Thursday, April 29, 2010

Let's Get ORGANIZED!

Oh yeah.  I seem to have forgotten that this is a writing blog. :)  So... let's get back to that, shall we? :)

I started working on my current WiP back in January, so it's going to be a WiP for a nice, long time.  I'm ok with that.  I'm not in a big, crazy hurry.  Real Job and Family certainly derail my efforts, and since both Real Job and Family center around young children, it's not hard to see why they often take priority.  That's cool with me. My WiP is like a good friend.... it understands when I'm gone, and when I return, it's like I never left.  We pick up right where we left off.  In fact, my recent necessary time away was actually well-timed, since I was coming to a point in my WiP where I was getting stuck on the same darn thing over and over, and it will be nice to look at it again with fresh eyes.

Although I've plotted out several whole novels before, this is the first once I have taken a stab at seriously writing.  I've realized about myself that when I plot and plan everything, then I lose interest in writing it.  So now I know that I need to leave some mystery for myself and let the plot drive itself sometimes and just see where it goes.   That, for me, is what keeps it fun.

But since this is my first serious effort, I am running into an issue that is new to me, and that is organization.  In past efforts, I always started at the beginning, wrote a few chapters, then it sort of began to feel forced and fizzled out.  This time, I started with a scene about a third of the way into the story, then backed up to the beginning, then a scene in between, then changed the beginning, and so on.  I realized that figuring out how to organize is going to be a must for me.  I looked at a few of the programs out there, like yWriter, but I don't like to write within programs like that.  So then I just decided to give each "chunk" (I am calling them chapters but not really sure they will all work out that way) a separate Word Document and I'm keeping them together in numbered order in a folder.  That's working as far as organization, I can find things, and I can jump around quickly and easily without losing track of anything, but it feels odd and disjointed.  Worse yet, I really like the feel of pen on paper, and I have been writing mainly on my laptop but my best work so far has been done on paper and then transcribed.  Time consuming, and then I can't help but edit as I transcribe, which is not unlike quicksand in how sucked in I get and lost in what I already wrote.  I know, save it for revisions!

So... novels are long.  How do you organize your working document as you write?

26 comments:

KarenG said...

Lindsey,

I vote for Larry Brooks' storyfix.com story structure advice. His simple explanations has helped me more than any other.

(I love the name of your blog lol)

KarenG

Stephanie Thornton said...

I used to keep my chapters in separate documents, but now I'm writing it all together.

I think it's common to get a few chapters out and then the inspiration dies. My mojo fizzles at page 85 and then again around 150. But then I seem to pick up steam and keep chugging to the end.

Jemi Fraser said...

I keep it all in one document. I'm not an advance-organizer either. I usually have an end scene and then a beginning scene in my head and then I just write. I do tend to write in a linear fashion and only occasionally add scenes. I do remove them though :)

Charmaine Clancy said...

I use Scrivener, just so I keep all my writing in one spot.
But back when I just used Word, I would create a folder for Writing and then one in that for the WIP. I'd have a document for research, one for notes and ideas, one for plot point (dot point everything you can possibly think of happening in the book and you can play with the order etc, I like to have about 40 dot points to get me started). In the past I wrote in order, but this time I'm writing as I get ideas, so I pretty much write scenes and then name the file what ever the scene was about. I have 'Fun with a Chicken' and 'Someone's in the room'. They coincide with my dot points so I can see which bits to link one to the other.
My biggest organisation thing (this has only been going for a week, so see if it keeps working) is I don't schedule my writing time, but I do schedule my housework time. 9-3 is NO housework for me, I can write, read or blog, but no chores, otherwise they end up taking over the day.

Shelley Sly said...

It's so interesting how we all write differently. I keep my WIP in one document, but then I also have an outline document with chapter descriptions, and sometimes a third document with just random ideas -- potential dialogue, narration to use later in the story, etc. Eventually it all comes together.

Glad to see that you're well organized and that it seems to be working for you. Keep it up!

Summer said...

I do all the actual writing in one continuous document. I can't write out of sequence, so it's not a problem. If I do get an idea that I just have to write down, I keep a separate file for one or two-liner ideas.

I have yWriter too, but it didn't really appeal to me. I like to keep the mystery alive as well.

Amie McCracken said...

I write sporadically like that. It's the only way the story keeps spice for me. Writing linearly makes me push too hard and a lot of it feels forced. But I keep it all in one document and move stuff around a lot. Or I just write 50,000+ words and then my first edit is to organize the order by reading through the whole thing.

Amie McCracken said...

P.S. I should mention I'm a very organized person but if I keep my writing too organized I can't get past 10,000 words.

Jen said...

Oh lord, for me there is absolutely no organization when I write, it is a blank microsoft word document, I don't even create paragraphs, at least not with my very first.

I'm currently working on my second and this time I'm using more dialogue tags and paragraph format. I'm a work in progress I suppose!

Palindrome said...

