all of us can grow in this area--including me. I'm always looking for new ways to improve my organization skills.

Years ago, I joined the magazine of a missions organization. During our first editorial meeting, the editor looked around and asked, "What are we going to publish next month?" I was amazed. There was no advanced planning or organization. They were living hand to mouth each month wondering what would come together. A few months later through some staff changes, I became the managing editor and I initiated planning, theme issues, proactively gathering stories and creating a backlog. Before long the operation of putting together a monthly publication was becoming easier. Then we could focus on quality--not just quantity.

A few days ago, I received a query from a writer about a fiction project. The letter appeared to be fired to many editors at the same time. It had no personalization--not even my name as Dear Mr. Whalin or Dear Terry. I prepared to send a quick rejection letter to this person, then I entered the information in my submission log (see I have a log to keep track and be organized). I learned I had rejected this exact same manuscript in September. I changed my message to this author and encouraged him to create a submission log--so he can keep track of where he's sent his work and the response. It's simply good business for the writer and the editor--and shows each party is organized.

Author and teacher Karen O'Connor is a prolific writer in the magazine world and also books. In the most recent issue of Right Writing News, I included a valuable article, Organize Your Time and Space in Two Minutes or Less. You may be thinking, "right, two minutes or less." It's possible and you can take some solid steps in that direction from the article.

As a writer, I want to take advantage of the various tools which are easily available to me. I use My Yahoo for a number of areas (local movie listings, TV schedules and news feeds. Recently I've started adding various blog feeds. At a glance I can see if a blog has been updated, then read that particular entry. I've added a second page in Yahoo for my blog reading. Other valuable tools are backflip (to keep track of my marked favorites and quickly go through them plus it keeps the links out on the web for when I travel). Also I use snipurl to reduce the long URLs and have a free account called MySnipUrl where I return to them.

Some days I bag the technology and use a simple piece of paper with a to-do list that I cross off to keep moving ahead. It doesn't have to be high tech or complicated but for me, I've found the organization has to be there. Unlike some of the authors I've interviewed, I don't have a photographic memory. Instead I have to rely on my organization skills and good files. In my writing and editing life, the skill of organization has paid off many times.

4 Comment:

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Violet N. Left a note...

Some excellent tips here - and I thought I was organized! (BTW linked to this article in my blog today - this posting: http://vnesdoly.blogspot.com/2005/01/odds-ends.html)

At 7:29 PM, Blogger Robin Lee Hatcher Left a note...

Love your tips, Terry, and your blog. Thanks for leaving your comment over on my blog so that I could find you!

Robin Lee Hatcher

At 6:46 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Thank you, Violet for the kind words and you, Robin, for dropping by and reading my blog. It's something I'm going to try for the near future. My appreciation for you.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Mary DeMuth Left a note...

Hi Terry,

Good information as usual. I have a place on my website that shows my weekly action items: http://www.relevantprose.com/goals.htm
Today, I spent the day reshuffling and reorganizing papers, so I feel so much better. Next week, I jump back on the bandwagon with 8000 words a week on a novel, 2 queries, and taking a stab at finishing a NF proposal. Organization helps me do all that stuff.


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