Organizing your work-in-progress

I know authors who outline like crazy before they write. I’m not one of them. I have no idea where the story will take me when I start writing; I’m a true pantser. But I typically hit a point at around 60,000 words (which is where I’m at now) where I start losing track of what I’ve done. (60,000 words for me, by the way, is the point where I know I’m over the hump and that I will actually complete a book-length manuscript. It’s a bit of a turning point.)

So here’s my tip, if like me, you’re a disorganized writer.

At the 60,000 word mark, I create a table with about 80 lines (one for each chapter; all my books have had around 70-80 chapters) and two columns. And then I go through my manuscript, putting each chapter number in the column on  the lefthand side and writing one or two  brief sentences about each chapter on the right.

If I decide I need to an insert a chapter somewhere, I can insert a line (eg. Jigonsaseh finds out that Denonville has doubled crossed the Iroquois and is furious); same if there’s something I want to write about to flesh out the story. It helps me find what I’ve done, which in my kind of writing is important (because I’m so often inserting little tidbits of research after the fact).

And when the time comes to move chapters around as it always does, I can find the chapter without reading through the entire manuscript.

Anyway, I hope it helps!

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6 Responses to Organizing your work-in-progress

  1. Great post – thank you for sharing.

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  2. Great idea! I’m currently re-writing/re-structuring a story, and I ended up doing exactly this — opening up Excel, creating a chart, and figuring out exactly what the heck is going on in my chapters, lol. Of course, I almost immediately deviated from my plan, but it definitely helped me sort everything out in my head 🙂

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  3. D.G.Kaye says:

    Thanks for shaing great ideas. I am also somewhat of a pantser, outlining chapters as I create them.

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  4. Peggy Blair says:

    Thanks! I had Will Ferguson on my TV show as a guest (Giller Prize winner) and he absolutely refused to believe that I don’t outline first. He uses index cards and doesn’t start until he’s got thousands of them completed and is ready to roll!

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