Everyone has their own way of writing. There are the plotters who love to do detailed outlines of their ideas before they start writing. And of course there are also, at the opposite end of the writing scale, those who write by the “seat of their pants” or in other words, they just start writing and usually follow the needs, wants and desires of their characters.
Writers also organize their working areas in a variety of ways. We have always talked about how we approach our writing in different ways—Sue is a careful plotter while Becky works the second way—just starting out and writing scene by scene.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that since we are so different in our plotting methods that we also approach the organization of our work in different ways as well.
Sue: I have only one computer, and one desk, but I do have a whole wall of shelves with notebooks that contain my notes or typed books.
Becky: I have three different computers and write in several areas and often take one of my laptops to coffee shops or libraries to write. I also keep a bunch of individual notebooks for each of my fiction stories, but they are small and portable so I can take them with me wherever I go.
Sue: My concern in organizing my work is that I have many on-going projects. Besides the teaching/writing series Becky and I are working on, I have several individual books in progress and another whole series of how-to books. I am definitely a plotter as whenever I start a new project I start a new notebook
Becky: I too have several writing projects going at one time--both fiction and non-fiction, and that is partially why I use different computers. Besides our writing projects I blog on a regular basis and keep my pictures for those blogs plus for Twitter and Pinterest on my desk top computer. I keep my fiction writing projects on my laptop and a couple of thumb drives so that I can be prepared to work wherever I am. I work in several rooms at home, depending on my mood, so I need to have my laptop handy and ready to unplug and take with me wherever I plan to write. There are times I even move outside to write on the patio. I also like to be prepared to write anytime and anywhere I might be. I have always kept a small notebook in my purse and another in my car so I can write a scene while I am having lunch or even while I’m waiting to meet someone. If I hit a rough spot in my writing, a change of scene is often just the right prescription to get me back on track. I sometimes go out to lunch just to sit in a coffee shop or restaurant and write.
Sue: But back to organizing. I love my computer and how it stores all my files. I have files inside files and often I spend too much time trying to find the right file and as I am a visual person my wall shelves are filled with notebooks, actual real, turn the pages, notebooks. One for each project, one for each book, one for each I’m-going-to-do-that-someday ideas. And of course, notebooks with almost completed books that probably will never see the light of day.
Becky: While I am writing in lots of different places I have always managed to pull all my files together into one main file location eventually, usually on a weekly basis. I often use those handwritten notes to get me started writing in the morning. Just copying them into my computer gets my mind working so that I can start to increase my word count every day. By revisiting my written notes I get pulled back into the story.
Sue: Our point being, no matter what you write, where you are in your writing career, you need some kind of a system to keep your ideas, notes, research and whatever in some kind of order… something that works for you. Not your spouse, not your kids, and not your mother-in-law. Grin.
Becky: Right. You can read all the organizational tips you can find, especially on Pinterest or listening to your other writing friends or in writing groups, but whatever you do, find your own way and then use what makes the most sense to you. Forcing yourself to do it the way someone else organizes can often leave you frustrated and confused.
And please note, our new book, Creating Memorable Characters, Volume II, in the Let’s Write a Story series is now out, both as an ebook and in print. And we have added a FREE worksheet bundle for those who love to organize their stories through written worksheets.