Blogs by John DeDakis
5 Ways to Stay Organized While Writing a Novel
5/19/2009 8:35:13 AM
Some lessons I'm learning along the writing path:
1. Create a Master Plan Document: This is a living, breathing, evolving document. It contains a Daily Writing Log, plus my plot outline, key pivot points, and a brief summary of each chapter.
2. Keep a Daily Writing Log: For the sake of simplicity, I put it at the top of the Master Plan. The log documents each writing session by date and time. Nothing elaborate here, just a few quick notes of what I hope to accomplish and how my thinking/writing is evolving. It's a narrative history of how the book is being created. I can easily find my place because in all caps and in big, bold, bright red lettering I put the words, THIS IS WHERE I AM NOW. I just scroll down until I see red (so to speak) and then add the next entry.
3. Keep Track of Changes: As the story unfolds, the chapters in my Master Plan change, but rather than obliterating the old, I merely add the new information along with the date I made the change. By doing this, I'm creating and preserving the history of how the story evolved.
4. Create a New Folder for Each Draft: "Fast Track," my first novel, had 14 Draft Folders. My new book, "Bluff," to be released later this year, contains 8 Draft Folders. For my current novel - still untitled - I'm only on Draft #1.
5. Give Each Chapter a Name: Each Draft Folder contains the individual chapters - a separate file for each chapter. Numbering them keeps them in their proper order (1.1, 2.1 etc. For the second draft, the numbering sequence is 1.2, 2.2 etc.) But just as important as numbering, is giving your chapters titles. I don't mean a title that will ever see the light of day in your book - it's merely a memory prod so you know at a glance what's contained in the chapter. This way, you don't have to keep opening files later to find what you're looking for. (NOTE: Chapter numbers and titles may change from draft to draft because you'll probably be making lots of alterations, including reordering the sequence of things and breaking big chapters into several smaller ones.)
I find that it's more efficient to write the novel straight through rather than continuing to loop back to make each sentence perfect. Why? Because it gives me a sense of accomplishment -- a realization that I can actually do it. It's purely psychological, the thinking being, "if I've already 'finished' the book, then the rest of my time is spent merely tweaking it."
Knowing up front that the first draft will suck takes the pressure off. The first draft serves mainly as exploration. As I write my third novel, I'm discovering that while my Master Outline has given me the story's scaffolding - the big picture - by writing individual chapters I'm, in effect, zooming in for a close-up in which new, and often unexpected, characters sashay on stage.
Some of the chapters consist almost entirely of dialogue - almost no tags, no action, no description. That will come in subsequent drafts. For now, I'm just writing as fast as I can what I see in my head.
My way of staying organized is certainly NOT the only way, so I think we'd all benefit to hear what works (and doesn't work) for you.
More Blogs by John DeDakis
Ode to a Mentor....Or Letter from the Grave - Thursday, September 23, 2010
You Should Write a Book - Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Ever Feel Inadequate? - Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Change is Good - Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Overcoming the Fear of Rejection - Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Beating Writer's Block - Tuesday, October 27, 2009
What a Manuscript Editor Does (and Doesn't) Do - Monday, September 07, 2009
Confessions of a Cross-gender Writer - Saturday, July 04, 2009
5 Ways to Stay Organized While Writing a Novel - Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Writing for the Ear; Writing for the Eye - Sunday, May 17, 2009
Plan a Little; Write a Little - Friday, May 01, 2009
Building a Novel - Friday, April 10, 2009
Writing a Screenplay - Tuesday, February 17, 2009
VICTORY! - Wednesday, January 07, 2009
A Creative Setback...and Opportunity - Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Heading to the Inca Trail - Saturday, September 15, 2007
Solving the Time Problem - Thursday, April 05, 2007
Simmer Mode - Saturday, March 31, 2007
The Art of Flitting - Friday, February 02, 2007
Brooding - Monday, January 29, 2007
Scene Building - Sunday, January 14, 2007
Getting Stuff Done - Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Connecting - Sunday, December 03, 2006
Making Revisions - Friday, December 01, 2006
In Search of Balance - Sunday, November 12, 2006
The (sort of) Daily Muse - Thursday, November 09, 2006