Since April 2016, I’ve been writing 500 words or more every single day. No matter what, I take 30 minutes or an hour from my day to sit at my computer and write. As a result of this habit, I’ve gathered some good stories and a lot of crap.
It became quite confusing deciding which stories to work on and which to discard—there were so many of them, after all—so I created folders to organize them. According to its potential, each piece is sorted into one of the following folders:
2.5 Million Words of Shit
‘Every writer has 10,000 pages of shit in them, and the only way your writing is going to be any good at all is to work hard and hit 10,001.’
Inspired by the above quote by comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan, this folder contains all the writing I’ve done since starting this ambitious project. (One page has 250 words on average, so 10,000 pages equal 2.5 million words.) It’s the big basket from which I sort the material into smaller baskets.
Could Be Better
This folder is for stories I believe, well, could be better. These are stories I like but know need some strengthening—more depth to the characters, or a better plot. They’re not bad, but they’re not good either.
This is for all the stories I’m working on at any given moment. Many writers prefer to focus on one project at a time, but I lose interest in something pretty quickly if it’s the only thing I’m working on. So I follow Austin Kleon’s idea of ‘productive procrastination’—you aim to have 2-3 projects going on at the same time, and when you’re bored with one, you switch to another. Being a short story writer makes this easy for me.
These are all the stories I started but never finished. When I was re-reading them, some caught my attention and I rushed through them to the ending, only to realize I hadn’t written one in the first place. So all incomplete stories go into this folder, regardless of how good or bad the part I’ve already written is. I’m not going to judge incomplete stories; they deserve a chance before I discard them.
Sometimes I write short essays or profiles instead of a story. This folder is for them—the sketch of the old man who ran a stationery shop in our neighborhood, for example, or memories of evenings spent next to the pond behind our house. These aren’t stories in themselves, but I can use details from them to inspire a character (as in the case of the old man) or a setting (as in the case of the pond) for future stories.
Is It Good Is It Bad IDK
I meant to name this folder ‘Is it good? Is it bad? IDK.’ but Windows doesn’t let you put question marks in file names. I didn’t have this folder originally; I had to make it after I read a story whose quality I wasn’t sure about. It read well but also it didn’t and I had no idea what to do with it. So I created this folder and put that story in it, which remains its sole occupant, fortunately. The fewer such stories I have, the better.
Only For Me
This folder has stories that aren’t meant to be sent out. Sometimes I enjoy writing a story but then I realize that it’s not really a story and will never sell. I love it the way it is and don’t want to make any changes to it just to make it marketable, so I keep it in this folder. We write first and foremost for ourselves, after all, and not everything we write has to see the light of day.
Similar to Those I’ve Read
Wanting to publish my short stories in literary magazines means I have to read those magazines too. Sometimes I read a story, and later, without realizing it, write something based on an image from the story. A significant part of it looks plagiarized or, at least, inspired by the original. I hardly touch this folder, but when I do, it’s simply to study the resemblance and see if I can make anything original out of these stories. If not, I delete them.
When I read some of my stories, I don’t understand what they’re about. This folder is for those stories. It’s me asking myself, “WTF is this?” but I’m not someone who swears a lot, and “What” (again, question marks not allowed in Windows) is a more accurate reaction to the stories that end up here. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. Maybe I’ll use the descriptions or the characters. I don’t know.
Also, note that this one’s concerned with the events in a story while ‘Is it good is it bad IDK’ is about the quality of a story.
Work on This
The most important folder. It contains all the stories I think are really good and, with some polishing, can be submitted for publication. This is the folder I come to when I’m done working on the stories in the ‘Currently Editing’ folder.
Sometimes (okay, a lot of times), I’m not in the mood to write fiction, so I write a post on creativity or the craft of writing, for a separate blog I’ll hopefully start soon. Until then, the posts stay in this folder.
This is the folder where I keep all the stories that I’ve finished working on and am ready to send out to magazines and contests.
Finally, anything that doesn’t go into any of the folders above is sent to the recycle bin (from where it is permanently deleted). There’s no point in hanging on to stories that have no future, after all.
This is the first time in three years that I’ve not just read all of my work but also figured out a system for keeping everything organized, which has made the whole process of writing, editing, and submitting a lot easier for me.