It can be a challenging task to organize all of those ideas that come pouring in once you open the floodgates. Creative people tend to be the least organized as a group – often working on cluttered desks with sticky notes decorating their computer monitors. I have fallen victim to this as well. I used to wear my lack of organization as a weird badge like many people do but once I realized that it was holding me back, I took a more proactive approach to it. Slowly, those sticky notes disappeared from my walls and those piles of papers on my desk got files into a binder. Now, I use software to help keep those thoughts in digital form. Being organized saves a lot of valuable time while making it much easier to keep the words flowing onto paper (or your word processor).
I’m going to share the same tools that I now use to keep my ideas organized. Writing a book requires a lot of research and close attention to detail. That’s why keeping all of your notes organized is so valuable. You don’t want to be forced to stop writing to find what you need. Sure, many writers have written books without these organizational tools but don’t you want to make it easier on yourself?
Create Organized Piles
This is by far the easiest method to get you started on your journey to better organizational skills. I used to be obsessed with printing my research and tearing articles from magazines. Those would all end up in countless unorganized piles all over my desk. When I ran out of room on my desk, they would end up on counters or even the dining room table!
There’s nothing wrong with printing research or tearing articles from magazines so long as you keep that stuff organized. So start going through these piles every day (never skip a day) and sort it out. Then file it using folders or a binder. Having a large binder with plastic protective sheets is probably your best bet.
This should be your first step to getting organized but as you continue learning about new tools, you will discover that it’s much easier to save these files on your computer.
Utilize Folders on your Computer
Learning to utilize the powerful organizational folders on your computer will make your life much easier. When writing a book, I encourage you to keep everything neatly organized in folders. Many people tend to write a book as a single document but I recommend you separate these documents into chapters. You will be using your book’s content for your website and other marketing campaigns so it’s a good idea to keep it all separated.
As you start to develop your organizational skills, I highly encourage you to get Evernote. It’s an amazing piece of software that allows you to sync information across multiple platforms like your tablet, computer, and smartphone. You can add notes or even clip articles from the web. You can even save your manuscript onto Evernote so that you always have a backup.
Scrivener is much like Evernote but it utilizes a card system. So if you like to create index cards for your book, then you will probably choose Scrivener over Evernote. Personally, I use Scrivener for screenplays while Evernote is used for everything else. Just like Evernote, you can upload your research and share it across multiple platforms.
A disorganized book project will ultimately lead to disorganized thoughts. This is what happens to a lot of people who try to sit down and write their book. Simply put, not having an organized book project can stop your fingers dead in their tracks. That’s why all of this pesky preparation stuff is so important. That’s also why I spend so much time on preparation.
A book requires an outline. For entrepreneurs, you can look at it like forming a business plan for your book. Having a plan allows you to focus on your idea while staying on-track. One of the most important selling points of a book is that it helps the reader to solve a problem. For non-fiction, that problem is something that addresses a pain point of the reader. For fiction, that problem is that the reader needs to be entertained. If you do not focus your writing efficiently, then your book is going to be unmarketable because readers will leave negative reviews.
Develop an outline for your book by creating a title for each chapter and then list what questions that chapter will answer.
Book Planning Checklist
One of my most firm beliefs is that processes should be kept as simple as possible so here’s a checklist to keep to that belief.
1. Know your Intention
Declare your intention for writing your book. This is just as important for you as it is for your potential audience. In fact, I recommend that you draw up a contract and sign it. Contracts are what we use to make promises so having one creates a sense of accountability.
2. Draw up an Outline (Business Plan)
You already have an idea for a book so now compile that information into a more organized format. Write it down so that you have it within view at all times.
3. Create the Table of Contents
This is always one of the first steps to writing a book. List and name each chapter.
4. Write a Chapter-by-Chapter Synopsis
Write a quick summary of what each chapter will accomplish.
5. Do your Research Now
You do not want to have to stop writing to research an important statistic or fact. Get that done now so that when you start writing, you’re not being forced to continuously stop.
Once you have completed all five of those items, you are ready to start writing your book. So get started!