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Productivity,  Writing Tips

Learn How To Organize Writing for Authors & Writers

Keeping your work organized is a necessary (albeit frustrating) part of being a writer. To organize writing means staying on top of your work and not let any story get lost in the idea abyss. When you look back for that one story you started writing a year ago but never stuck with, you’ll know where it is, your vision for it, and where to pick up.

Keep reading to learn how to organize writing so your creativity can be as smooth a process as possible.

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Organize Writing

Before you begin writing, it’s a good idea to set up the organization system you plan to use. You don’t have to write anything down yet, but it’s a good idea to get everything ready so that when you do have something to write, it’s ready to go. If you wait until you’ve already started writing, you may forget or miss important information or ideas.

I’ll be discussing my favorite organization system, as well as others that I’ve tried and found helpful. These are all free (though some have paid versions, I use the free), and each has its own pros.

Story Bible

I have a whole post on what story bibles are, how to use them, what to track, and a template if you want to make your own, so I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but this is my favorite way to organize longer works like novels, screenplays, and scripts. They can work for short stories and whatnot, but they’re a must-have for more significant creations.

A story bible is a document containing every single part of your story: the characters and their looks and personalities, the locations, excerpts, summaries, everything. There’s no right or wrong way to set up a story bible, so if you would like a template, I have one here.

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Trello

Trello is an app that allows you to organize your projects. You have a board for each project and can create lists inside that board to organize different tasks into sections. From there, you can add cards to the lists that are easy to move around. I highly recommend checking this one out, especially if you’re someone who takes on many projects at once.

This is a free app, but there is a paid version where you can add more power-ups and create more boards at one time. I’ve only ever used the free version, and that’s been more than enough.

Example

Here’s an example I created on Trello to show you how you could set up an organization system for a novel.

Trello workspace for story idea.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a great place actually to write your novel. It’s free, convenient, and syncs with other Google products like Spreadsheet, Drive, and Calendar. You can create an outline with Google Docs and use it to write your novel. Then, you can use Spreadsheet to track the different parts of your story like characters, scenes, how many chapters, etc. Once you’re in the process of writing (btw you can learn about the seven-step writing process in this post), you can use Google Calendar to stay on track by adding due-dates for finishing chapters, sections, whatever you choose.

Planners

If you are a time-oriented person, using a planner may be the best option as everything can be scheduled. You can add deadlines for different steps and include an allotted time in your day for writing. You may want to use a traditional planner, or maybe you’d prefer a digital planner. Either way, this is a great way to stay on top of your writing goals.

Create SMART Goals To Keep Your Writing on Track

Beginning a story and taking a six-month break halfway through isn’t the best idea when it comes to writing. By the time you come back to it, you’ll hardly remember what happened, where you left off, and what you planned to write next. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to take a break for a few days, or even a week or two, but consistency is key.

To keep your writing cohesive and organized, you’ll want to set SMART goals for yourself.

SMART Stands For:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Oriented

Setting one goal at a time and working on achieving it will help to avoid the common situation of forgetting about your writing.

Examples of SMART Goals

In two weeks, I plan to finish writing chapter four by writing for ten minutes before bed.

Specific: I plan to write chapter four.

Measurable: I will write for ten minutes before bed.

Attainable: Finishing a chapter in two weeks is a more than attainable goal.

Relevant: This goal is relevant because I want to finish writing the book by the end of the year.

Time-Oriented: In two weeks, I want to finish chapter four.

Create Tons of Outlines

Outlines are not a one-and-done thing. Many writers create a single outline detailing their whole novel, and that’s all. However, outlines can be super helpful in pushing through blocks or easing stress by breaking tasks into smaller and smaller pieces.

If you are struggling to write a section or chapter or even paragraph, try creating an outline for whatever part is troubling you. This way, the task at hand will seem less overwhelming, and you also gain a better perspective of the overall direction that section has and how exactly it will play out.

Example

I know I want my main character to find an important letter that will lead to the rest of the quest, but I’m not sure how to write it.

An outline for this chapter could look like this:

  • Character enters room
    • Finds it unusually messy
    • Confused
  • Opens cracked drawer
    • A piece breaks off in his hand
    • It crumples as he touches it
  • The sealed letter sticks out
    • Dingy and dusty
    • Has his family’s name written faintly under a crossed-out title
  • He opens the letter and gasps
    • We don’t find out what’s in the letter until later
    • The only part we see are the words, “stop at nothing…they’ll find him.”

In this example, you can see how it’s easier to write the chapter from the outline instead of just the idea. And, if you want to break parts of the outline down further, you can! My point is, any section you struggle to write, no matter how small, can be worked out with an outline.

Let’s Recap

To organize your writing, you want to:

  • Setup an organization system specifically for that work
  • Create one SMART goal at a time to stay on top of your writing schedule
  • Create as many outlines as you need.

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