Learning all you can about the writing process is an investment in yourself that pays dividends throughout your writing life. It provides the most efficient road map to accomplishing your writing goals.
The second phase of the writing process is organizing. I hear you–that’s about as popular as planning! At first glance, these are not overwhelmingly fun topics; I get that. But if you toss out those bad first impressions, you move on into something new and highly beneficial.
So, are you, basically, an organized person? Do you keep your day-to-day life fairly straight? How about your work space? And, to the writer in you, how organized are your thoughts, concepts, writings, and dreams? Do you honor your writing by showing up regularly? Let’s take a look at phase 2 of the writing process.
Organizing Content Material
Writing projects can be a lot like life: they’re sometimes messy! As much as you want everything to line up in straight rows and fall in place effortlessly, the reality is often something far different.
How does the writer deal with the mess that sometimes comes with a writing project? The answer all hinges on the person and the project. Still, there are guidelines that everyone can follow to keep the mess to a minimum and keep your writing on a focused track.
So, okay, here’s where we have to deal with that “organizing” thing again. What does that word conjure up in your mind? Why is it that the thought of organizing hits so many in a negative way? I hope you’re one of those who lean into the idea rather than run from it. That’s a huge first step.
My experience working with many writers and authors tells me that, very often, the thought of organizing smacks of being difficult, frustrating, and pretty much unnecessary. “After all,” they tell me, “I have it all in my head. That’s all I need.”
In some situations, I agree with that to a point. If you are writing a few brief paragraphs and you have a clear grasp of what you want to say, go for it. But I always add this caveat: The more effort you put in, the more value others receive by it.
The more you apply yourself to the complete writing process, the better your chances are of creating an excellent piece of writing. Cutting corners may seem like the fast way through, and it probably is. But shortcuts, in the end, show up in your writing to haunt you and damage the quality of your work.
All the research and information about your writing project’s contents fall into either a) hard-copy files or b) digital/electronic files. That’s pretty much the world we live in today. And there are valuable aspects to both. We are blessed to have so much technology at our fingertips alongside the old-school tools.
Hard-copy files are comprised of these types:
- Free writing
- Paper files of all kinds
- Sticky notes
- Hen scratches on envelope backs
- Sketches on napkins from dinner
- File folders filled with copies of articles, histories, maps, photos,etc.
- Books with slips of paper or sticky tabs marking specific pages
- Scrapbooks, yearbooks, and photo albums
The list is unlimited really. Depending on the size, purpose, and scope of your writing project, the organizing phase of the writing process can become quite involved, detailed, and cumbersome.
The last thing you want to do is sit down to start outlining or writing, then realize you need to check something in your research, but you can’t find it. By the time you hunt through all the piles of scattered information, you forget what you were doing with it!
Hard-copy Organizing Tips in the Writing Process
To avoid that dilemma, here are some guidelines for organizing your hard-copy information:
- Group like types of information together. Sometimes it is most efficient to sort by type of information, keeping all books together, all loose notes in one place, all copied articles in one folder, all maps in one place, etc.
- Group like information by topic. For some writers and/or projects, it is most efficient to put all information on a single topic together in one place, regardless of its formatting. You might use file folders, a section of a file drawer, or a box to hold every hard-copy item you have concerning that one topic.
- Use specific colors for marking information on different topics. This is handy if you are working with one research resource, such a book, that provides information on more than one relevant topic. Colored tabs guide you easily and quickly to the segments you want in the moment.
- Create a separate journal or notebook for the writing project. This effectively holds a large portion of your thoughts, ideas, scribbles, concepts, and more in one handy location.
- Set up a project box for all the research materials. It might take more than one box depending on the size of your project. But this is a good way to keep all your research close at hand as you write. And it keeps the clutter to a minimum.
Hard-copy files, I believe, have the potential for creating a real mess, but no less so are your digital materials. These files consist usually of
- Computer files
- Online information such as websites, specific pages, etc.
- CDs, MP3s, MP4s, etc.
- Digital images
- Videos available in various online and computer sources
- Online or computer journals of your writings, notes, thoughts, concepts, etc.
There is no end to the digital/electronic resources you might be using in your particular project. The organizing phase of the writing process has to deal with these items, too.
Taking a few steps early on will make a world of difference later! These files are not difficult to organize if you use logic and practicality.
More Organizing Tips
- Set up a special section for your writing project in your computer world, be it cloud or hard drive.
- Within this special section, set up folders labeled in such a way that you can easily find and access the main topics of your project.
- If writing a book or a large project of any kind, set up sub-folders within your main topic folders. These sub-folders can be sorted by type or topic or any other means that makes sense to the project.
- Maintain a master file of your project. This file includes the planning, mapping, goal setting, and scheduling information from phase 1 of the writing process. Having a working master of that information and keeping it updated as you write keeps you right-side-up about the status of your project.
- Create a system that works well for you. What works for one person fails the next person. The trick is to develop a system well-adapted to you and your ways.
- Use your system all the time. Whatever you decide to use, commit to actually using it. Update your progress on your goals and writing targets. Check off items that are completed. Make notes to yourself about missing bits of information. Leave yourself trails so nothing gets left to chance.
Phase 2 of the writing process is fairly involved. None of it is that complicated or difficult, especially if you work with it from a patient and methodical standpoint.
In the next post we will take a look at the other half of phase 2 which is the developmental side of organizing your writing project. We’ll talk about going from scattered and incomplete ideas to that place of knowing you are ready to write. That’s for another day!
That’s a wrap!
So, I see you survived the first half of the organizing phase of the writing process. It wasn’t as bad as you thought, huh! Take some time to think about what you’ve learned here, and put it to work in your own writing project. The writing process is your road map to success!
As always, email me if you would like me to work with you on your project in these planning stages. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you & God Bless!