Organization for Writers

A couple days ago I found out about the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.  Entries must be 1500 words or less and are due on December 1st (see link for a full list of rules and prizes).

I’m tempted.  So very, very tempted.  Not by the prize money, but rather the lure of a new writing project.

This past weekend I cleaned and organized my way back into a semblance of a sane life.  I read a book and watched a movie.  Today I cooked a healthy supper and exercised.

And somehow, the world did not end.  Astonishing. 

Days like this–balanced, non-stressful days–are rare for me.  I want everyday to be like this.  I want to conquer my towering to-be-read pile of books.  I want to be Supermom and Superwife.

But I can’t be any of those things.  I can’t even relax without feeling guilty.  I want–no, need–to write. Write something, anything.  The past week or so I’ve been debating whether to start the sequel to Eyes of Lightning or another novel (the idea for which I’ve had for quite awhile). I saw the information for the short story contest and started getting twitchy.  Here was something I could focus on for the next two weeks, and thus not have to choose between the two novels yet.  

Fellow writers:  do any of you feel this way??  Why can’t I take a leisurely break to refuel my creative fires?  If my brain isn’t actively concentrating on something else, why is its default mode set to story ideas and random scenes??  I can’t even do nothing without doing something!  Is this a good thing, or a crazy-bad thing?

It gets worse.  Twitchy-Erin went in search of a short story I wrote last year.  Not a finished story, but a decent rough draft.  I never finished it because soon afterwards I was caught up in writing EOL for NaNo.  I remember jotting it down on a green piece of scrap paper… and now I can’t find it.  I’ve looked everywhere it could logically be and have come to the conclusion that it accidentally met a trash can.

I used to be a somewhat organized writer.  I have a notebook of junior high fiction, one of high school fiction, and a folder of college fiction.  I still know where all my journals are.  But organization unraveled when I started gathering information for EOL five years ago.  Partly because I’d never written a novel before and was naive, and partly because I worked in vague, random spurts up until last year.  

Over a four-year time period, I collected outlines, plot ideas, character charts, resources, mythology, and world-building details for a four-book series. If I had a sudden idea, I’d grab the nearest piece of paper and jot it down before I forgot it (this bad habit got worse after I had my son). Larger blocks of writing ended up in various, half-filled notebooks.  

Last year I tried to herd all info into a big, three-ringed binder.  But apparently I didn’t do a very good job; in the process of searching for my short story, I found bits and pieces of writing related to my series.  Most of the stuff was no longer relevant or branded in my memory–but still, it bothered me.  Maybe in December I’ll tackle organization again.  I need a good system, something that easily allows for incorporation of new ideas.  And I’m constantly finding potential songs for playlists, so I want a way of remembering songs without resorting to Post-It notes.  

I know some writers use three-ringed binders for their worlds, while others use spreadsheets.  I’d like to start spreadsheets for my character details and world info.  I know it would be really useful once it was set up, but I feel too overwhelmed to start it.  

And that’s for a series I’ve already outlined, plotted, and researched.  How do I organize a brand new novel idea?  I feel silly opening Microsoft Word and typing a few random thoughts.  I like to outline and brainstorm on paper.  Something about handwriting appeals to me, which probably makes me old-fashioned.  But then it’s a pain to gather up all my handwriting and organize it somehow.  

How about you guys?  How do you organize your writing thoughts and ideas, new or old?  I’d love to hear any suggestions.  Oh, and if anyone sees a green piece of scrap paper with a short story on it, let me know.

Have a great week!


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