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.