There are two aspects to the concept of organization for writers. There is the organization of your writing environment, be it your working space or virtual space you write in such as the type of computer, software, even the way your writing is backed up. Then there is the organization of the actual writing, keeping track of characters, plots, story lines, names, places, etc., and structuring the end result into something readable as well as publishable.
Discussing this with a few Writers in the Grove members, we realized that while the two concepts were separate, they were actually inseparable. As one pointed out, the spark of an idea can happen anywhere and you must have a system in place to jot it down and ensure it isn’t lost between the grocery store moment of inspiration and the moment you can finally lean into your computer and start writing. Throughout the writing process of a project, the project is with you, wherever you are, whenever your imagination catches fire. A well-structured habit system combined with well-maintained tools and access points for preserving those thoughts help you through the entire process, right through to the point of publishing.
So we decided to offer this short collection of writing tips by others for organizing and planning your writing to embrace both aspects, helping you be organized within your writing environment, physical and virtual, and in the writing process.
Writing Organization Tools and Environments
One tool that our group embraced that changed more than a few writing lives is Scrivener by Literature and Latte. Available for both Windows and Mac, Scrivener is what you use to write your story before you move it to publishing programs and tools, though Scrivener will publish directly to various ebook and print formats. Scrivener is your idea holder, notebook, character development tool, and story line planner. It helps you write your book or whatever is on your writing list. We highly recommend it and have an ongoing series to help you learn Scrivener better.
Some helpful articles on using Scrivener to organize your writing include:
- Scrivener: Organize Your Writing and Thinking – Writers in the Grove
- How Scrivener Helped Me Organize All My Writing – Lifehacker
- Organize your writing in Scrivener – Macworld
- How to Write Faster and Get Organized with Scrivener – WriteToDone
- How I Use Scrivener to Organize my Writing – Strange & Charmed
- How I Use Scrivener To Organize My Book Writing – Todd Henry
- How To Format A Perfect Novel: Part 1 (File Organization) – Garrett Robinson
- 3 Scrivener Tips to Become a Master Outliner – Written Word Media
- Organizing Scrivener’s Binder Part 1
- My Writing Process, Pt. 1 of 2: How I Use Scrivener to Outline My Novels – Helping Writers Become Authors
- Using the Scrivener Binder to Organize Your Novel — Well-Storied
How To Organize Your Non-fiction Book – The Future of Ink: This article offers six core tools and methods for organizing your book: piles, folders, cards, Evernote, and binders. The author also mentions Scrivener as it is highly capable of embracing piles, folders, cards, etc. The article offers tips for organizing your writing in general, time and space for writing, and more tips to help you keep on track of the writing. These apply to fiction as well as non-fiction.
6 Organization Tips for Disorganized Writers – Write It Sideways: Embracing the physical and virtual world of writing, this author adds professionalism to the process, encouraging writers to track work hours, log word counts, keep better financial records, and schedule your social media ahead of time to keep you focused on the writing and less distracted.
12 Ways to Organize Your Book Ideas Before You Start to Write: This article covers both the physical and technical aspects of getting organized with your writing including working with spreadsheets, mind maps, storyboards, transcription, and writing sketches, outlines, etc. It is a good example of how to easily combine traditional and modern methods.
5 Organizing Tips for Writers and Authors – Conrad Zero: Citing the popular book “Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain” by Lee Silber, this article addresses a key conflict facing many writers: cleanliness does not equal organization. It is an excellent look at organizing your physical writing space including using Evernote and backup systems. A key recommendation is to not put things where they belong but where you will look for them when you need them, advice we could all use when it comes to organization.
Getting Creative Things Done: How To Fit Hard Thinking Into a Busy Schedule – 99U: Mastering the To Do List to enable it toward creativity and productivity is a challenge for all of us. This article explores the “Getting Creative Things Done,” a system to help you organize your work by prioritizing and making appointments with yourself and your creativity on a schedule. One of the tips includes setting rules for your creative blocks, describing what is not allowed during creative work so you can focus on the creative work during that assigned time period. That’s right. Just turn the phone off.
The Zen of More Organized Writing: 5 Steps You Can Take Today – WriteToDone: The key premise to this article is how to organize your life as a writer so you can spend more time writing, a goal for most of us. It explores how to get ideas out of your head, take charge of your “unruly research,” and, one of my favorite tips, “own your writing tools, don’t let them own you.” The more you know how your tools work, the better and more efficiently you can use them.
10 Ways to Switch Your Brain to Writing Mode When Working From Home: Many of us write in our free time, after work and on weekends, and the shift from work mode to writing mode can be rough. This article recommends creating habits, rituals, to help you decompress and make the switch in your brain between the two modes to encourage faster transition as well as greater creativity after the switch.
