Keeping Organized While Writing

I wanted to share a little bit more about my writing…I say about and not of because I don’t have another piece of writing ready to post yet. I’ve been trying to go through and organize my seemingly endless amount of folders and word documents I have for writing on my computer. I’ve got a folder titled ‘Stories’ on my computer. Just one folder, shouldn’t be so hard to go through, right? When I click to show the properties of my folder, it tells me I have 107 sub-folders. That’s a lot of electronic folders to sort through. If you’re interested in any more numbers, like how many word documents are in those 107 folders, check out this post of mine.

This is why I keep saying it takes so long to get through anything on my computer and then decide what to post. Plus, on the side of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been trying to edit through my novel Black Ice so that I can start posting that in December, once I finish with Perspective. This post then, if I can actually shut up and get to it, is going to be about how I stay organized when I’m writing a story or novel. Sometimes it gets hard, especially if you’re writing Epic Fantasy or imagining up different aliens for a Science-Fiction novel.

Now, I’m well aware that everyone has different ways of going about this. Some writers like to write outlines and follow them religiously. Others that I know like to write summaries down of everything they’ve written in the story so that they can remember what’s going on. Maybe some authors even like to make graphs or something, I don’t know. I’d ask what all of your methods are, but I really don’t care. (That’s going to come back to me, isn’t it?) One of my favourite things to do is drawing maps. Whether I’m writing Science-Fiction or Fantasy, I love to draw maps. Not only is it fun (even though I have no artistic ability at all), it does help keep me organized. Even when you make up your own world, it can be hard to keep track of everything that’s going on and where it’s happening.

This is a map of a galaxy I created for a Science-Fiction novel, which I’m hoping to re-write with new inspiration. If you take a good look at this picture, and then the next one, you’ll see that the second picture is a close up of the arm in the bottom left corner.

Looking at them now, I realize I may have understated my artistic ability. Don’t feel jealous if your maps never look this good. Somehow, though, I have the feeling that most writers don’t make maps. It seems to be something only a nerd like me would do. Well, that was an example of an interstellar map of planets for, obviously, Science-Fiction. Here are two I drew up for a Fantasy novel (which I was originally going to write for NaNoWriMo this year). It’s the same deal. The second is a close-up of a section from the first.

Wow. Look at how authentic these look? Don’t you love how I scribbled in the water green? I’m not sure why I did that green, or why it looks like a two year old tried to colour it. Also, if you look at the first picture – I don’t know if you can read what they say – but the province labelled ‘Estoria’, near the bottom right, really looks like Gonzo from the Muppets. I never realized that until after I finished it. I think it adds some real character…

Speaking of characters, they can be the hardest aspects of a novel to keep organized. Especially if there are so many. I’ve drawn up family trees for my characters to keep stuff organized (it’s nice for Fantasy when you’re trying to show who’s next in line for the throne, or something similar). I have many other ways of keeping my characters organized, including lists, lists with descriptions, sorting them by affiliation, location, etc., and many more. I could go into more detail, but I really don’t have the time.

I mostly just wanted to share my maps and my love of creating them. It really helps me keep my locations organized and it also gets my creative juices flowing.

Well, I know I said I don’t care, but that was then and this is now. So, my question to all of you is how do you keep organized when you’re writing? Do you follow an outline? Or, like me, do you organize everything but the plot, and just kind of wing it when it comes to writing, using all the materials you’ve created as references?

If you do anything unique while writing, I’d love to hear it!

Thanks for reading!

Till Next,


Categories: Life, Writing | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Keeping Organized While Writing

  1. Nola.Sarina

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does this. I lay out building maps, room arrangements, character matrices… 🙂

    • That’s awesome! I sometimes do floor plans if I really need to get into detail about something. I’ve also done, not very prettily, maps of towns/cities. If there’s an organization I like to list characters in a hierarchy. I keep appendices of plants, towns, organizations and like! It’s a fun way to stay organized and it really helps me to keep things categorized for easy review. Thanks for reading!

  2. Nola.Sarina

    Thanks for writing. 🙂 Yeah I also keep a list of character names and the meanings of their names and key personality traits, etc.

  3. I just realized my old blog was still linked to my account. This one redirects properly, if you felt like dropping by. 🙂

  4. Oh my gosh! I love drawing maps! I love love love drawing maps. I draw maps even for stories I don’t intend on writing. I draw maps and write little histories of the wars or famous events that happened there. More than once, I “aged” paper with tea and burned the edges to make it look more authentic. Maps are amazing. I love maps.

    Thank you for letting me nerd out. Stay awesome.

    • That’s awesome! I’d have to develop a bit more artistic skill if I wanted to ‘age’ them. I also like to mark them up as I write (like the path certain characters take) but when I finish a story that I’m really proud of, I’m going to give my brother a map I’ve drawn to use as reference for him to draw me one. He’s a really good artist and it would be perfect. I’ve got lots of his pictures hanging up already, so I know it will look fantastic.

  5. I also draw maps and I try to write from outlines. The problem with outlines is that sometimes the characters decide to take things off in a different direction. With that in mind I always do my maps in pencil, just in case a character doesn’t like the boundaries I’ve created for him or her. 😯

    • This is why I don’t like outlines. If something changes and the character decides to do something else, everything in your outline after that point has to get changed. It just seems like too much effort for someone as lazy as me! To each his own, and if outlines work for you, who am I to say you’re wrong? Thanks again for reading and commenting! It’s always great to hear from you!

  6. Maggie

    I draw maps too, and even if they look like something a first grader drew, it doesn’t matter – as long as you can figure it out later! Doesn’t have to be pretty – just functional.

  7. Pingback: 100-Word Challenge, Day 138 | My Writer's Cramp

  8. Pingback: Notes on the Craft Vol. 4 « Excursions Into Imagination

  9. I think your maps are fantastic Will but you have to admit that the first one looks like Sonic the Hedgehog! Nothing like building worlds and then helping yourself to navigate around them – no point leaving yourself stranded, with no way of finding your way around! I create lots of folders for filing my ideas on the computer and it is difficult to keep track sometimes. I’ve not attempted a novel yet, so most of my planning is in brief outlines that I’ve written down or exist in my head for Flash Fiction, Short Stories, Poems. I guess this will be a great learning curve for me when I start writing a novel/working on longer scripts. Will have to file this post for future reference, will be of much help to me – cheers for that dude!

    • Always great to hear from you man! Thanks so much! 🙂 I don’t like to write outlines for novels, so I try and find other ways to keep myself organized! Thanks for the comment!

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