In my last post I gave suggestions for doing something related to writing your book, every day.
Today I’m going to give you some ideas for organizing the information you collect. The information you gather, and things you write down, will be for all different parts of your project–the book itself, promotion and publicity for the book, cover ideas, and so on.
I have two books that are just in the beginning stages of being written. One will be written for grandparents, on the order of the “What to Expect” books. The other is a book that will explain mental health diseases and problems (depression, schizophrenia, etc.) in NON-medical terms. This book’s target is anyone who knows someone who suffers from any form of mental illness.
These “books” are each in one of those expandable folders, with sides (so the little pieces of paper don’t fall out!) They’re partly filled with newspaper clippings, ideas jotted down on sticky notes, blurbs torn out of magazines, web-site references, and so on. When I’m ready to start the actual organization and writing of either of these books, I’ll organize the materials further, but for now this is a great way to keep any information that’s even remotely related to the topic, in one place.
Home is Where the Mom Is and What Should I Say? both started this way–in their own folder. When I was ready to start the actual organization of the book, I put information for each chapter in a separate file folder, and then put all the folders in a basket near my desk.
When I got an idea or found information for a chapter, I put it in that file. When I was ready to write the first draft of a chapter, I just pulled out the file and organized the information and wrote! Then the first draft went back into the file until I was ready to edit it.
I also included folders for “people to send review copies to,” “people who will review a chapter,” and so on. It’s important to think about ALL of the stages of writing and publishing from the beginning, as you’ll come up with ideas for all of these stages during the process.
I like the file folder way of organization because it’s easy to add information and you have all the information for any given chapter, in one place, so when you work on that chapter all you have to do is grab the file.
When I was working on What Should I Say? last fall, our family went to the cattle show in Kansas City. I planned to work a lot on my book (I “can’t” lift buckets or help with chores–I never learned how to! ) and knew I’d have a lot of free time at the show. But I knew it would not be practical to carry along a basket of file folders.
Instead, I used a small 3-ring notebook, dividing it into sections for different situations (when a loved one dies, when a friend has a miscarriage, when someone is very critical, and so on), ideas for publicity and promotion, and son on.
I went through the situations (death, miscarriage, etc.) and wrote down exactly what to say and not say, and what to do and not do. As I got into the groove of thinking about these situations, I’d page back and forth between the different situations with more suggestions to include in the book.
At that time I didn’t know exactly how I was going to organize the book, or format the chapters (I ended up writing paragraphs about the main topic, and using bullet points for what to say and not say, and do and not do), so decided to work on those things while we were in Kansas City. I had several uninterrupted hours every day to work on the book, and it really came together there! I accomplished a lot.
Right now, I’m working on several different projects including a newspaper column query (to present several sample columns to editors), the goals book, the healthcare manual, and several other projects.
Since I’ve been on the road, at work, and doing a lot of “waiting” lately, I gathered my sample columns, information for the healthcare manual and goals book, and the other projects, and put it all in a 3-ring binder. I can edit and add to lists easily, typing the edits when I get home. It’s part of my committment to doing SOMETHING related to writing every day, and achieving my writing goals.
I hope these ideas help you! I don’t think any two writers use the same system for organizing their work. The “right” way to do it is the way that works for you! Write me with YOUR ideas for organizing your writing, and I’ll publish them in a future blog entry.