The Surprising History of the To-Do List and How to Design One That Actually Works – The Buffer Blog: I’m a notorious list maker. Are you? This article explores the history and psychology of list making and how to create a list that works, so you can get those things done, tackling all of the things to do on your writing list.
The Simplest Way I’ve Found To Get More Writing Done (#4) – Prose on Fire: This author created a system for her writing that is a form of To Do list that breaks up writing projects by the amount of time they will take. The key to this process is visualization, identifying the most important task and giving it the time it needs, and breaking smaller tasks into smaller time increments as another element of prioritizing. I see this as an excellent way to put writing projects into perspective with manageable blocks of time and tasks to prevent being overwhelmed by your ideas.
How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People – Lifehack: While not necessarily for just writers, this is a great article on how to stay on track and organized in your own life. The more organized, to your standards, your life is, the more time you can focus on the things you want to do, like writing, than cleaning up after yourself, a favorite distraction for many a writer who says, “I can’t write until I get X, Y, or Z done.” If it is all done, there are no more excuses. Just write.
Writing Organization: Plots, Structure, Writing Organization Techniques
6 Tips for Staying Organized While Writing a Series – …and then there was Sarah: The tips offered in this article put a story through its paces with timelines, character bios, relationship matrices, family trees, outlines, and creating an encyclopedia of your entire novel including every character, place, event, animal, location, time of day, habits, etc.
10 Ways to Keep Your Writing Organized – LJ Sellers: This is a fairly comprehensive list of tips to help you stay on track with your writing. It begins with the time-tested outline, and recommends using timelines, idea journals, comprehensive name and detail lists, lists of things to fix, and a list of the Point-of-View (POV) characters with personality and physical sketches.
How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method – Advanced Fiction Writing: A popular modern novel writing technique is called the Snowflake Method, designed to write a novel beginning with the small stuff and building up and out, expanding in a snowflake, so to speak, to flesh out all the parts and pieces of your story structure. It uses a fairly strict, timed deadline approach to writing out each of the key plot points in an outline and then building the story out from there.
How to Organize and Develop Ideas for Your Novel – WritersDigest.com: With solid, technical tips, this article takes you through the basics of structuring your novel by filling in the gaps, establishing setups and payoffs, dealing with chapter breaks, and planning for those cliffhangers to keep readers reading.
Creating a Story Bible: The Basics – On Writing: Your story bible is the encyclopedia of your story, a journal, notes in a folder, a 3-ring binder, Scrivener project, whatever you want it to be that you use to keep track of your notes, ideas, characters, places, maps, research, whatever information you need to write your story. The article covers all the parts and pieces you may wish to include in your research including favorite phrases your characters would say, place description and pictures, world-building, political papers and references, historical news and timelines – all the research material and thoughts you have about your story, then organizing it into a cohesive, usable collection.
10 tips for organizing the pieces of your story – Poynter: A mix of organization tips for writers, this article offers two excellent tips including making copies of your most important research materials as backups and a way to restore familiarity with the research by retyping notes, often triggering new perspectives on the piece, and surrounding yourself with your most important reference works. This author keeps dictionaries, Shakespeare works, and the bible within arms reach for quick reference, switching out other references for each project to “replace them with the books I need for my next focused period of learning.” The author also recommends revisiting research over and over again, not just by retyping but double-checking, verifying your memory as well as finding more supportive evidence for your story. Another excellent tip is to create a wall map, a whiteboard or wall dedicated to the story, creating a visual timeline or something that resembles a detective’s evidence board.
Organizing the Complex Story – IJNet: A technical article on the step-by-step process of planning your story, organizing your story lines and plots, and core technical tips you need to consider well when writing and developing your story through each phase of the process through to publishing.
6 Smart Ways to Organize Writing Content by Busy Teacher: While a study in academic writing for students, the organizational strategies for tackling writing projects stretches the mind when it comes to organizing your writing content. You could tell the story chronologically, or organize it by familiarity or importance to the plot line or characters. You could compare and contrast, or write using a cause and effect scheme. Most writers use a carrot-and-stick approach to writing plots, creating a problem and taking the reader on a journey to the solution, but the article expands upon this by suggesting multiple solutions, proposals, and attempts to reach the conclusion, a more realistic approach to fiction writing. If you are stuck, consider rewriting part of the story from one of these six methods and you might find a new approach.
There are no perfect ways to write. There is your way. Learn how others do it. Experiment. Find what works for you. If you have a method that works for you, share it with us.