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Thursday, August 25, 2016

How to Organize Your Writing Ideas!

If you're like me, I oftentimes have several ideas floating around in my head and could use some tips on how to organize those thoughts. Trying to run a household, keeping up with my little middle-schooler, and working from home can be challenging, but I have found something that helps me stay focused and on task when it comes to completing my work. 

First, let's start with addressing how I manage writing

I like to buy those accordion-looking folders to keep track of all the works in progress. I start by labeling my project title, and then I print out my drafts after I save them. I do this because I find it easier to revise when I have a hard copy than doing it on screen. When I do a new draft, I don't like to dispose of the previous one until I'm done with the whole story. Since I save all updated versions of a story, I can't always remember how I wrote it before, and if I want to go back to the previous idea, I use those drafts to refer
to what I may have originally written or said. I do, however, like to date each draft and place the current copy in the front of the old one, so I don't get them confused. Trust me, I learned this the hard way when my kiddo decided to pull out my drafts for an art project, sigh! You may not have kids, but the last thing you want is to accidentally spill your paperwork, and then you're up all night trying to figure out which current revisions need to be updated on computer. 
Having several story projects in different folders helps me go back and forth between stories when I get stuck on a plot. Sometimes, I find that when I put a current work aside for a few days and then go back and re-read what I previously wrote, I am able to see it with a different perspective and perhaps even a fresh, new angle. Some people may not be comfortable with that, as they like to work on a project at a time once they start it, but I work better keeping several ideas going at a time. If this is your personality style, then this might work best for you.

Next, how I manage my general writing ideas: 

Inspiration likes to strike me at the oddest times, and I used to have this habit of writing on anything I could use as paper to write it down. I'm talking receipts, napkins, paper bags, and...don't laugh...yes, toilet paper! I would shove all these ideas into my purse, only to find that I had forgotten it was there and by the time I had remembered, it was either embedded with chewing gum; so faded I couldn't read it; or crushed by the weight of other crap I shoved into my purse. Double sigh. Then, my husband, the genius of a man that he is, gave me the best gift a writer could ask for: an actual writing journal! You don't have to get a fancy one, but I like them small enough to carry in my purse and thick enough to write as many ideas as I can. I like to divide it into three parts: random thoughts, cool phrases and sentences, and grammar rules. 

Random thoughts: 

That's where I write all the crazy, neurotic ideas that strike me throughout the day. I don't worry about style, grammar, or punctuation, I just write whatever comes to mind. They can be anything from dreams you had, to brain dumps, character descriptions, notes from things you've read, stream of consciousness, human observations, conversations you overhear at a coffee shop, etc. I don't share this with anyone, because if I did, well, I might get thrown into an insane asylum, but this should be your personal little item that belongs to only, you!  Here's a small example of what I'm talking about: This is a small note I made when my family and I took a camping trip. I woke up one morning and starting wondering, what would happen if my family went missing right in the middle of nowhere? Then, the muse struck and I wrote this: 

This small notation was the precursor to developing my next serialized story that I turned into a novella, titled "Between the Wolves and the Sheep," a crime thriller with supernatural elements that's really a family drama, scheduled for release Aug 29, 2016. As a writer, all thoughts count, even the random ones, so always ensure that you have something at your disposal to write them down. Who knows, you may be penning your next best seller. 

Cool Phrases & Sentences: 

Sometimes, I'm reading a really cool book, watching a show,
listening to music, or listening in on a conversation, yes, I'm a writer, we're nosy people, human observation is part of our job description, and I like to record cool phrases or sentences when I hea them or read them, such as: 
Describing a wasteland, describing lightning, what it feel likes to get shot (don't judge me, I write thrillers), prescriptions for pain, etc. A word of caution, to avoid plagiarizing, anything that I write down word for word from another author, song, or conversation, I like to put those in "quotes" to remind me that this exactly how it was said. Then, as a writing exercise, I like to challenge myself to think of a more stylish or different way to say something similar. It keeps me on my toes and helps me come up with new ways to say things. 

Grammar Rules: 

I'll be the first to admit, that although I love to write, I sometimes tend to bend the rules of grammar quite a bit. Sometimes, I forget, and at other times, my attention to detail is just not as sharp as it used to be, and being bilingual can sometimes confuse me. That's why editors are important when independently publishing and highly recommended. To keep up my skills, I actually read a grammar book throughout the year. Ugh! I know, nothing more boring than reading a grammar book, but if writing is what you want to do, then it's important to also gain the knowledge you need
Sorry about the worn cover. As you can
probably tell, I refer to this book quite
a bit. 
to become a successful writer. If I can recommend a book, "Sin and Syntax," by Constance Hale was very useful for me last year. It is filled with current grammar trends and encourages you to step outside your comfort grammar zone, by craftily violating certain grammar rules with style. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and didn't find it as dry as previous ones I've read.  So when I come to a rule I keep forgetting, I write it down on that section and then like to challenge myself by coming up with sentences using that rule so as to imprint it into memory. Trust me, it helps. 

Well that's it for now. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comments on this blog if you found this helpful, or if have feedback in regards to more writing tips I can offer for future blog posts. 

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