Sep 202013

Do you have a home office where you do most of your writing? Do you sometimes wonder how other authors set up their home offices? Then, today, you are in luck. Cheryl Bolen, award-winning Regency romance author, tells us how she has set up her home office. Those of you who are not committed technophiles will find some very clever, but functional, low-tech solutions in Cheryl’s article.

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Authors more computer savvy than I may not need to organize their offices because they’ve got everything they need digitalized on their computer, all their research sites bookmarked. But I’m not one of those goddesses. Being a historical author, I’ve got one foot firmly planted in traditionalism. I like paper. Lots of it. A hold-in-your hands calendar beats an electronic one in my book any day.

But because it would be easy to get buried under a mountain of paper, I adhere to the everything-in-its-place philosophy.

I even take that a step further. I want everything I need for my writing to be located in my home office. About a year ago I took my contracts and royalty statements from the filing cabinet in my home office to put in one of those fire-proof boxes we store upstairs with other important household papers. It didn’t take long before I realized I hated climbing the stairs to get them. I need my royalty statements where I can roll over to them in my desk chair. In fact, I like all of the following within a few feet of the desk in my home office:


Rolodexes aren’t just for storing addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers, though they are my favorite method for storing that information. I keep blank cards easily accessible in my top desk drawer to make new entries as needed. My Rolodex is a small one I keep next to my phone — on the desk top, of course.

What I really love about my Rolodex, though, is using it to quickly retrieve PIN numbers and passwords which I file under the site or organization’s name. For example, when I need my PASIC membership number, I got to "P" and there is a card which says "PASIC member number."

"The Notebooks"

Because I write historicals, I’ve amassed a fairly large library of research books and materials, all of which I like to keep in the large bookcases located in my home office. A couple of tall shelves there are dedicated to my white three-ring notebooks where I keep works in progress, research, archives of articles, publicity, and letters. On white cardstock, I print the name of the notebook and insert it in the clear plastic attached sleeves, particularly on the spine for quick reference. On my work buffet (yes, it’s an old dinging room buffet I painted white to go with my decor) next to my desk, I can always find my three-hole punch.

I have one notebook for every book I’m working on. Within these, I use dividers for each chapter, for characterizations, and for timelines.

I have a couple of fat notebooks for regency research, with dividers for things like clergy, food, flora, sports, money. These notebooks hold information I’ve saved from specialized periodicals like The Regency Plume or Beau Monde’s Quizzing Glass, web sites, or the Beau Monde email loop.

I have one notebook for English geography, another for rejection letters, and another for copies of letters I’ve sent to editors and agents, as well as prospective editors or agents.

The notebook marked "Reviews" has a divider for each of my book titles and holds all the reviews I’ve received for each novel.

Another notebook stores press clippings and news releases that pertain to my writing career, and another gives me quick reference to articles I’ve written.

I used to keep notebooks for all my chapter newsletters, but this got too cumbersome.

References at Your Fingertips

Call me lazy, but I like to be able to access frequently used references without leaving my desk chair. Therefore, to my right is an 18-inch desk-top book shelf where the books slant into a wooden v-shaped receptacle. References included here are a dictionary, a speller, familiar quotations, synonym finder, tiny atlas, foreign phrases, a fold-up map of England, desk encyclopedia, slender looseleaf notebook with rosters for the writing and non-writing organizations I belong to, and a calendar.

To the left of my desk is a small filing basket to hold folders of information I currently use. The content of this basket varies according to what I happen to be working on. For example, right now I’m getting ready for the release of a new book, and I need to frequently access the folder of information about that book’s reviews and a listing of the book’s promotional plan. Other information I keep in the vertical basket includes a submissions log and an accordion-style folder (top severed for easy drop-ins) for writing receipts.

File Cabinet

I prefer a two-drawer horizontal file cabinet. Mine’s an inexpensive one made of faux mahogany (which I painted white and replaced knobs to match my decor). Without leaving my desk chair, I can view all the files. Its surface can store a printer, copier, or fax.

The files I store here are divided into broad areas like Promotion (various folders for advertisers, printers, bookstore addresses), Business (contracts, royalty statements), On Writing (notes from conferences and workshops), My Talks/Workshops (handouts on talks I’ve presented).

"Cubby Holes"

I was fortunate to find at a flea market a wooden structure I call "cubby holes" which reminds me of the teacher mailboxes at the school where I used to teach. Mine is about two feet wide and nearly three feet tall and has 20 square or rectangular boxes. I painted it white and keep it on my buffet work station, and in it I store the following: envelopes, mailers, a variety of labels, bookmarks of my books, various kinds of paper and envelopes of different sizes. I never have to hunt in drawers because everything’s right there in plain view.


Last but not less important is my labeler. (Of course, those who are computer savvy probably know how to make all sizes of all kinds of labels, but I’m not one of those persons.) I use my labeler for the myriad of tabs on the dividers in my notebooks and file folders and to label the cubby hole squares. For example, one slot in the cubby holes will say "Bond Paper," while another may say "Colored Paper."

Taking a little time to get organized more than pays for itself in time saved looking for elusive supplies and references.

© 2005 – 2013 Cheryl Bolen
This article was first published in In Print, in November 2005.
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

  One Response to “Organizing My Home Office by Cheryl Bolen”

  1. You are so organized!!! I need to update the catalog for the books I own ( so I don’t order the same one twice, if for no other reason).
    I have research books in 9 eight foot book cases plus about 8 shorter ones plus what other people use as a linen closet . I ry to shelve the books generally according to subject matter. I really need to make a notebook of the table of contents or title pages of all the books– but really need a hand held paper scanner for that job. Any one recommend a good one.
    You have some great ideas.

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