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How to organize your novel

August 1st, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Books | Perspectives

Orga­niz­ing a novel may seem like a daunt­ing task, but there are a few things that can min­i­mize the problems. Always orga­nize from the start.

Files on your computer:

1. Cre­ate a sin­gle folder named by book TITLE. Even­tu­ally this folder will con­tain other fold­ers and files that have to do with the title. Keep every­thing together. This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be sur­prised how quickly things can get lost. Do not assume that you will remem­ber where you saved any­thing. Orga­nize it from the start.

2. Add sub­se­quent fold­ers and files inside the TITLE folder. For exam­ple, inside each TITLE folder make a TEXT folder. As the project pro­gresses you will need to add addi­tional fold­ers, such as: COVER, FORMAT, MARKETING, BLOG, INTERVIEWS, etc. In other words, each folder may con­tain fifty files, and you’re going to need to keep tract of them all.

3. Save your work con­stantly. Some writ­ers pre­fer to save chap­ters indi­vid­u­ally. Other writ­ers pre­fer to save every­thing as a sin­gle doc­u­ment. Either way works. Just make sure to label every­thing, and file it inside the appro­pri­ate folder.

Writ­ing your document:

4. Inside the TEXT document(s) use some kind of track­ing sys­tem so that you know what needs to be done. I pre­fer to use colors.

BLACK type means that I’m fairly sat­is­fied with a sec­tion. It means that I don’t intend to dump or alter the sto­ry­line, and will con­tinue to proof, edit, and mold until it’s finished.

BLUE means that I’m not quite sat­is­fied with the sto­ry­line, dia­log, or writ­ing, but that things are on the right track. I am com­mit­ted to these sec­tions and intend to make them work. (In real­ity any­thing can be cut.)

RED means trou­ble. Any­thing typed in red means that I’m still think­ing, which is why that sec­tion has not been deleted. Before this sec­tion goes from red to blue it may be altered beyond recognition.

There is a prob­lem with this color sys­tem. The red color bugs my eyes. So I copy and paste these sec­tions into a new doc­u­ment, work on them until sat­is­fied, then return them to the main body of text.

By using a track­ing sys­tem I can see at a glance the sec­tions that I want to work on. This is impor­tant because the cre­ative process doesn’t usu­ally coöper­ate chrono­log­i­cally. Some­times the mind gen­er­ates ideas for the mid­dle or end­ing, long before the begin­ning. By hav­ing a sys­tem I can eye­ball the text quickly and find exactly where I want to start typing.

5. Don’t com­pletely dump any­thing. Instead, save old ver­sions by date within the proper folder. Each time a mas­sive change is made, rename the doc­u­ment with the cur­rent date. This makes for easy retrieval when you wake up in the mid­dle of the night, blood puls­ing with ter­ror, and real­ize that you’ve dumped some­thing cru­cial. By sav­ing the new file with a dif­fer­ent date, both the old and new files still exist, mak­ing for an easy revival of a pre­vi­ously aban­doned idea. Keep in mind that with this sys­tem you will have mul­ti­ple doc­u­ments. Make sure to label and save them all CLEARLY.

Dou­ble check your writing:

6. Even if you are not accus­tom to using an out­line, make sure that one can be found in your writ­ing. If the chap­ters jump with­out orga­ni­za­tion the reader will have a hard time under­stand­ing your book. This is also a good tool for dou­ble check­ing the inte­rior of each chapter.

Clean up and Publication:

7. Once the book is fin­ished, clean up the files on your com­puter. If there were dumped sec­tions that might make for a new book, rename the doc­u­ments and move them into a new folder.

Next comes prepa­ra­tion for pub­li­ca­tion.  For help with man­u­script prepa­ra­tion and pub­li­ca­tion please see the arti­cle HERE.

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