Monday, August 4, 2014

The Art of Organization

I'm not an organized person by nature. I'm just not.

Don't try to change me.

However, with writing, it become necessary at times to get organized and stay organized. Otherwise, chaos ensues.

So, here are some organizational tactics that I use to keep my from going completely insane when it's time to revise.

There are two things I've finally learned to do, and have been consistent about. (Yea for consistency!) First, I organize all my changes, and second, I organize a list of characters and important facts about my story.

If you have a fancy-schmancy writing program like Scrivener, then you have all the tools at your disposal to stay organized, and so shame on you if you don't.  However, if you're like me -  dirt poor financially restricted, then you'll be using freeware, or something already on your computer like Word or Pages. If you're a pen and paper kinda person, well, then continue on. I salute you.

So, to keep track of my changes, ah-ha's, and oops-i-need-to-go-back-and-fix-such-and-such, I keep a running record at the very top of my document. If I'm really good, I even include a page number of where a change needs to be made. (I'm not usually that good, though, let's be honest.) I tend to write linearly, so when I come to a question in my head, I just bop my way to the top of the page, write down my thoughts, and then bop back down to the end.  Now that I'm done with my first draft of a novel that I've been working on for several months, I'm going back through my bullet points, adding, axing, changing, blending, whatever. As soon as that issue has been addressed in my draft, I delete it and move on to the next item that needs fixing. Voila! Organization. At least, a little bit.

As I was writing my novel, and I have to call it MY NOVEL, because it's the only novel I've written - up to this point (If you're reading this in the future, of course I've become incredibly prolific and probably have dozens of novels out there in the world for you to enjoy. You should buy one!) so anyway, as I was writing my novel, I didn't always have a strong idea of where I was going and who was going to pop into my story at one time or another. Before I sat down to write, I had a basic idea of who my main characters were, but then all these secondary characters starting showing up, and before I knew it, I had forgotten someone's name, or who they were friends with. It all became rather confusing, and surprisingly quickly, too. So, to help me keep every one's names straight, and how they were related to each other, I started an Excel spreadsheet and started listing characters' names, personality traits that were important to the story, setting information that I didn't want to forget, and anything else that I was worried I might forget about.

It turned out to be super helpful to do that. So, now I will remember to START my writing that way in the future. I didn't get this system figured out until I was nearly halfway through writing my novel. That meant that I had to go back and read through everything I had written thus far. It felt like such a time waste to have to go back and do that, and of course I wanted to go and edit every little thing I could as I was re-reading. I had to force myself to just keep my fingers on the arrow keys, so I couldn't edit anything else. Now I know better. Start a spreadsheet of character info from the beginning. Gee, what a concept!

So, those are a couple of ways I organized my work so that it would be easier to go back and revise, and keep everything straight. I don't have enough room in my head to keep all that information tucked in there, that's for sure.

I'd love to know what ideas and tips you might have for staying organized while writing, so please feel free to share in the comments!

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