Clutter vs. Chaos: Stories Filing System

Clutter vs Chaos

When you’re hours away from a submission deadline and can’t find the file meant to be submitted (as happened to me this week), a filing system can become a crisis verging on disaster.

t find anything. I thought I had deleted the correct file by mistake, and spent the day banging my head against the wall in regret, only to later discover it had been there all along, just filed under a different name.

While it made sense at the time to delete a few files to clean up the drive, in retrospect, it just created a lot of unnecessary chaos and wasted time that would have been better spent writing. All of it was unnecessary; all of it was a waste of time; all of it could easily have been avoided with a better electronic filing system.

Here is how I resolve to sort my story files moving forward:

Top Folder

First rule: One folder per story


Story Handle vs. Story Title: Titles can be problematic, and can even change when submitted to different markets. What’s the one word that describes the story, the one word that comes to mind when thinking of the story? I will pick one and stick to it for filing purposes.


This is where it all goes haywire. No order, different file names, senseless version numbering (v1, v91, 140730A, etc.). And when I work from a memory stick or copy a file from a cloud-based folder, I can’t even rely on the dates to help sort it out.

My solution: filename=StoryHandle-v#. (e.g. Elysium-v7). Simple, to the point, and the files will display chronologically.

It’s not an all-new format to me as I have used version numbers in the past, and move up versions only during a significant rewrite. So whether it’s Thirty-One’s Elysium, or Helix of Elysium, Elysium’s Web, or Theo’s Way, it’s all going to be Elysium-v# until submission time.

And yes, second-level subfolders (research, backgrounders, etc.) do come into play, but I somehow have not encountered problems with those as they are standard subfolders for each writing project. The stories themselves, which are constantly worked on and edited, are the misfiling culprits and I hope this simple system will help resolve any further issues.

If you know of a better system, I am all ears (eyes?). Feel free to share better solutions by posting on this page. I would love to know what others are using.

The next serious issue I need to address, much sooner than later, is backup systems. I hate working from cloud-based files because they have to be downloaded first so it seems pointless to go through the trouble every time, so I tend to do periodic backups instead (I know, bad, bad, Jenner). It’s a hassle but I need to figure it out to prevent further head banging sessions before I end up giving myself a concussion.

Summer Project Update: A few stories were submitted this week, meaning they are now off the pile (at least until they get rejected). They include the aforementioned Elysium’s Web, and it is yet another post-apocalyptic plague story. This story is one I especially like, and for which I rose from bed at four a.m. to get down on paper before it escaped me. By five am, I had a dozen pages written longhand, something quite unusual for me. I had intended for those pages to be used as the basis of a novel (and it still may become one), but many tangential stories have sprouted from this story idea. While what came out of those pages serves as the general background and setting for Elysium’s Web, little more than the main character’s name directly made it into it. Theo may yet come back from the dead to make it through another story inspired by those handwritten pages.

Up next: As no anthologies with an August deadline have caught my eye, I may turn my focus to stories I could submit to “big” markets ( being one of them). Since this summer project started, it’s the first time I feel the pressure has eased up and I must admit it’s nice not to feel so under the gun to produce and finalize work, even if all of it is self-imposed.

I will nonetheless continue to forge ahead and keep writing, lest I fall off the wagon and dare enjoy a day of summer before it’s gone.



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