As a writer, I’m always coming up with new ideas for my stories, but these ideas don’t always come up at the right time. When I’m standing in line at the grocery store is a less than ideal time to have a revelation about one of my characters, and I can’t just sit down in the middle of checkout lane #2 and write it out. That is why it has become essential for me to find ways to organize my many ideas and writing. So without further ado, here are helpful ways to organize your writing and ideas in a more effective way:
- The first thing you can do to help organize your writing is to write down every idea that you have AS SOON as you can! I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a story-changing idea and was too confident that I’d be able to remember it. Well now those ideas are lost no more, and all because I started using my cell phone's notepad app to quickly type out an idea to remember later. If your cell phone doesn’t have a notepad app, or you don’t want to use your cell phone, I recommend that you carry around a tiny note pad and pencil in your pocket or purse. Most book stores or stationary stores have small pocket sized notebooks, some of which even come with their own pen/pencil attached! I’ve recently started carrying around both a notepad AS WELL as my cell phone just in case I ever forget my phone at home or it has low battery. I still tend to use my cellphone more though because I’m less likely to forget it at home, unlike the notepad. The only thing you have to think about with the notepad is making sure you have enough pocket space and a usable writing utensil at all times.
-Once you have all of your ideas written down, you can then decide whether or not you want to use them later. The most important thing is that they are recorded at all so you have the option of using them at the very least.
-After you've complied your list of ideas/concepts from your phone or notepad, the next step is to prioritize them. Prioritize them as you see fit- maybe by which ones need to be cleared up first in order to move on with your story, or maybe just which ones you feel like doing first. You can even break them up further in to categories if needed. Then work through each idea and then cross it off the list. This will give you an accomplished feeling and motivate you to cross more of them off.
*Bonus Organization Tip*: If you know you get distracted by clutter, open a new word document for each new part of your writing so you can have a fresh start without distractions from what you’ve already written.
- Sometimes the idea itself needs organizing. Often times I’ll be stuck between to different ideas, unsure of which one I want to use in my story, or I need to work through a particular idea or problem that arises from the idea before I can move forward. When this happens, I sit down at my computer and just type it all out. I basically type my stream of consciousness as I think about the issue, weighing the pros and cons of the issue and etc. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation-just get all of your thoughts down on the page. This is a great way to work through an idea or problem/conflict in your story, especially if you’re having doubts about it. Express your doubts and feelings and analyze them and fix them. Working through the problem by typing it all out makes your jumbled thoughts much clearer.
Since you are reading this blog post, presumably you are a writer. I think this particular method of working through an idea works best for writers in general, but there are variations of this same activity that may work better for you:
-if you’re more of a visual person, you can also draw it out.
-if you’re more of an auditory person, workshop it/talk it through with someone else.
Feel free to try it my way, but ultimately you know what’s best for you.
- If you’re on the computer doing research, bookmark every web page you find useful. In my internet browser I'm able to make folders for my bookmarks, so I always make one folder per story/project so everything I need will be in one place. Make sure you bookmark everything that you read, even if you think you won’t ultimately use the information. This is especially helpful if you do end up referencing or quoting something in your story that you weren’t originally planning on, but you don’t remember where you got it from. Now you’ll have all the websites you looked at in one place to make it easy.
- Speaking of folders, I recommend that you have all the documents you write for a certain project in the same folder on your computer as well. If you prefer to use a type writer or write by hand, consider buying physical folders or even use a file cabinet (if you don't have one already). But for those of you who write electronically, you can make a filing system that works best for you, but personally I make one folder per separate story / writing project and save everything I need in that folder. If your computer gives you the option, it can also be helpful to color code your folders for even more organization. This can help you identify folders at a glance and save you time. Organize your documents in a way that makes sense to you- but try to keep simple to minimize confusion.
*Bonus Organization Tip*: Make sure you name every document with something memorable so that you’ll be able to recall exactly what’s in it. Most people don't realize this but sentence-long titles are fine! I find that the more specific the title is, the better.
- My last tip is: use note cards! If I’m trying to figure out a plot line or the sequence of any given events, I find it helpful to write each event down on a note card or small piece of paper to arrange and re-arrange on a table until I’m happy with the order. This can also help me see if any events or ideas are unnecessary or redundant, where I might not have realized it before.If you’re having more trouble with the sequence of your story beyond that, sometimes it helps me to try to explain a common fairy tale to someone who hasn’t heard it before. That way, you have to think about which information to give first and how to say it to make the story the most interesting and coherent as possible. Make sure you choose a story with a loose plot that you have a general understanding of. Like Little Red Riding Hood- you know the basic plot points: going into the woods, meeting the wolf, arriving at grandmother’s house, etc. But this time think about how each part relates to each other and how to best tell the story so the other person understands. Telling kids stories works best for this, since they most likely haven't heard it and you'll need to simplify it to only necessary information for them, while keeping them interested.
So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my tips for better organizing your writing.