Operational Organization for Authors and Artists

The peaks of your developing power


Launching a new computer has pushed me to recognize that this is a great time for pruning hardware, software, folders, and documents—at least ancient versions that may no longer be relevant. This project is revealing challenges that have arisen repeatedly through my years of writing and design… that I have foolishly ignored. Some of these problems can be avoided easily. Others are likely to resurface when I least desire their appearance, especially in the case of reviewing book manuscripts.

The world of technology is constantly evolving. Some emerging products are truly wonderful. Others, not so much. As with most authors, data storage is a major concern for me. With the arrival of each new product, the public is assured that we will never have to worry about the loss of information again.

That’s proven to be about as real as the promise that the modern office does not need paper. But just like the errors that continue to appear in election returns, the need for paper backups continues. You may laugh, but I still have some files on floppy diskettes. Why? Because zip discs, CDs and even thumb drives can fail…probably at the worst possible moment.

A colleague of mine has been restructuring two books because a computer crashed, and she did not have printed backups. Another author I know, had a glitch occur with a thumb drive that was plugged into his CPU. So, what are you doing to safeguard your precious words and images? I trust you have multiple forms of data storage ,as well as hardcopy backups.

Then there’s the Cloud. How do you feel about your creations being available to the universe? Of course, once you have uploaded your work to a website, availability to your material is guaranteed. The one thing you can do is to use a cloud service with patented and standardized encryption design. You may also want to ask yourself, What will happen to my copyrights when I die?” Consider ensuring that you have legally stipulated beneficiaries who shall receive the benefits of your labors…

Many software companies are forcing users of their products into subscription programs to maximize their profits…and to force users to accept changes the company wishes to foist on the public during regulated updates. Personally, I’ve been very displeased with such updates that often lesson, rather than enhance, functionality.

As I watched this growing trend, I rushed to buy the last versions of programs that were available on CDs. I recognize that eventually even these versions of programs will become obsolete as updated operating systems refuse to recognize them. But for the foreseeable future I am hoping to be able to massage images that I design and utilize for the projects I undertake.

In the life of a wordsmith, our works accumulate in electronic and hardcopy folders. To maintain an organized reference system, we need to review such materials periodically. In addition to items needed as last-hope backups, some may prove useful in future or expanded projects.

Two of my previous blogs may be useful in streamlining your daily operations and enhancing your text and image archives. “Taming a Writer’s Clutter, Thinning the File Forrest,” is a blog that provides specific ideas for undertaking such a project. Some of the concepts I share include the naming and dating of files, and using colored folders to facilitate future reference to hardcopy records. For these and other ideas for managing your files, visit https://blog.jeanneburrows-johnson.com/2016/04/taming-clutter/. The greatest fear many creative professionals face is that of losing tangible records of our work. For tips on avoiding this situation, visit https://blog.jeanneburrows-johnson.com/2015/07/fear-of-losing-files/. 

Day-to-day discovery of textual errors lead to making edits. This often results in the re-pagination of documents and sometimes the reprinting of many pages. To minimize this waste of paper, I’ve found a method for meeting this challenge.

I begin by examining the length of the document in which a mistake appears. In the case of a book, I also check the number of pages in the chapter in which a flaw occurs…hopefully it manifests in a single chapter.

Although the length of book chapters is not usually arbitrary, I like to keep the size of them within a couple of hundred words of one another. Unfortunately, a change made toward the beginning of a chapter can result in altering the layout of many of the pages following a single correction. By examining the available space on a chapter’s final page, I can determine the amount of space I can use during the editing process. To minimize the reprinting of multiple pages, I try to find words and phrases of similar length that limit change to the page on which an error occurs. Remember, if the edit pushes the end of a chapter onto a new page, that can change the pagination of the entire book!

Unfortunately, an error may occur on more than one page, or even in one chapter—as in the case of a recurring mistake in a name, address, or description of a character. Correction of a song title recently resulted in lengthening multiple entries, and the reprinting of about thirty pages, since its citation in a comprehensive master index occurred toward the beginning of that index. This error appeared in an interview because the subject provided an incorrect citation. This is an example of the need to perform careful research after, as well as prior to, an interview.

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker

To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com. You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

Follow Me:
Amazon, Arizona Authors Association, Apple Books
Audible, Authors Den, Barnes and Noble, Blogarama, Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited, Facebook, Good Reads, Hometown Reads

Book sellers may contact book distributors such as:
Baker & Taylor, Follett, IPG, Ingram, Mackin, Midpoint, TitleWave


The peaks of your developing power

Files: A Never-Ending Dilemma

Authoring strategies include more than conceptualizing, writing, publishing, and promoting your creative ideas.  Being an effective writer demands honed organizational skills as well as superb wordsmithing! If you’ve ever lost a file, you may question the promises of the computer revolution.

Are you old enough to remember life before computers?  I actually know some people who have only discovered the wonderful world of electronics in the last five years.  In each case, the revelation of Life Electronic was triggered by a pressing need to communicate with a person or organization that could not be accessed regularly by telephone or postal service.

Once you have joined the electronic age, there are many challenges to be faced. Some parallel those prior to the microcomputer.  The issue I’m addressing today is preventing the loss of files.  Electronic files that is.  If you have never encountered this dilemma, please let me know how you’ve been so fortunate. Each time I think I’ve solved the problem, a couple of years pass in relative peace.  Then I commit some new error and again face the potential loss of valuable information.

Let’s begin today’s discussion with a basic question:  To avoid losing information, how many files should I keep?  Unfortunately, there’s no single answer that will meet the needs of every person in every situation.  Some authors I know keep every electronic file they have ever created, as well as their hardcopy edits.  I cringe to think of the complex file naming they must employ.  Unfortunately, such people have been known to compare my past editorial remarks regarding the same text.  What they fail to realize is that just as their writing has evolved, so too have my knowledge and sense of style—as well as my awareness of developing trends in the world of publishing.