OMG, Lindsey! Check out my posts from last week. They're all about my process and a writing program I use, Liquid Story Binder. In that program you can keep all your parts/chapters/scenes seperate and then you "bind" it all together when you're done. It tracks your editing and...I just realized I go way too excited for a minute. Could be that smoothie I just chugged...or that you're back and I'm excited to talk to you again. Regardless, check out last weeks posts and I might have some stuff that will help you because I was going through the same thing.

Cynthia Reese said...

Wow! Exactly what a lot of us are blogging about today! So interesting to read how other people write! Yours is a tres cool approach.

Falen said...

well i write in a linear fashion so i don't have to actually organize much while i'm wirting.
BUT, before i start, i mess around with the first 5-6 steps of the Snowflake Method to help organize plot and character arcs beforehand.
It helps me to not fizzle out at 70K words

Saumya said...

Such a relateable post! I also miss writing with pen and paper, so I try to outline on looseleaf sheets. Typically, I have a few scenes I know I want in there and then I'll try to work around them.
It's amazing for you to write and balance work and a family. Props to you!!!

OfficeGirl said...

This is amazing! Its like you read my mind!
I write in one document and have other documents for notes, clever dialouge I might want to use, scenery, personality traits and a whole folder dedicated to pictures of inspiration.
I want to find a better way to be organized and acutally I was thinking of doing one chapter per document. I sometimes get overwelmed when its all in one and become side tracked with editing instead of writing the damn thing.

Theresa Milstein said...

I start at the beginning and just go. If I think of a scene that comes up later, but I don't want to forget it, I'll skip a few lines and write it. Then I'll go back and write until I catch up.

If I have long-term goals, I sometimes write a paragraph or two in the beginning or on a separate document to "remember", but I probably don't need to do it.

I don't outline. Often, I let the manuscript surprise me. My process is also fast and furious. No manuscript takes longer than six weeks.

Then comes the editing...

We all have our methods. Mine has changed little since I began writing seriously five years ago.

SF said...

Hi! Thanks for following me. Just came over to have a look and have to say I do like the stripey stockings and coffee.
I like your approach to structure, and hope it works this time.

Melinda Szymanik said...

Like SF I wanted to say thanks for following me. I adhere to the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach. I usually have an outline a paragraph or two long to guide me and then I just sit down and see what happens. It doesn't always flow smoothly but I find when I'm getting bogged down the best thing is to just move straight on to the next scene (the gap is never noticeable when I come back to it). I edit as I go so my first draft is more like other peoples third or fourth. And I trust my intuition a lot. Good luck

Terresa said...

I'm motivated -- just returned from a fab writing conference last week.

I'm trying something new with my current WIP: outlining 1/3 of it, then writing that part out, then outlining the next 1/3, writing it out, etc, until I'm done. So far, it's working quite well!!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

If you were making a dress, you'd use a pattern. Not might end up with you draped in something that looked like a toga not a prom dress.

Same with a novel.

Have an idea of where you're going, what drives your main character, what consumes your antagonist, what skeleton of a theme underlies the momentum of events.

I wrote a post, based on what my university professors and my own experiences taught me on sketching out a two page brief "dress pattern."

The link to that post {The Mysterious Nazca Lines For Writers} if you're curious is :

http://rolandyeomans.blogspot.com/2010/04/mysterious-nazca-lines-for-writers.html

Have as enjoyable a week as you can while trying to teach, to supervise a family, and to write a novel all at the same time, Roland

mi said...

what an interesting post.

i used to think there were two kinds of writers: those who outlined their plots extensively before writing, and those who had a loose plot in their head and just started writing.

i'm the sort who just starts to write.
don't get me wrong, i know the basic plot of my novel when i begin, but it can change directions while i'm writing and i just go with it.

i keep everything in one document and i write chapter to chapter, BUT i have a separate file where i keep notes of things i need to change/add/fix when i start my revisions. this keeps me from working on the same three chapters over and over and over. otherwise i'd never finish a novel!

R. M. Iyer said...

Now I am no expert, but what I did when I was writing my first story un-chronologically was to maintain a simple excel file, with section number (given in order), a brief description, and a column for actual position.
It worked for me, but I am a geek.

Incidentally, have I told you how much I love your template?

Talli Roland said...

I love Writer's Cafe software. It lets you use virtual post-it notes - then you can move them around and play with the structure. It's brilliant!

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Thanks, guys - it's so interesting to hear how everyone works. I'm going to look up the programs you mentioned. Now, if only there were programs that generated more time...

SonshineMusic i.e. Rebecca T. said...

yeah! It's good to have you back!

I keep a bunch of different Word documents too, but not parts of the story. they are things like family/character descriptions, brief bios, free-writing, major plot points, random sentences I want to use later on. I'm kind of crazy that way.

Walter Knight said...

Forget about planning a plot, it is the characters that are important. When I write my science fiction, it is like being on a road trip. There is no outline. I write about anything I find interesting or funny until I finally get there.

Check a few sample chapters on my website.

Carrie said...

I do all my writing in one Word Document. I start off numbering my chapters but I stop doing that if I want to do something like skip to the end. I let it be messy and confusing in the first draft and figure I'll fix it later.