How Do I Keep My Book Organized?


Writing a remarkable book, fiction or non-fiction, typically doesn’t just happen out of random thoughts and a few stories. Most often when you begin your book or novel you will need a plan not only for the thought or idea progression of a non-fiction book but, also for fiction—the incidents, the stages of character development and the plot twists and turns.

This type of planning can be done with the use of what many writers call a step sheet or master writing plan.

A step sheet or master writing plan is a detailed layout of not only the chapters and incidents but also using a master writing plan helps the author keep control of the project as it gives them a quick overview. Lastly, it is also a convenient place to store ideas, research, citations, notes and all the other elements that contribute to the final writing. Think about it as a blueprint with a huge, electronic filing drawer attached to it.

Using a master writing plan helps not just the author, but in the end, it helps the reader. You see, your readers have a powerful desire to read what happens next because they expect the events (in fiction) or the teaching/application (in non-fiction) to have either repercussions or, in non-fiction, they are steps to learning and personal application. In either genre, the story must move along a natural course of cause and effect and change. This is rarely possible randomly or without an overall plan.

Fortunately, there are no formal rules for making up a master writing plan. I find that Excel provides me with all I need to create the writing plan. I divide it into chapters (either using the first column or a tab for each chapter) and simply use various columns for research, citations, notes, and hyperlinks to notes I’ve created, websites I’ve found, etc. Within Excel, I can move things easily around and also use the search function to make certain I’m not repeating some fact or quote or plot movement.

But any tool will help you as long as it’s flexible, searchable and easy to access. Just keep in mind the purpose of a master writing plan is to keep your project in a progressive order, chart the project, and keep facts and random thoughts or notes in an easy to find location.

Remember, rarely does a book spring to life by itself. Remarkable book projects are brought to life by the inertia of events and characters, or by solutions to life problems and challenges. A master writing plan helps you to visualize the logic of your writing and helps you to hold it together in a way that will delight the reader and have them coming back for more of your work.

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Brennan Manning

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