In the age of the computer, do we still need to print stuff out? Well, maybe. If you have a good memory and back up often, maybe not. However, if your memory is iffy and you go for months without backing up, probably.

Two things I always print out and keep on my computer, too: contracts and anything to do with finances.

Contracts because even those of us with good memories may forget where the heck we stored a particular contract on our computers. I don’t have many contracts, so I simply have a file folder labeled, you guessed it, “contracts.” On the computer, though, I store the contract with everything else I have about the story or book, such as the actual document in different formats, a notes file, etc. Also with contracts, I like to read them over in printed form and mark them up.

Financial records because I keep them by year in a folder. I make copies for my accountant at tax time, and they are available if Uncle Sam ever comes calling. So, this is a convenience. And of course, some stuff still just comes in snail mail format, so it’s not on the computer to begin with.

Manuscripts, I  used to print them all out and had a physical file for each one. When we moved to the motorhome, with several 80,000-word manuscripts and about eighty short stories written, having everything in print simply took up too much room. What I had already printed out, I put in our storage unit. But I had a laptop with plenty of memory, so I stopped most of the printing and physical filing and worked out a good system on the computer.

transfer cabinet by johnny_automatic - clip art, clipart, externalsource, file, file, furniture, furniture, image, media, office, office, paper, paper, png, public domain, storage, storage, svg,

Notes and Research are also now kept on the computer.

Submission Trackers used to be kept in two different places. One submission tracker was in each physical file folder for the work. And a notebook had printed-out submission guidelines in alphabetical order with a tracker of what was sent to that publication. At the front of the notebook I had a form for each story sent out, date, and response. Now all this info is kept in my computer.

Are you still printing everything out? Some things out; some not? Do you have good systems in place or just wing it?


  1. Contracts get printed out and stored in a file cabinet along with anything else pertaining to the particular story in that folder.

    Submissions get tracked in a spreadsheet, and I also use the Submission Grinder’s handy app as well.

    Thanks for the reminder about backup. *does so onto a thumb drive* I also email my stories and my spreadsheet to myself, for offsite backup in case something catastrophic happens.

  2. You’re welcome about the reminder for backing up. I try to do that every week, but lately I’ve been neglecting it. You have a really good system in general.

  3. Do writers still need printouts? Maybe not, but I keep a hardcopy of every finished manuscript. The hardcopy goes into a file folder along with research material, contract and/or acceptance letter, copyedited ms., page proofs, etc., and the anthology or magazine in which the piece was published. The file folder goes into one of many filing cabinets that fill a bedroom (the smallest bedroom of three; one of the other bedrooms is used as the office where I actually create all this landfill).

    I keep a fair bit of this information on my computer as well, but my career predates personal computers and I established this method of record keeping long ago. It worked then and it works now.

    Were I starting my writing career today I doubt I would use my current method of record-keeping. I would rely much more on electronic record-keeping and much less on physical copies of everything short of the finished published pieces.

    There’s probably no right way to do this, but there are important documents to which one must have quick and easy access:


    When an editor wants to reprint one of your ms. (or use it in any other way), you’d best be able to locate your original ms. quickly so you know if those rights are available. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity simply because of poor record keeping.

  4. Michael, I so appreciate your commenting here, and would have replied sooner, but the dog next door ate my cable–to my wifi. True. Anyway, I did all you did before we downsized to a motorhome. We bought laptops, and I had very little room to store papers, so I put everything I could on the computer. Now I’m used to my system, but I still like the idea of yours. The saying, “whatever works” applies here, for sure. Keep writing; keep submitting!

Comments are closed.