Thursday, July 7, 2011

3 Tips For Organizing A Novel

by Brandy Dolce

I'm halfway through the first draft of my second novel and it took until now to find the best way for me to stay organized. Yes, I have several hand written notes in manila file folders that I never look at; single-subject, spiral-bound notebooks crammed with chicken scratch that have gone the way of the word processor; and gigabytes of electronic musings saved somewhere in RAM limbo. The result? A novel built from my notes in my one notebook. Everything else has been forgotten or eaten by moths.

I prefer a Five Subject monstrosity, but now I keep just one instead of the baskets-full I used to scribble in. I use sticky notes to mark ideas I dig. Any pages I end up ripping out are stored in the nifty pockets of the dividers. You never know when an old idea will suddenly seem brilliant. The one notebook helps me to stay organized and keep everything portable and in one place.

I have a general direction (kinda-sorta) of where I want to go with my story and I let the rest flesh itself out. It always works for me. Writers Block is the act of not writingWrite to find your way. It always presents itself. I'm mostly a pantser, but rough outlines help me stay on track because I'm also a dreamer who easily spirals into Neverland. As I write, I get more scene ideas and I'm able to add cells, organs and skin onto my story's skeleton. Gross, but you get the idea. I write these scene ideas in my notebook along with one to three sentences describing the scene. As I write, I'm able to easily follow the outline while filling in new ideas along the way. I also indicate why the scene is relevant to my story and what the scene reveals/accomplishes.

My hair falls out in clumps if I attempt to write in any other way. A novel should be like a set of Dominoes with each scene fluidly knocking into the next and so on. I keep this visual when I begin to hyperventilate. Picturing the book as little stories within a big story is the cornerstone of this writer's process. 

Keep it simple. One notebook for the outline and notes; writing to incinerate doubt and gain ideas; and implementing scenes as the building blocks to my mostly organized first draft is what works for this chic. The flaws can be worked out later.

What are some ways you stay organized? Please share! 

Additional info: Here's a great post on Writing a Book Scene By Scene


  1. I write, write, write in a word processor just to get words down quickly. I don't worry about scenes or continuity or anything like that. I'll make notes in the writing: ale (come up with a different word).

    Then I take it and put it scene by scene into Scrivener and start organizing for sequence. Getting continuity in place. Making sure references are consistent. Etc. It's not as much fun as the writing, but it's where the magic happens. I love Scrivener.

  2. Hi Liz,
    That's a great process! Just write! I tend to get caught up in the why's and how's of my scenes. I need to constantly remind myself just to get it down! I make notes in my writing as well (the highlight feature in Word is my BFF). I love that you put it all into Scrivener to organize the draft. Good idea! And yes, that part can be tedious but it's worth it! :) Thanks for the comment!
    Happy writing!