How and Why to Organize Your Writing

One of the first things I realized when I started to write was that I needed to get a handle on my organization.  I’m not a highly organized person.  My computers are more organized in storage than my desk – it’s a mess, but generally, being organized is not a high priority.

It makes writing easier

It takes time and forethought, and I tend to want to jump into the work rather than sit and plan and organize.  When I first started writing every day, it was easy to just sit and write.  Quickly, within two weeks, I realized that I needed to find ideas if I was going to be able to have something to write every day.  This meant I needed a place to write them down.  I also needed an easy way to look through my ideas each morning while searching for something to write.

I tried a few different methods and knowing that I will gravitate towards the easiest, I ended up settling on Evernote for gathering ideas, as it’s where I do my daily writing, too.  Once per week, I grab the best ideas of the week and put them into a weekly dated Google sites page, and add a new page each week.  I don’t go back and look at those, though. That process isn’t working for me, so I’ll need something else soon.  I’m using Evernote on my PC, my Mac, my iPad and even iPhone. That’s Evernote’s biggest strength.  Regardless of where I am, I have my ideas and notebook with me.  I also always carry a small moleskin notebook and pen with me, but my handwriting is atrocious, and I’ve been known to struggle with reading it myself.  Plus, it’s not easy to scroll through, so I really try to stick to Evernote.  That coves my daily writing and idea generation.  I even built an icon on my iPhone using IFTTT so I can start a note with one click.

More writing demands even more organization

But, as I start to write more, more ideas come out, and the novel that’s been floating around in my head for a few years keeps poking its head out to see if I’m listening yet.  I’ve started to give the novel some attention now, but what I realize is that again, I need to organize it first.  It will be much easier to write if I have it outlined and a general idea of the significant points in the story, as well as the scenes I want to see.

So, I started trying to outline in Scrivener.  For me, when I’m ready to start something creative, the last thing I want to do is learn a new interface, so this has been a little frustrating.  Scrivener is a great writing tool, but it’s unlike other writing programs and does take time to figure out.  The outline view is not the traditional outline like I’ve known since high school, so it took a little adjusting.

Help for writers

It’s worth the time spent, though.  As I struggle through the organization part of thinking about my novel, Scrivener has some specific features that point me in the right direction.  Now, I  know how to use the outline view, synopsis, and notes to sketch out what I want a scene to do, and move on to the next one. These can be virtual notecards, so they are easily rearranged.  Once I get some scenes written, I can try that out. I’ve already been able to spot holes in my story and plot just by using the current outlining.  And unlike outlining in something like Word, I can quickly move a whole section with just the mouse. That helps me keep the creative flow going and not get too bogged down in the frustration of the program while I’m trying to make progress.  If you’ve ever had to stop and spend an hour reformatting a Word document, you know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t, you should make an offering to the gods so you avoid that fate.

Scrivener also has templates for character sketches, research, etc. so it really helps me segment out the project and still have it all in one place.  Oh, and it works on my iPad, so when I travel, I don’t have to lug the hated MacBook with me.  Scrivener synchronizes via Dropbox so I can write on the iOS version, which is more limited than the full Mac version, but I can do anything fancy when I get home.  I wrote the first draft of my upcoming eBook on building a writing habit completely on my iPad.

I’m not sure it’s the tool I’ll use going forward, but what it has shown me is that I need to learn to better organize my work before I set out to write it.  In my efforts to become a professional writer, this is something that I’ll need to tackle sooner rather than later.

What tools are you using to organize and work on your writing?

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Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

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