Today I want to talk about organisation and some of the methods I use. These personally work for me, but they may not work for everyone. If it does, great! Let me know. If it doesn’t then fair enough, I hope you find one that does soon. Essentially what I’m trying to say is that there’s no right or wrong way to organise for everyone, it’s about finding what organisation methods fit you. Anyway, on with the post;
With so many projects going on in my head and in my writing I’ve found that being organised is key. I tried many different things; list making, using files on my computer, daily to do lists and self timetabling. Nothing really work though. Then I saw an amazing video made by a woman who’s also a writer and artist, Amy Brucker. Now her organisation tips are more directed to small business owners and the self-employed but I’ve found that with a bit of tweaking they are also a good base for writers.
I watched it, I made notes and I decided to give it a go. At first I was trying to do too much in one day, not really thinking about how long it took me to do each activity. Then I began to look and notice the patterns that were emerging in what I was and wasn’t doing. I realised that I was happily getting more done for the stuff that I wanted to do but the things I didn’t want to do I wasn’t really doing or I’d half-arse it. So I cut down on how much I tasked myself with each day and forced myself to do the things I really didn’t want to do or that I was feeling less enthusiastic about first. I also kept things new and interesting by making sure that no two days had exactly the same activities. The idea of doing exactly the same things two days in a row really seemed to get me unmotivated. So far it seems to be working. Granted my lists aren’t as colourful or highly decorated as hers, I prefer to focus more on the activities I’m setting myself than drawing pictures but it’s bright enough and eye catching enough that I notice it.
I also do a monthly to-do-list. This is basically an A4 sheet of plain paper with the month at the top. I’ll then write down each project I’m working on that month and leave plenty of space around it to set myself tasks. For instance in October I’m focusing on The Darkling Watch, The Feral Diaries, o.S.a.M and NaNo. Beneath each little title I’ll write three or four overarching tasks such as plan Book 2 of The Feral Diaries, get a complete NaNo idea written down. I’ll draw a little check box next to it and then I let myself loose with my Copic markers and decorate it. As the month’s gone on I’ve written little post-it notes to myself about other things that I didn’t even think about, mostly related to research and little ideas I’ve had.
Both of these pages are on separate doors of my wardrobe which is right beside me as I sit writing. That means I can look to the right and see what I’ve accomplished each day and what I’ve managed to do for each month. Once the month or week is over I switch it round, usually on Sunday night which is a slow day for me. I’ll put the old sheet in the back of my planning folder and put the new one up.
Then I found Amy Brucker had made another organisation video, focusing on something she’d mentioned earlier, the ideas journal.
I started making notes on the parts of her ideas journal that interested me. At first I was just writing on a single sheet of paper in a small folder where I kept my lined paper and notes on research I was doing. Then, as more and more ideas started coming to me, as I started writing a list of potential blog post ideas and The Feral Diaries pages started raking up I realised I needed to expand. So I bought a lever-arch folder and transferred it all to there. I used the larger cardboard dividers to separate out different sections; Darklings, The Feral Diaries, o.S.a.M, the blog, my research, NaNoWriMo, ToDo lists.
Then I divided each section down into what I needed from it. For Feral Diaries it’s outlines, Book 1 and Book 2. For the blog section its ideas, outlined ideas and published ideas. I could go on and on but I figure you’ve got the idea by now; I split each larger section into small bits focusing on different parts of the project. Even the weekly to-do list sheets get their own section at the very back (but that isn't split). At the start of each large section I’ve created individual to-do lists for those areas, just so that I can look at those when I’m working on the to-do lists each week and so that I can see how far I’ve come.
I like working on paper. It gives me freedom. I can go nestle in the living room with a trashy film on and slowly write out random bits and pieces for my writing. I can jot down a random idea about ninja parrots or something if I’m in the middle of town. I usually get struck by random ideas when I’ve not got my laptop on or I’m on the middle of the bus so can’t really dictate a note to myself without looking crazy. Basically the plot bunnies attack when I least expect it.
But I’m not unprepared. I make sure that I have a little notebook with me at all times. It’s a little bruised, a little battered but it’s mine. When I get an idea I write it on top of a fresh page and continue to develop it onto the other side of that page if it stays with me. If it’s got to that point I know it might be a keeper. Sometimes I don’t or can’t go any further with it but if it’s a random scene or character I’ll pop in a post-it just in case I can use it for some other story.
When an idea’s gotten to the point where it’s stuck in my head and begging to be planned I’ll copy it into the pages of another book I have, a notebook that was a birthday present this year from a fellow writer. It’s actually one of the notebooks that NaNoWriMo sells and has “There’s a book in you that only you can write” on the front. I think this is quite fitting really as this is where I put my bigger ideas as they develop. Yes I’ve split it into separate sections as well. I leave enough room for 3 double sides of writing per idea, 6 sides of paper in total. If an idea covers those 6 pages and especially if I’ve started to add in little post-its with notes on them I know it’s time to start planning it properly.
This all might seem really complicated to you but for me it works. If I need to take a break from something that I’m currently working on or I’ve got a block on that project I can put it aside and do a little planning for something else. I love lists so they feature heavily in how I organise myself. I like to work on paper more than on the computer for the initial planning stages of a story. I like to keep all my ideas in one easy to reach place.
If you want to give my methods a try and they work for you I’d love to hear it. If you try them and they don’t I’d still like to hear about it and why they didn’t work for you. If you have your own method that really works then please, share it. I like hearing about this sort of stuff, and who knows, it really might help other people too. There’s no right or wrong method for everyone, it’s an individual thing.
Also a big thank you to Christina who left a comment on Sunday's blog post and explained to me how to add those web-badges I was on about. As you can see her instructions worked and I'm one step closer to getting the blog looking the way I want it to. So thank you Christina, big hugs to you.