I have always hated trying to keep on top of paperwork, but been far more efficient when it comes to organizing electronic writing files. Over the first few years of my writing life, I evolved a more-or-less foolproof system for organizing electronic writing files, which has changed only a little over the last ten or more years.
The system started out with just three main folders:
In this folder, I keep everything that has not yet been sent to a publisher, whether that is just a jotted-down idea, or a full-blown draft. Small projects are saved as individual files, while larger projects like novels or novellas have their own folders so that I can file research and background notes along with the actual piece of writing.
Once I have completed work on a piece, I move it into this folder, and make a note in my submissions spreadsheet of where it has been submitted, and the date sent, so that I can chase up if necessary after the allotted time (plus a short safety margin) has passed. When I finally hear back from the publisher, if the piece is rejected, I move it back to the “in progress” folder again for any further work before I submit it again, when the revised version returns to this folder. Once I am lucky enough to get an acceptance, the piece moves on to what was originally the final folder:
This is where I keep a record of everything I have had in print in case I ever need to track it down again. To start with, each piece was simply saved as an individual file in the one folder, but now I have sub-folders for the main publishers and markets I write for.
For smaller pieces of work, these three folders have always been sufficient, but now that I am working on more novellas and novels, I have found it helpful to add a fourth folder for work on marketing my larger projects:
This is where I keep a copy of the “press pack” (book cover, book blurb, author photo, and brief biography) for each book, as well as saving any articles I write and interviews I give. When I can, I try to save scans or screenshots of the finished product, since you cannot always rely on other people’s publications or websites to stay around forever. That is why, even once your work is published, it is always a good idea to keep your electronic house in order so that you will never find yourself at a loss for a copy of your work.