How do you keep track of your poems?
By Jude Goodwin
I've been writing poetry, actively writing, since 2002. There are over 700 poems in my collection. Over the years I have submitted single poems, groups of poems and poetry manuscripts to various magazines, contests, and anthologies. I've submitted dozens of poems. And some were published (applause). Many were not.
Keeping track of all of this can be overwhelming. How do poets manage and still find time to write? Recently, I was going over an old submissions listing and realized I had submitted the same poem to the same magazine three different times. Not only that, but I just had to withdraw it from the most recent submission because I had also submitted it to other magazines, and one is publishing it. This is embarrassing and feels unprofessional.
In the early 'oughts' I took a course on the 'business of getting your poetry published' from Scott Wiggerman. Scott advised us to keep good track of all submissions and acceptances.
I started by doing this in a lined notebook and I taped my rejection slips in with the record. This worked well enough and I do recommend the discipline to new writers. However, you'll outgrow the system pretty quickly.
When computers became more useful, I built a website. I started keeping track on my website in a private 'vault'. I could easily create a page, and paste in the new poem, and sort it into the year. I also had a page of Submissions where I could track submissions, rejections and publicatons. And I had my programmer set up a 'for print' stylesheet so if I wanted to print from any poem's page, it would print nicely with a masthead.
This system worked well for almost a decade. But eventually, the entering of poems, and the skimming of the lists to find poems for submission, became too much work. I wanted something faster.
There was one year when I hired someone to put all the poems into a single Word document and connect them through the index. This worked well until the document became so unwieldy it took forever to load. I considered dividing it into years, but in the end gave that up. Another time, I typed all the titles into a spreadsheet so at the very least, I could skim a list and know whether I had over-submitted a piece, or whether something was published. But spreadsheets are big, and my monitors are not (I usually work on a laptop) and the spreadsheet wouldn't print properly.
Last year, I hired someone to convert all my poems into individual Word documents, then upload them into folders in Drop Box. Drop box allows you to edit 'on the fly'. You are able to leave comments by your poem to track its history. And you can access your dropbox easily from any device (phone, ipad, laptop etc). I don't really find this any easier than the custom website system I had used for years, but it is faster, and more reliable. Plus, the website needed updating.
SEARCH FOR AN APP
This year, I decided the best solution had to be an app. How hard could it be? My wish list would include:
- A complete listing of all poems
- Ability to sort this listing by date, keywords (themes), publication status
- Indication next to the poem whether it had been submitted, to where, and whether it had been shortlisted, published or rejected
- A listing of markets to which my poems had been submitted, or markets I am interested in
This is a barebones wishlist. I would, of course, also like to be able to see the whole poem, and edit it, and have this new edited version appear in the 'database' with edit date attached. Maybe poems that had been published could be 'locked' to editing. And it would be nice if the poem could be printed directly from this system either with masthead or without. And I would like to be able to have the option to add people to my 'team' should I decide to hire someone to enter new poems or help out in administrative ways. And if I have a manuscript, the listing would show which poems were in the manuscript.
My first step was to go to the App Store to see if there was anything like this. I found a few apps that looked like they could work. I've settled on STORY TRACKER.
Story Tracker makes keeping track of your submitted stories, novels, poems, scripts, and articles easy. Never wonder again where or when you submitted your work. The information is all right there on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Link Here
I have now spent the better part of a week entering my poetry list into the app. And so far it's working! I find the interface a bit awkward but the app works on all my computers including the iPad, my Macbook Pro, and my iMac. Clicking on the link you'll find out all the cool things the Story Tracker app is capable of doing. Even shows market deadlines!
Here are some comments about what doesn't work so well:
1. My three devices don't sync together automatically. I need to remember which device has the most recent data and then push it to the ipad, which then can push it to the other devices.
2. The search function searches only the titles. Would be nice to have it search everything, then one could 'tag' the poems so you can collect them for different 'theme' submissions
3. There is a 'genre' drop down that seems a bit useless. One can add to the genre list, so this could be used as a way to sort but I haven't figured out how to 'sort by genre'
4. There's a print function which will print a list of poems or markets or submissions, but no ability to print an individual poem or market report
5. In fact, the whole 'search' function needs work. There are many fields in poems and market pages, but no ability to search based on those fields. I've entered the year at the front of every poem in order to be able to search by year. As well, in talking with App creator Andrew Nicolle through his facebook, one could 'tag' the poems by including key words in their titles.
The app has promise and I'm excited to finish entering all the submissions and publications. As well, each entry has a 'notes' area which might just be somewhere I can paste the actual poem. Not sure if I want to do this. I'd still need it in a word document in order to edit, or create a submission. So I might be making work for myself.
What is your favourite way to track your poems?