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Income Loss Prevention
by Kathleen Ewing

Have you ever started a project and halfway through realized you misplaced the information you had on that one perfect market for it? Have you ever wanted to enter a contest, but missed the deadline because you were unable to find the entry guidelines or contact information?

Those are the costly errors you can't afford to repeat if you hope to make a living as a freelance writer. One of the quickest and most efficient ways I have found to remedy such recurring loss of income is by creating a set of working files and keeping them within easy reach of my desk for instant reference. These are the files I have found most useful:

1. WIP—Work in progress. This folder holds any research, outlines and notes for your current project. It also holds a copy of submission guidelines, contact addresses and other market information for your project.

2. Projects—A separate file folder for each project you have in the pipeline. The content is similar to your WIP file and includes any prewriting for the project, such as a catchy opening sentence or character quirks or a closing line. You can number these folders rather than title them so they can be used many times. You will need to keep a list handy to remind you what project is in which numbered folder. You will find it too time consuming to sift through them every time you want to add a note to the file.

3. Hot—Contest information, calls for submission to anthologies, grant deadlines, etc. You should arrange items in this folder by deadline date. Make a quick note on each item so you will quickly recall what you plan to develop for submission.

4. Markets—Publishers you are currently writing for or targeting for queries or ones you would like to court in the near future. The file should contain guidelines, contact information and any pertinent notes you have made while studying the particular market. If you are fortunate enough to find an editorial calendar for your market, staple it to the guidelines.

5. Tickler—Future action items. This file will need a page for each month, extending well into the next year. If you know a magazine's 2009 editorial calendar is full, make a note to develop a query for them in April, May or June 2009, when the editor is setting the calendar for 2010. Most magazines work at least six months ahead, so, if you have a piece in your files that would work well for Mother's Day, make a notation in your tickler file to send it out sometime between October and December.

6. Ideas—Germ collection. It's inevitable that your mind will drift while you are working on a project. You come up with a brilliant concept, intriguing title or striking sentence. You may be convinced there's no way you could forget such a gem, but it happens too often for comfort. By jotting a quick note and dropping it into your idea file, you will preserve your creative epiphany for a time when you can pursue it more thoroughly.

7. Queries/Submissions—A copy of both your query and submission logs. You will want to check this file weekly to evaluate whether you need to send out more queries or follow up with an editor on a submission.

Organizing your working files not only helps keep you in touch with where you are with your projects at any given time, but it also gives you the peace of mind you gain from being in control of your work environment. And it's especially reassuring to know you're not allowing opportunities for additional income slip through your fingers.

© Copyright 2008, Kathleen Ewing

Kathleen Ewing is an award-winning freelance writer headquartered in Central Arizonas high country. Among her credits are feature articles for Art Calendar, American Falconry, Bend of the River, TrailBlazer and Hobby Farms magazines. Visit her blog at www.rodeowriter.blogspot.com

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