Organizational Ideas For Book Writers: Project Notes Beyond The Napkin

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Organizational ideas…. I know, we’ve talked about this topic before. The mention of organizing anything, let alone your writing notes, often brings a shudder to the creative’s heart. After all, you want to write a book. You’ve read about other authors who wrote ideas on a napkin and took off. Their books went through the roof in popularity and sales. Isn’t that how it works for book writers?

Yet, this scene plays out every day in some writer’s life somewhere: Writing inspiration comes in a surge of energy and excitement. But alas, it comes and goes, leaving behind blank pages and frustration. Where is that file? What was the name of the town I was using? Where does that surprise twist in the plot come into play?  Overwhelm sets in. Some basic organizational ideas would have saved the day. Instead, this writer’s effort is fruitless.

If you are among the growing group of book writers these day, chances are you have lost track of some part of your notes or research at some point. And the results are disappointing at best, discouraging or derailing at worst. It can take massive amounts of energy to get back on track to start writing again. There is hope…and it’s pretty simple!

Organizational Ideas for Book Writers: What’s My Writing Focus?

There are many methods, systems, and plans for writing your book today. Some focus on speed of completion, offering systems for getting the book written in 30 days or so. Others take the slower road, focusing on depth and quality of content, among other things. It is necessary to decide for yourself what seems best for you. Some of the factors to look at include, but are not limited to:

  • The purpose of your book
  • Seasonal deadlines involved
  • Length of book
  • Depth and detail of content
  • Research unfinished
  • Time availability
  • Publishing time frames

Organizational Ideas for Book Writers: Do You Mean Me?

What I find as an editor and writer is this simple truth: it doesn’t matter what your focus is; book writers of every kind work the most efficiently and the most successfully when they have solid organizational ideas in use. Period. (Read more about that here!)

If your writing focus is on speed, you will create faster by being organized.  You simply follow your outline, cards, or whatever you are using, and they keep you on track. Ideas are more apt to flow quickly and smoothly. Organizing helps to create and hold your focus. Speed is easier to achieve this way.

The same is true if your writing focus is not on speed, but on depth of content. It is far easier to forget things when your writing is stretched out over a longer period of time. Thoughts and ideas often come at inconvenient moments. Without some organizational ideas in place, those ideas may never become part of your book because you forget them!

So, it doesn’t matter what kind of book writer you are. The write it on a napkin author is a rare bird, and not the norm. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can sit down at a computer or grab some paper, and a book will spill forth like magic.

There is no magic in writing books. It calls for commitment, discipline, patience, and structure. And one of the chief skills is the ability to come up with organizational ideas that work for you and implement them. Now, that may sound difficult, but it really is not–at least the organizational part. With a little bit of thought, it can actually be the easiest for you to do!

Organizational Ideas for Book Writers: 3 Rules For Successful Note Wrangling!

No two books are exactly alike; they are as unique as fingerprints. But they do all have some common properties about them. It is these common qualities that make it simple to organize your notes. Since this is a blog post, not a full dissertation on the subject, I present to you three basic rules  to pull the rope tightly around the notes in your writing project. These rules are simple, but so important to your writing success.

  1. Determine your writing focus: a) speed, or b) content quality and depth
  2. Decide which works better for you: a) paper notes alone or combined with computer files, or b) electronic notes within a writing software package
  3. Delegate a specific place in your writing area where all notes (outside of a software package) will be maintained

These are basic rules of thumb that move you down the road toward success. They are actually the first steps in putting your organizational ideas into place. As you work on these on your own, know that you are actually already organizing!

Writing with a short-term completion date in mind requires your notes to be organized with that time frame in mind. You may create a simple outline of your key points with a few sub-points under each one. This becomes your writing guide.

In order to write a longer piece or go more in-depth into  your topic or characters, etc., your notes look quite different. The more involved a story is, the more detailed the notes become. You may use a system of cards to track and detail scenes, characters, locations, etc. Along with that you will have an outline or some system of tracking the plot, its scenes, events, etc.

Organizational Ideas for Book Writers: Keep It Simple & Effective

There is much to be said about the many organizing ideas that are out there. Consider the following elements when you are making your decision about what form your notes will take. For each element, think about your specific project in terms of what will be simple to use and maintain while still being effective for me to use?

  • How tech savvy am I?
  • Am I comfortable with everything being in a software program or app?
  • Do I work better where I can spread everything out and see the big picture all at once?
  • Which is easier for me to work with: note cards, outlines, or a combination of both?
  • Is a computer spreadsheet a good tool for me?
  • Can I keep my paper notes and computer note files organized and easily accessible at all times?
  • Do I do better when a computer program organizes for me, asks me the important questions, and tracks my answers?

These are just some of the deciding factors that come into play as you come up with a plan for creating and tracking notes about your writing project. Don’t let it all confuse  you. For now, these are beginning thought processes. We’ll discuss the details more here in a future post where I will share what I know works for other authors with whom I have worked.

There is no absolutely right or wrong system of organizing your notes. The only unacceptable system is the absence of a system! Remember, notes and sketches on a napkin are not enough!

Organizational Ideas For Writers: Corral Those Notes in One Place?

One of the most frequent destroyers of any writing system is simply not using it and maintaining it. That means you keep it in front of you and refer to it as you write every time. This ensures staying on track with the flow of the material. If you are writing fiction, this is the only way to keep your plot in line and your characters, etc., true to their design. Errors in flow are common when writing doesn’t follow the predetermined flow.

What does it mean to maintain your notes? First and foremost, it means that they are always kept together in one place in your writing area. Don’t let them get scattered all over the place. This is part of discipline; it is a powerful tool and one you should use constantly.

Maintenance also refers to keeping your notes updated and current. Your system must include a means of tracking what has been written and what is yet to come. If new ideas arise or a change in the plot presents itself, note these in your files. Make record of everything. This is true whether you are going to finish in a month or if your book takes two years. It is especially wise for that long-term project to be ever-so-closely kept up to date.

The Wrap-up

As you can see by now, there are great preliminary actions you can take to make your writing project successful…and even fun. As it is with so many things, the better prep work you do, the better your results in the end.

So, take these tips and do something positive with them in your writing project. Organizational ideas will make your writing more enjoyable and your content of higher quality. You can do this!

I’m currently working on a project to offer a basic writing video series for new writers. In it we will cover in much detail all the elements, hows and whys you need to know in order to write a great story. Subscribe to my blog so you’ll know more about what’s going on in my writing studio. I’ll share more about this as we go along!

Thank you & God Bless!

Hi I'am Jane Rucker

Writing is my passion. It consumes me. What a blessing it is to work from my home studio tucked away in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri! I enjoy sharing my life, my faith, and the hidden treasures all around me in these beautiful hills.

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