Keeping Organized

I just wrote an entire post where even I wasn’t entirely sure what the point was. 

And that brings me to the point of this post: Organization.

Organization is the bane of my existence. No really. You should see my desk at work. If I can’t hold it in my head, it’s in some sort of disorganized pile. I’m terrible with paper. Oh, my working memory is strong enough that I can find it (usually) if I need it, but until I need it, it’s in some sort of haphazardly arranged stack sitting…somewhere. You know, in one of five different places.


(The piles look right, but there’s not enough of them for this to be my desk. Also, I’m not a dude.)

But organization is a key piece of making a story work, right? You have to keep notes on the goals, motivations and conflicts that each of your characters experience. You need to keep notes on the time period, on your major plot points, and your story arc. You need to have notes on all the research you’ve done. So what’s a disorganized gal like me–who admittedly loses paper–to do?

You could do the spiral notebook thing, and I’ve done that. I didn’t like it, because I like things to be organized linearly, but ideas never come to me in a linear fashion. I gave that one up rather quickly.

You could do the three ring binder, complete with color coded dividers, and I’ve done that, too. It’s okay, but usually gets ruined by the random sticky note… and you have to remember to file the paper in the right spot. Meh.

I tried the sticky note thing, which I liked because of the ease of use. I had a board to pin them to, and they were all color coded, but then, in a moment of inspiration, I’d pick up the wrong colored sticky note to pin up, and then that made it hard to find when I needed it later. 

LIke I said, I’m bad with paper.

People gave me so much writing advice when it came to keeping my story organized, but they tended to fall back on paper. I even gave Scrivener a whirl, which so many people absolutely love, but I just couldn’t get into it. I tried, really I did, but it didn’t feel intuitive to me, and I don’t have time to teach myself a brand new system. 

Organization, I think, takes time to figure out. Not every system works for every person. What wound up working for me is roughly the same thing that ultimately wound up working in college. Back then, I had an accordion file. Now, I have the computer. I have a main folder that contains my document. I have a sub folder for each category: GMC, research, random scenes that pop into my head, a chapter by chapter guideline for the story, etc. If i have an idea at work or some other place, I use Evernote in my phone–and then transfer that information to the appropriate file when I get home. If I remember. I can even make my phone remind me later if I have something pending, so I can’t forget for long.

I think, after years of trying, I can safely say my writing is pretty organized. Now, if I could just find a system that works for my desk….

What about you? How do you stay organized with your story?

About Meggan Connors

Mother. Wife. Author. Teacher. Really, really bad soccer coach.
This entry was posted in A Memo from Meggan, Time Management, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Keeping Organized

  1. scmitchell says:

    I quite truthfully wonder aimlessly from chapter to chapter until my characters force me to get organized. I keep telling myself i will be better organized for the next book, but that never seems to happen.

  2. I basically do the same thing you do, Meggan, for the same reasons:
    – don’t handle masses of paper well. And in the 21st century, why bother?
    – went to a session on Scrivener at the RWA Conference this year and decided, why bother?

    Folder for the novel, subfolders for comments from crit groups and writing partners, research, previous versions, images, etc. Files in the main folder for everything from character sketches to outlines. Probably the only significant different is that I use Excel a lot, which lets you keep many different topics as tabs in the same file.

  3. Beth Carter says:

    We must be twins! I hate to file, have mounds of paper to be filed, have loads of novel ideas mostly in a file but also on sticky notes, napkins and bank receipts. I drive my mechanical engineer husband batty. He tries to organize me but it never “takes.” I don’t work that way. Now, where is that scene on…

    • I’m married a cop, who started out as a computer information systems guy. He can’t handle my piles of paper–everything for him is in excel. Luckily, he’s content enough with the other areas of my life in which I lack organization–laundry, dishes, housework….

      Thanks for stopping by, Beth!

  4. Staying organized with my story is different from being organized with my life! For my story, I use tips and tricks I’ve hear from other authors, like a G-M-C chart and scene-by-scene spreadsheet and character bios. For my life, the only thing that helps is to take time every 6 months to weed, shread, simplify, and generally clean out anything I don’t need, It’s a bear, but it really helps!!

    kate, writing as katie o’boyle

  5. This post made me laugh. Whatever works for each person. I am a paper person for sure. I have lots of notebooks I take notes in. I need to stick to just one so they aren’t all scattered. 🙂

    • That’s what I find so intriguing about systems–what works for me may not work for everyone (or anyone!) else. Everyone I ever talked to had good ideas; they just weren’t me.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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