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Organizing ideas
Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 1:46 PM
Joined: 11/8/2013
Posts: 3

Hello all!  Just to warn you, I am a total rookie to this writing adventure! I have spent most of the past few months writing down a zillion ideas and have started putting it all together, but what are some tips/suggestions to organize all of the ideas?  I know everyone is different and eventually I will find what works for me, but what has worked for you in the past? Right now, I have most of my written things divided in a big binder by character, BUT as I continue to write and the characters become involved with each other more and more, it has been getting VERY confusing for me!  I thought about doing a posterboard with things laid out, but would also like any tips to organize that as well. Any tips/suggestions are appreciated!  Thank you in advance!
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 4:35 PM
amyschneid wrote:
• Just to warn you, I am a total rookie to this writing adventure!

And I'm the local meanie, who points out inconvenient gotchas. The first one is that writing fiction for the printed word, while exciting, satisfying, and lots of other things, is a profession. And like any other profession it's filled with tricks and specialized knowledge not obvious until it's pointed out. And while everyone here is sincere, helpful, and interesting to know, we, as a group, are not successfully selling our work in your local Barnes and Nobel. So while we can offer suggestions and feedback, your basic education should come from those who are selling their work, teachers, and publishers. What I'm suggesting is that you invest a few dollars in a book like Debra Dixon's GMC: Goal Motivation and Conflict ( http://www.gryphonbooksforwriters.com/home/gmc.htm). She'll give you the terminology, a basic understanding of how fiction for the page differs from screen, stage, and storytelling, and knowledge of how a story is constructedto best caprure and hold a reader's interest. After you may have the best plot ever to come to a writer, but if the writing isn't exciting...


There are lots of things our primary education, which is preparing us for life and employment, doesn't cover, including how a line that seems simple and straightforward, like, "Susan smiled when Jack came through the doorway," can distance the reader from your protagonist. A book like Deb's will even answer the questions you didn't know you should be asking.


As for ideas, they're nice, but of less importance than they appear to be when we begin to write. After all, a skilled writer can make us weep with a story about taking out the trash because they know how to provide moment to moment entertainment, a feeling of involvement on the reader's part, and a real need on the reader's part to turn to the next page. That takes knowledge we don't posses when we begin, and which we won't get by reading novels, where we see the product but are never exposed to the process of creating the story, and so aren't aware of the decisions the author made and the tradeoffs that were required. And that makes sense, because the TV we watch doesn't make us screenwriters, so why would novels make us novelists?

• I know everyone is different and eventually I will find what works for me…
That's what we all say because we come to writing believing that writing is writing, and since we already have that out of the way, we need to focus on a good plot and an interesting turn of phrase. Both of those are necessary, of course. The problem is that the compositional skills we spent so much time perfecting are nonfiction skills, author-centric and fact based. They're designed to inform, clearly and dispassionately. But fiction for the printed word is designed to entertain, so it's emotion-based and character-centric. In other words, uses skills the pros take for granted but which we have to learn. Like chicken soup for a cold, such knowledge might not make a published writer of you, but it certainly can't hurt.

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 6:49 PM
Joined: 11/8/2013
Posts: 3

Thank you very, very, very much! I really appreciate that information!  It makes a lot of sense and shows me a different perspective. I am definitely going to get that book you recommended and look for others as well. And, I did not think of you as a meanie at all!  Thanks again!
Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 7:38 PM

In terms of idea organizing, my suggestion would be this - get what ideas you have down on paper or typed out.  If you find that something doesn't fit, comes off as redundant, or doesn't move things along in a way that will engage readers, maybe trim it or cut it if you can't find a way to salvage it.  Also, it's a good way to spot whether you need to bridge any gaps or fill in any blanks.  It's like filmmaking; you shoot, then you put it all together in the editing room and see if it's coherent or not - then you go back and fix what you need to.  More often than not, you won't need to wait until you have a complete draft to notice that something isn't working. 


As part of this process, I also strongly suggest a second and third pair of eyes once you have a first draft.  You know your story, you know how everything fits together in your head, but there's always the possibility that you left it out when you actually started writing your story, or maybe it doesn't make sense to other readers the way it makes sense to you. 



--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 11/8/2013, 8:15 PM--

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 9:51 PM
Joined: 11/8/2013
Posts: 3

And Thank You very, very, very much!  I really appreciate this!
Lucy Silag
Posted: Monday, November 25, 2013 3:19 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

Hi Amy!

Just sent you a connection request--so glad to have you here on the site. Welcome!


I saw on your profile that you are from Wisconsin, which is one of my top 3 all-time favorite states.


Please let me know if I can help show you around Book Country, and I will be in touch via private message as soon as we are connected.


Happy writing!



Lucy Silag

Book Country Community and Engagement Manager


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