Another trigger for keeping multiple versions of copy is the fear of losing pleasing verbiage that has proven impractical for a project at hand.  When I find a need to remove favored words and phrases from a major writing project, I simply create files of unused verbiage named to pinpoint the topic and source. One example is a narrative passage from Prospect For Murder that I converted to dialogue.  The single archived file is named,  WongP_orig_speech_re_family.

Knowing I might forget a particular name, I convert both electronic and printed files named for past clients and projects to topical files.  This does NOT mean I keep everything I’ve ever created.  My concern is to prevent unnecessary research and writing in the future.  If I’ve addressed a topic three times, I may save only the last piece, if the layout and text are the most interesting.  This way I do not have to remember the client’s name, yet I can quickly access text by topic, such as the insurance industry, movies of the 1930s, or ocean liners plying the waters between Hawai`i and Asia. If I need to decrease file size in electronic file archives and/or hardcopy printouts, I remove artwork (after verifying the images are stored elsewhere) and insert a text box with the name of the image.

The forms of electronic file storage and backup is constantly changing and you will have to decide when to shift from one form to the next.  I must confess I’ve still got floppy disks [diskettes] and zip disks. These disks are large enough to label with client or project names, yet small enough to store alphabetically in clear plastic containers for rapid access…another positive aspect to this old technology is the longevity of the disks, despite innumerable formats.  I also have CDs, DVDs [more fragile], and Universal Serial Bus [USB] flash, pen and thumb drives, which I use for large folders and art files.  Unfortunately, these drives are so small that they preclude easy labeling, but you can use colored markers to color code your choices of media to remember the general category of their contents…

In addition to being concerned about where you save your files, be cautious about how you save them.  While compiling Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert, my co-authors and I encountered problems with disappearing edits during manuscript preparation until we learned the difference between the file commands, Save and Save As.  When you specify “Save as,” you are creating a wholly new file, which usually precludes the possibility of multiple edits leading to a corrupted file.  So, unless I am writing a single-use document, I now use Save As for every file I re-edit—art, data or text. [To maintain high resolution, technical experts suggest editing art images in Tagged Image File Format [TIFF] prior to saving them in whatever format you require for publication.]

Regardless of the number of electronic files you keep, you will need to create a file naming system that is consistent and memorable.  Even though today’s technology allows long file names, minimizing the characters used simplifies future reference. Since Imaginings WordPower is a lot of characters, I simply use an “I” for the start of operational file names.  Thereafter, I may abbreviate the minimal words used in a title, underscoring between words.  I conclude the titling of files by dating them, with two-digits for the year, the month, and the day a file was created.

The resulting name for an author’s business card might be “I_bus_card_150708.” To differentiate between files with similar names, I may insert “merged,” to note merged layers, “New” for a recent edit, or the name of the company that last printed it. Sometimes I also insert a Header in a document to mimic the source file’s name when I am setting up topical folders of samples of my work. That way I don’t have to wonder about the electronic file name for hard copies I’ve printed for my personal records.  The only thing to remember is that you may need to temporarily delete the header if you are printing the document for public viewing or distribution….

I hope these measures—and your own modifications—will help you avoid corrupting or losing files.  But what happens if you prematurely delete a file from a recycle bin?  The problem is easily resolved if you have not emptied the bin.  In such a situation, you can simply double click the bin, mark the file you wish to un-delete, and choose Restore to return it to its former location on the hard drive.

Unfortunately, restoring files that have been deleted from a recycle bin is not a simple or perfect a process. Again, you can choose to leave the bin overflowing with files; but if you need to restore one, you may find that recognizing the correct file is difficult if you do not have a recognizable file naming system.  In the midst of short projects, I try to avoid emptying the recycle bin.  But once I have completed a section or the entire project, I complete my housekeeping of files, emptying the recycle bin when I am confident that I have properly backed up every relevant file.

Recently I triggered the loss of a file for a potential sci-fi novel. I was lacking material for my writers’ salon, and had decided to share part of this story, which is a departure from recent work in the genre of mystery and suspense. I recall isolating the passage I wanted to use, and reformatting it to double line spacing to facilitate editing by my fellow authors. But when I returned to input the suggestions I had received, I could not find the file.

Knowing files can be mistakenly dragged into an incorrect folder, I systematically checked every sub-folder within my creative writing folder. After that, I used the Search programs and files feature offered by MS Windows when you click on the Start button [usually in the lower left hand corner of your monitor screen]. When my inputting of several combinations of words failed to uncover the missing file, I downloaded a free program for recovery of files deleted from the Recycle Bin.

In retrospect, I probably should have paid for a more sophisticated program with additional features, because what I recovered was a mass of undated and unnamed files of multiple edits that had to be individually examined. This was a time consuming and frustrating activity. However, I not only retrieved the file I was seeking, but in reviewing other files, I gained ideas for blog posts and other writing projects. In short, the experience was the proverbial blessing in disguise…but this is not an activity I wish to repeat.

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker

Operational tips to help writers are available in the following blogs:
Fear of Losing Files, July 2015
The Value of an Index, August 2015
Taming Clutter, April 2016

To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com. You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

Follow Me On:
Amazon, Arizona Authors Association, Apple Books,
Audible, Authors Den, Barnes and Noble, Blogarama, Book Bub,
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited, Facebook, Good Reads, Hometown Reads

Book sellers may contact book distributors such as:
Baker & Taylor, Follett, IPG, Ingram, Mackin, Midpoint, TitleWave