Stop writing! Start Organizing!

A lot of us jot down ideas and save them until the rest of the story shows up. If you have been doing that, stop writing—and start organizing.

It’s exhilarating to get in the zone and start writing. It feels good and, after all, writing is the whole point.

But, if all you do is jump from one snippet to another, it is time to stop it. Collate your ideas. Can you even find them? Collect them. Organize them. Sift through them.

Chances are there are some treasures among the note cards, Applewriter disks, stickie notes, IBM Displaywriter “toaster” floppies, composition books, Zip disks and bar napkins. But, if you can’t find them, how do you even know?

Take some time and sort through what you have before adding to your personal collection. Don’t write another paragraph until you put the existing words to work, or delete them.

Finish something. Anything. Keep working until you actually write something complete. It could just be a short story. By New Year’s, it could be a novel.

So where do you start? The simplest way is to pick a system, or create one. That’s going to take some time. But, you have to do it or you will never bring the words together that hold a story, and you will never toss out the fun ones that are taking up space but will never become anything.

The perfect system does not matter. In fact, it does not exist. Years ago, when I lived on the East Coast, I sat through an entire meeting of the Boston Computer Society that focused on the perfect way to organize a hard-drive. They were new and we were convinced there was a way to control all that data that was now stored in one place.

In fact, our final exam when I earned my Personal Coordinator Certificate from University of Southern Maine-Portland consisted of removing a floppy drive, replacing it with a hard-drive which we then formatted, installed a DOS operating system on complete with an directory system.

The BCS never came up with a solution. If our USM hard-drive functioned, we passed.

There is no perfect solution. There is only one that make sense to you and has the longest life possible.

Wait for it…let’s take a fieldtrip!

cropped-hack.gifLet’s figure out a way to collect all those words. First, pick a storage system that will have a very long life. Plain text is best. It survives. BBEdit is my favorite for the Mac and Wordpad is good for PCs.

If you are a little more sophisticated, store ideas in an spreadsheet. Create categories and label a tab for each. The more you know about how to use the Outline feature in Excel, the better. But spreadsheets are great for rearranging information.

I love me a good database but that’s probably more work than most writers want to create and work with.

Next, figure out a way to keep everything together. Most of us use clouds these days and, unlike the old BCS groups, we relish the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect organizing system. Just pick a cloud and organize any way that makes sense to you.

Then learn to use tags. You can attach tags to any kind of file. With Word, use the Tag field when you choose Save As.


So, collect your bits and pieces. Convert them to some file you find easy to work with. Then turn your collection into a finished piece.