If you’re writing fiction, it’s no wonder you’re stressed. You’ve created an entire world, and you’re keeping it in your head.
Sadly, your 30th novel takes as much organization as the first. However, experience helps. With experience, you accept the stress and realize it’s normal.
With any luck at all, you’ll find ways to get organized and manage the chaos.
Writing fiction: write, despite the chaos
All writing is chaotic. For me, writing fiction beats nonfiction for mess and confusion; your mileage may vary.
Here’s an essential tip: writing comes first. Schedule writing time into your calendar each day, and be aware that only writing is writing: research isn’t writing, nor is organizing and cross-referencing your files.
Apps can help you to manage the chaos.
1. Use an app to organize the 1001 bits of information your novel generates
I use Obsidian to organize my writing. If you do too, try this: create a separate vault for fiction projects; it’s less distracting. You can keep both your primary vault and your fiction vault open, and use Obsidian URLs to link them together as needed.
The app Trello is a favorite of many writers and authors, because:
The app is easy to use; it takes just a minute or two to set up your first boards. You can even have your boards set up for you, via the many free templates. I’ve found the Daily Task Management template especially useful and recommend it to anyone who’s getting started.
Here’s an easy Trello template for writing a book.
2. Use your phone to write on the go and jot quick notes
I use the Drafts app on my phone to jot quick notes. Although Obsidian has a mobile app, I find it challenging, so I use the Ulysses app if I want to write a scene.
3. Write: you can fix it later
Resist the temptation to do “quick” research while you’re writing. Just type “XXX”. Later, you can search for “XXX” and make a list of things you want to research. It’s much less distracting, and more productive, when you batch your research.
Avoid tinkering with your writing. During the editing process, after your first draft, you may delete an entire scene, so there’s no point in polishing your writing obsesseively. Edit spelling and grammar mistakes if you must, but avoid wholesale editing.
4. Visualize your characters; make quick notes
Before you write a scene, close your eyes for a moment and visualize your characters and the location. It may help to write a couple of quick notes.
If you’re writing a “big” scene, and find your writing flows like molasses, try writing a character journal, right in the scene. You can delete it later, but a journal helps you to understand a character’s goals and motivation.
5. Set goals for each scene before you start writing
Each and every scene needs a reason. Ask yourself what you intend for the scene, and write it down. It’s easy to get emotionally entangled. Without a written goal, you’ll get side-tracked.
Write your goal for the scene at the scene’s beginning, or keep a book journal.
You’re more creative when you’re organized
When you’re writing fiction, it’s normal to feel as if you’re out of control. Too much chaos however leads to stress; this can destroy your creativity.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.