Organization for Disorganized Writers

Supplies needed:  folders, sticky notes, paper, stapler, paperclip, marker, and pens

I believe in being organized. When I’m organized and things are neat, there’s a rush. My neatly organized desk, my notes in place, and everything being in place are my reality- not! I’ve got a teen living here and my baby nephew thinks his auntie’s computer is fun. Reality is that for most of us, we don’t have the time, energy, or for some of us- the skill of being organized in our writing and research.

I’m the Organization Fairy. Laugh if you will, but this is a tried and true technique that works for my online critique group as well as me. It’s a simple way to not only keep track of your research for your books, but also to be able to make editing easier. First things first, I need you to set aside about an hour to set it up. The upkeep is minimal. I kid you not.

Using your marker, write the title of your book on the folder. Open up the folder and on the left hand side; write the start date of your book. I also write the main characters names underneath. Once you’ve done that, we get ready for the hard part. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, or even a combination thereof, we all know about our characters and the basic story/synopsis of the book. What I do is take one page each and jot down the pertinent details about the main characters. This includes height, build description, hair, eyes, and the little things that are important for knowing your characters inside and out. One sheet of paper per character is how I normally allot to them. Feeling the power of knowing my characters and the flow of the story, I grab more paper and jot down the framework of the book.

For those who are pantsters—do not panic! I’m not making you write your whole story and box yourself in. What this is taking that synopsis or blurb and spreading it over a few pages while making sure to leave empty spaces so I can put in details later. This also gives you play space. For pantsters, it means you’ve got so much room to maneuver. For plotters, it’ll help organize details. After you’re done spreading the synopsis/blurb out over a few pages, you staple the character sheets and the story to the folder. Once this is done, congratulate yourself. You’ve finished the hardest part of organizing your things.

Now, if you’re like me, you find yourself researching things as you’re writing or you might have a specific research day. Most of us jot down the notes on sticky pads. We might have the URLs also jotted down. During the week, I’ll make notes, jot down ideas, or things will come up with the story and they’re all on the sticky pads, pieces of paper, or on my computer. At the end of each day, those notes get tossed into that folder. That’s all you have to do. Toss them in the folder, refer as you need it, and it’s there. Then what do you do?

At the end of the week, or whenever you’ve got time, you take the notes and staple or tape them where they fit in the story. No, you don’t have to write those notes in nicely. You don’t have to copy those notes over. This is the lazy way of being organized. Staple the paper where it belongs. Make sure you have the URLs on a sheet, so you can avail of them again if need be.

As you write the notes, jot down changes, or revelations on your characters come up, you place them on the correct page. When you’re done writing your book, you write down the date you completed it and sit back. First, pat yourself on the back. Your first draft is finished and you deserve to be proud. Now, you’re already thinking about the editing and revising process. How will you know where to look for things that might have bugged you? Where is there a quick reference to know how certain thoughts and ideas came from? Aha! You’ve got your handy folder with the story right there. It’s got each section that helped create and build your story. All your references are there, you’ve got your GMC (Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts) in all its various stages there, and you have all your changes.

This sounds simple, perhaps too simple, but for someone who has a tendency to like inertia, it’s great. A body at rest stays at rest while a body in motion remains in motion. This means that once you do this, it becomes a regular routine. It doesn’t take inordinate amounts of time and if the system works for you, that’s all that matters. Remember that organization doesn’t have to mean a rigid system. It means that you have the freedom to be you, take care of the kids, have a life, and still keep your writing organized. In the whirlwind if life, at least your writing can’t be lost by your kids, your nephews, or everyday life.

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