How do you organize your writing? 5 tips from the experts

Organize your writing by Wendy Strain with photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg
photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via photopin cc

All this month, I’ve been talking to you about different organization techniques that can be used on a macro or overall level to keep your life organized and time for your writing built into your daily activities. While these were discussed as an overview of your life in general, they can easily be applied at more micro levels, too. Because reading through the writing process of most famous writers makes it sound like they just dash their stories off in longhand before transferring them straight into the computer fully formed, here are some well-known examples of how famous writers actually organize their work:

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers

Kind of a long post, but it proves that more than the actual method you use to keep track of your ideas, there is tremendous value in having a fixed schedule for your work. A large number of famous authors cling to the concept of a set schedule as the secret to their success. If you can be the master of your schedule, many of them say, you can accomplish whatever you wish to accomplish.

Writing Habits of 21 Famous Authors

Here are some other habits of famous writers. Again, there are a few common themes that break down to making a habit out of writing, something you can stick in your schedule that doesn’t budge without a really good reason. How you get there doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you do, so hopefully one of the techniques offered this past month – mind mapping, scheduling, developing systems – will help you reach that magical place where habit becomes something real.

Famous Authors’ Handwritten Outlines for Great Works of Literature

Handwritten outlines exist everywhere. As these documents prove, an outline doesn’t have to be the highly detailed mapping out of every little detail you plan to use in your book. It can be little more than a few scribbles on a piece of paper that helps you keep track of the basic story you want to tell.

Charts and Diagrams Drawn by Famous Authors

Not everyone is a fan of a structured outline, so authors throughout time have used various methods that speak to their own sense of order just to keep their ideas straight. This post provides a number of creative examples from other famous authors.

Character Worksheets and Guides

If there’s anyone who knows the importance of maintaining character sketches and relationhship worksheets, it’s Brandon Sanderson, the man charged with finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. The series is riddled with characters who, if they have a name, have something important to add to the overall storyline at some point in time. It also has a significant and dedicated fan base who would know if Sanderson missed something in writing the finishing novels. In one interview, he pointed out how necessary a character chart such as some of these templates offer was to him completing the work.

And then there’s the Pantsers

You might already know there is a healthy group of famous authors who report they write more by a pantser technique. This list includes folks like Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, and Amy Tan. These august members of the writing community value the simple tools of paper and pen more than any of the tools listed above, if what is said in the various interviews about them is true.

The dangerous thing about reading their interviews is the impression you get that these amazing authors simply sit down one day and dash off a brilliant piece of literature on their pad of paper and then all that’s left to do is transcribe it. Rest assured, that isn’t exactly how it works, but we’ll get into a deeper discussion on that at a later date.

I’m still looking for a customizable submission tracker tool, but am offering you a free submission process checklist that works to somewhat automate the submission process. Just sign up to the email list (click here to make it appear at the bottom of the page), and you’ll be directed to download the checklist in Word or PDF format.

And don’t be afraid to shout out some of the tools you use to ensure you fit everything into your day/week.

Wendy Strain

My entire life is full of writing and creativity. Whether copywriting for exciting new projects, crafting web content for creative companies, ghostwriting, editing, coaching, or exploring my own imagination as a fiction writer, I am constantly engaged in stretching boundaries and exploring possibilities.

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