In the last article, I discussed How best to organise your time outside of writing. Now let’s move onto become a more organised writer.
Every writer is different and so not all suggestion here will work for you. However, you will hopefully find some of these useful.
Get organised with your digital files early! I cannot stress this enough. Every new novel I start is given a new Master computer folder. Give your novel (or series) a name (even just a working title).
If you are writing a series, give the SERIES a title and each novel within can become numbers until you’ve got your individual titles.
Within the Master folder I create the following sub-folders:
- Character profiles
- Plot (this is where I store my outline)
- Encyclopaedia (this is where I store my world-building notes)
These are my basic, sometimes I end up with more. This is where everything will be stored electronically as you write.
To make things uniform, I have a template folder that has the above sub-folders within. When I start a new novel I just copy the Template folder and rename it. That way each new folder is already prepared with the sub-folders I require.
I go into more detail, here on how I organise your writing on the computer.
If you keep paper copies of information such as character profiles etc, get yourself some lever arch binders. (One per novel).
Use indexes to organise the contents. You can include your outline, profiles, your encyclopedia information. The binder is NOT where you store scenes as it will become full fast.
Set these up when you start your novel and keep it in an easy to reach location.
I do have paper copies of my novels and scenes as I do edits on hard copies. I have plastic, stackable storage boxes to keep these in.
I keep them labelled and they sit neatly on my cube unit until I need them. Having somewhere to put them will keep you from drowning in paper.
Create a backup system
I can not stress enough how important back-ups are. Create back-ups. Don’t just use one electronic source. Find something that works for you-external hard drive, cloud, memory sticks etc.
Update your back-ups regularly – like daily! It is one of the worst feelings in the world to lose your writing. I have in years past lost whole novels that got corrupted.
On this, I also suggest using more than one! Everything can fail, don’t trust all that blood, sweat and tears to one type of media.
It’s not a good idea to carry around a memory stick of your backup. What if your bag gets stolen or even the memory stick itself. Don’t risk it.
Personally, I use several backup methods and even store two in a fire-proof safe. Yes, I am that paranoid but in the end, I have been writing for a long time and it’s important to me.
Your writing space
Get yourself a writing space. A desk, a table, the garden shed… whatever, make sure you do MOST of your writing there.
If you write on a laptop, get yourself a monitor, keyboard and separate mouse. Make sure you have a comfy, height-adjustable chair.
One reason I liked fixed locations is it helps to get into the mindset of writing. This is your writing space. Remember your space doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t even have to be a whole room.
When I lived at home, my dad removed the doors of one of my fitted wardrobe, added a few shelves including a pull out one where the keyboard sat. That little alcove became my writing space. Underneath I kept binders, paper and the printer sat above on another shelf.
For more on this, check out Why you need to create a protected writing space.
A tidy space
Have you ever been sitting in a cluttered room and found yourself unable to do anything?
There are schools of thought that state “chi” is unable to flow smoothly in cluttered rooms so becomes stagnant.
Now whether you believe in chi or not, the truth is you are more likely to do better work if your writing space is tidy.
So once you’ve decided on a space, de-clutter it. Make sure it’s neat, tidy and has space for your notes, a pad, pen and a place for a cup of coffee, a plate of sandwiches etc.
Lastly, your writing space is best if bright (with natural light), airy and somewhere you can get some peace and quiet.
Every writer is different when it comes to music. Sometimes I like music in the background, I have it low so it does not distract me.
Other times I find it a nuisance. Listen to your mood and decide if it is a help or a hindrance.
I have found in the past if I was listening to an album on loop while writing an action scene, I could get into that frame of mind again by just putting the album on. It became connected to that sensation.
If you find you are constantly struggling to write, turn the music off. Before you leap to the conclusion you have writer’s block, you need to eliminate other possibilities like being subconsciously distracted.
Be serious about your writing. Switch off phones, close your social media, maybe even shut off the router. Give your writing time the attention it deserves rather than stopping to answer an email or response to an IM.
Tell family members not to disturb you and keep your door closed.
Do whatever chores or errands you are supposed to do first. This way you won’t be interrupted later because you did not do the dishes, before going to write.
For more on this, check out How to overcome Distraction Syndrome.
Be kind to your body
Look at trying to write for a few hours so you can get a nice flow going. Make sure you have “set times” to eat. Writing can become all-consuming and without thinking, you have suddenly been writing all day and have not eaten anything!
Set an alarm or an alert to pop up if you feel you won’t be likely to stop. Have a stretch, go make some food, sandwiches, have a cup of tea/coffee etc. You will feel better for it.
If you feel like snacking have some fruit you can pick at (grapes, berries, cherries, carrot slices) Avoid starchy/sugary foods – you get a quick buzz but then are left feeling lethargic which will affect your mood and your writing.
Don’t skip eating, that’s not good either. You will be sitting in a chair writing a lot and staring at a screen. So be nice to your body or it will punish you later.
Every few hours get up and move around. Go for a walk or just wander around your garden if you have one. Do some stretches to keep your back flexible and stop the muscles tightening.
Now, when taking breaks there are two schools of thought:
1) Some say when you need to stop for a break, stop in the middle of a sentence so you can get right back into it when you return.
2) Others say finish what you need to say and if you have a specific part following then make bullet point notes before having a break so you don’t forget.
I do the latter mainly because I can not always remember what I was going to write when I return even if stopping in mid-sentence and that’s frustrating.
For more on this, check out, Writers, how to keep a healthy body and brain.
Create a writing schedule. Whether that’s writing at the same time each day, at the same location etc. But a routine will help.
Maybe you would find it easier to have a set word count to complete every day, or maybe writing for a certain length of time. Create a system that works for you.
It’s all about perseverance and as a writer, you are going to need that in spades.