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Organized Chaos

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Looking for ways to get a system in place for yourself as a writer or artist? As I write and illustrate my first book, a graphic novel, I have been stumbling through organizing my ideas and I find that keeping track of what I've written and what I have left makes me feel more productive, and less like I'm facing a daunting, and extensive project. Below are a few methods I've found useful!

1 ) Pinterest Boards

Pinterest can be used in so many different ways. You can use it to find writing/drawing tips and tutorials, resources, inspiration from other writers and professionals, blogs, and of course as inspiration. Images alone can be a great resource as you write or draw, or to refer to and build your own mental image. Arranging your pins by board (and subcategories) right from the beginning helps you keep track of the ideas easier, but I also like that you can rearrange boards later, so if you end up with a huge board you can divide it up into smaller sections. Especially when I'm working on characters or scenes, it's so handy to pull up the images I've saved to help inspire me.

2) Microsoft Excel

Don't get me wrong, Excel is extremely complicated, but the way I use it to keep track of scenes is doable for most people. I basically just use it as a giant table to organize information for my story.

a) GENERAL PACING - I have one sheet where I place scene numbers, descriptions, goal writing date, and actual writing date (which I can repeat multiple times for each draft).

b) CHARACTER SHEETS - I also find it useful to create character tables as well, writing down their speech patterns and common colloquialisms for easy reference when I'm writing dialogue.

c) BACKGROUND CHARACTERS - I have another page where I've recorded the townsfolk and their key features/contributions to the story.

d) MAPPING - My story consists of a fairly complicated setting, with multiple dimensions and portals between them, so I also have a sheet where I've laid out the different dimensions and key places and events in each.

e) PROGRESS - Lastly, I have a sheet where I track my word count. This is mostly useful to make me feel productive. When I haven't worked on my book in a while and I see the last date on the spreadsheet, it motivates me to get back at it. And when I have a day where I only write 400 words and then am tapped out, I look back to days where I wrote far more than that, or even just look at my total word count (which does involve using a formula in Excel, but is fairly straightforward). Seeing how far you've come can be very motivating!

An Example of Using Excel as a Table

3) Notebooks

In general, notebooks are quite difficult to keep organized in my opinion. If you can get a notebook that has numbered pages and a blank table of contents (LEUCHTTURM is a good brand that offers this), it can be a huge help! I still find though that I try breaking it into sections and then more sections, until the table of contents becomes somewhat arbitrary. One section I have in here that I find useful though, is a self-made calendar. Each month, and then each week, I break down what I want to accomplish. Most of the time I don't achieve everything in the week, but it gives me direction at least and usually by the end of the month I've still accomplished my goals.

A Peak at Goal Setting / Tracking

My other notebooks without a table of contents are just filled with ideas as they come and they don't have much order to them. This works for me though, as all of the ideas in the notebook are for the same WIP. If you have a better system for your notebooks, please let me know in the comments!

4) File System

Whether all of your work is on your computer, by hand, or both, it needs to be in a safe place. As a teacher, I use my computer for school too, so I just have an author folder on my desktop and all of my writing documents are in there. I also try to email myself (or a family member) a copy of my work after each draft so that if my computer crashes I don't lose everything.

Since I'm also illustrating this graphic novel (and I also have a short children's book on the go with my dad), I also have a file folder where I keep paper copies of the script as well as sketches, panels/pages, notes, and any copies I have for beta readers.

My Trusty Little File

Please leave a comment to share how you keep track of your progress, ideas, and research!

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