Getting Organized Saves Time (Part 1)

OK, want to save yourself both time and a headache? 

Organization while writing is essential...that applies even to the ADD, unorganized, or non-perfectionist writer...which probably accounts for a large majority of us. Even for those that are organized in the process, it is usually the endnotes or footnotes, scripture references, and permissions that bring us grief. I mean really, who enjoys that part of the process? (If you do, the rest of us really don't want to talk with you, however, you will enjoy this tip as well if you don't already apply this in your writing.)

One of the best tips I ever received came from my favorite editor, who I have worked with for over twenty years. I was working on a book that had a huge number of scripture references and quotes. In manuscripts such as these, it is easy to duplicate material or miss a reference. It was a headache. Know the feeling? She had compassion on me and sent me "The Master Sheet". 

Many manuscripts I receive either have incomplete footnotes, incomplete scripture references, duplicated material or some other detailed area that is incorrect. It is relatively easy for the writer to put their hands on this information when first inserting it into the manuscript, rather than trying to relocate the material reference after the fact. Some authors mistakenly feel it is the editor's or publisher's role to complete permissions, references or footnotes. That is incorrect. The job is yours.

It is the author's job to provide this material and to double check their work. (Another tip is that as a rule does not count as a legitimate check for scripture references, unless it is approved by the publisher. Yes, you are going to have to crack the Book. Editors, that goes for you, too.)

A good editor will come in behind you as they edit your manuscript and should alert you to duplication of material or missed references. But that doesn't provide an excuse for you as the writer to be sloppy. The editor is a back-up only. The writer is the primary source. Bottom line? These details are your job.

So how can we make this task easier? For scripture references or quotes, keeping track of them in a master list will help. Here is a sample Master Sheet  to get you started.  

This can be transferred to an Excel Sheet to easily sort by reference or topic. Make it your own. You can include as many additional columns as you need. For example include what chapter of your manuscript that you inserted the reference. If a quote, then you can insert the name of the individual quoted as a column for easy retrieval.

Keeping track of these details does take a moment and will force you to pull away from writing. If you're in the middle of a great thought, obviously don't stop. But before you shut it down for the day, whether that is 30 minutes later or 6 hours later, go back over your material and insert your references into your master sheet. The first time you need to double check for a scripture, quote or other detail, you will pat yourself on the back and breathe a sigh of relief for the few extra minutes you invested upfront that can save you both time and a headache at the end of the process.