Everyone who wants to be published should be told first and foremost: keep track of everything you do. Make a little book/file of people's names (everyone, since you never know who will be important), another little book/file of ideas (again, even wild and crazy ones can be useful later), and a third little book/file documenting every phone call, query, pitch, sample request and casual discussion you have with people in the business.

I do this now but wish I'd started six years ago. I also wish I'd come up with a way to keep all my information accessible. I spend too much time doing word searches through all my files for terms like "bookmarks" or names like "Maureen" (or did she spell it "Maurene"?)

Extending that idea even further, I wish I'd started when I was a teenager keeping track of books I read. Nowadays when I meet an author, I'd like to be able to say I've read a book of his or hers, and odds are that I have, since I'm an omnivorous reader. But do I recall who I've read, what the title was, who the protag is? Not likely. I have friends who can dredge up those details in a heartbeat while I make lame comments like, "Didn't her name start with H?"

Periodically I find pathetically weak attempts I've made to organize my reading/writing life. A file labeled "Authors" on my laptop has about ten entries with titles and a comment on each. There's nothing new since the setup date. A stack of postcards found in a drawer attemtped the same thing, as did a notebook all neatly divided alphabetically. Again, nothing since that initial rush of enthusiasm.

January is a time for resolutions, and one that we often consider is getting organized. For a writer, it's essential in order to avoid killer faux pas: requerying an agent with the same project, forgetting the name of that editor you pitched to at Malice last year, or wasting hours re-looking up phone numbers you should have filed the first time you made all those calls. The problem is that at a certain age you know you probably won't (can't?) change. All you can do is smack yourself on the forehead and moan, "I should have written that down!"

Resolution: stop with the hitting. It's not a cure, and it only destroys more brain cells.

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