Top 10 Ways to Organize Your Story Ideas
by Samantha Stone

Keeping organized in writing your story will help you stay focused and make your writing time more productive. Yes, you can still ramble off into fanciful subplots, if you want to, but organize first.

Even with the best software, story plotting is still getting the ideas on the page in a usable fashion. These are the basics of organizing your story; use what works for you and ignore the rest.

Use these 10 ways to keep your plot from wandering. The results will be less rewriting and scraps of fragmented scenes.

1. Identify Your Major Scenes

Make a list of your story's major scenes and arrange them in order of importance. These are your must-have scenes; they are not open to negotiation.

2. Grouping Scenes

Now write out all the scenes for your plot. These can be quick sketches for now, but get the basics down. Group them together by where they will fall in the story, such as early or beginning scenes, middle, and end. Mark any that introduce a new major character.

3. Make a Timeline

Create a timeline for your plot. Include what each major character will be doing at each plot-point. Make a parallel timeline for character interaction if needed.

4. Make a Hit-Point List

Make a list of plot-points that you must hit in the story and then make sure they are incorporated into the plotline accurately. Especially needed in clue-heavy stories, these can help your story stay on track and keep those setups and foreshadowing scenes in line.

5. What Else Must Happen?

Aside from the major scenes, decide what other scenes are needed to enrich and support the must-have scenes. Use these to add a smoother flow to the unfolding of your story so that the plot doesn't jerk the reader between whip-lashing highs and lows.

6. Prioritize Your Scenes

Chances are you'll have some scenes not pivotal to your plot that you want to write anyway. If they don't move your storyline or complicate the plot but add a bit of color or flare, these are your low priority scenes. In the end, these are the scenes that may come out in the editing process.

7. Recheck Your Timeline

Now that you've gotten all your scenes detailed and prioritized, go back and check your timeline to make certain it still works on every level. Look for places where characters are miraculously in locations you haven't yet written them into.

8. Start at the Natural Beginning

As you get ready to begin writing you new novel, remember to establish your scene and characters before you begin the inciting incident. Don't just jump right on top of the launching point; your reader needs a little setup to avoid confusion. While you don't have to start the moment your protagonist gets out of bed, you need to show some normalcy for their life.

9. Where to From Here?

Because you've made your timeline and detailed all your scenes by now, creating your story is just a matter of letting it unfold. Follow your outline, timeline, and scene order and your writing time will be more productive.

10. Organizing the Train Wreck

Even the best laid timelines and outlines can unravel. To help keep you on track, use an organizing method to structure your story. Some writers use index cards to write out scenes or an Excel file to organize blocks of scenes. You can use these or the standard outline or step-by-step guides to keep your storyline straight. Whichever method you use, back it up. Make a hardcopy of any method – just in case something vital gets deleted or scrapped.

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