Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Setting up a Writing Portfolio

Organize your Writing Records

As a writer, it’s important to build a portfolio and have your work well organized. I realized this years ago when confronted with a massive list of Word documents and an overflowing box of magazines and newspapers.

What is a Portfolio
A writing portfolio can be defined as a collection of work that is designed to showcase the talents of a writer. Typically, it includes copies of their best published works. It’s a tool to convince someone that you have writing ability and will be able to produce work of a high standard.

Why do I Need a Portfolio
Some writing groups, editors and publications require submission of published clips before accepting work from a writer. A portfolio means this kind or information is on hand and easy to access.

How do I set up a Portfolio
You need to choose some of your best published works, and pieces that have won significant award, and arrange them into some kind or order – either by date or by topic. If desired, you can keep a copy of any relevant qualifications in the back of the folder. Before you can do this efficiently, you will need to make sure your document storage system is in order.

Organizing Computer Files
This is where the organization needs to start. Even if you prefer to handwrite your initial drafts, the computer is generally where work is finalized and polished. It is important to store it in easy-to-access folders that make logical sense. I have one main folder called Word Documents. Within this, I have folders that are titled according to their contents. For example, I have one called Pixnpens, and only my articles for this website go into that. I also have folders for other websites, letters, business correspondence, short stories, longer stories, books, projects etc.

Folders and Sub-folders
Within these folders, I sometimes add sub-folders. I do this where there are a large number of files that fall into similar categories. For example, in the folder where I keep my articles for Suite101, I divide them into groups such as health articles, writing articles, craft articles and family articles.

Use Logical Filenames
In other folders, I have several versions of some of my work and I differentiate between these by adding a suffix. I wrote a story entitled Going Home to Die and sold it to Radio New Zealand. I then shortened it and changed it to the first person point of view for an anthology published in another country. The folder has two versions. Going Home to Die Radio NZ and Going Home to Die anthology.

Physical Publications
I normally buy two copies of any magazine or newspaper that publish my work. One copy is stored in a box and I cut the article out of the other and store it in a file. If I feel it’s worthy of placing in my portfolio, I buy a third copy.

Online Portfolios
If you have a website or blog, consider adding your portfolio to it. This can consist of links to work published on the internet and pdfs of printed clips (make sure your contract allows you to display these). This can be useful if seeking work in countries away from home.

Organizing Physical Portfolios
Make a physical portfolio as smart as possible. Use a professional looking folder, or at the least, a smart file with plastic sleeves to protect the work. If using original copies, glue them onto board to keep them firm and tidy. If using photocopies, make them the best quality possible.

Keep it Current
If you’re looking for work in 2009, don’t present a portfolio that’s full of work from the 80s and 90s. Editors want to see up-to-date, relevant pieces.

Organizing files and setting up a portfolio can be a messy, time consuming process. Set aside a day or weekend and determine to get your writing in order. The results will be satisfying and once you have a system in place, it’s a simple matter to maintain your portfolio.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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