The Power of Organization

If you were to listen to my wife, she would have you believe that I am the most unorganized person in the world. Actually, it may not be far from the truth…in other things. In my writing, however, I want to have everything ready so that when I write, I can write.

I think I might have mentioned this is other articles, but I will say it again because I think it is relevant. I use a product called Scrivener™ to keep everything straight. In writing, organization is king. Sure at first it can be a bit painful when all you want to do is write. Sometimes, it leads you down a rabbit hole that causes you to waste time. Most of the time, though, it can keep you focused on your primary goal: To write that novel you’ve been telling everyone you were going to write.

Much of my organization happens to been using different styles of organization. I’m not talking about Konmari style where you take things out that you really don’t want and all that–although that isn’t really a bad idea, at the end when your writing project is finished. What I’m talking about is keeping track of things, making sure your scenes line up with the outline you so meticulously put together (or not). There are tons of books on how to outline your novels and how to ensure they’re going in the direction you want them to go, but the style that I use is a mixture of several of the best ones I have seen. To me they are incredibly useful. For you, we’ll just have to wait and see.

For much of this, I used a template I downloaded from K.M. Weiland’s website titled Helping Writers Become Authors ( Basically, it organizes everything according to how the three act structure is organized. That means that breaks down what is supposed to happen in each of the eight pieces that make up the 3-Act structure.

Wait a minute! Didn’t I just say 3-Act structure? How are there are eight pieces? According to her structure, you have Act I, a and b, then Act II, a and be, the Midpoint, then Act II, c and d, and finally, Act III, a and b. Ok, technically that’s 9 but, the Midpoint is part of Act II, b.

That was fine for me for some time, but then I read other organizational tactics and decided that they were more of a match for what I needed. I found Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and decided that I could add much more to make it exactly what I needed. Granted, I didn’t use all of the stuff, but much of it was used to break down the individual scenes per piece of the 3-Act structure.

Figure 1. Organization of 3-Act Structure

In her template, she just has five scenes and gives you the leeway to put what belongs in each section. Me? I need a bit more organization than that, so I found yet another book called Punching Babies (a how-to guide) by Andron J. Smitley. He took the Save the Cat approach and broke down each section into the beats that Blake described in his books.

Figure 2. Outline Organization with beats included

So, yes, that is how I outline. I can hear the pantsers saying to me now, “Yeah, and there goes your creativity!” Not really, these are beats, things that every good story I have ever read, every movie that I have ever seen possess. In my mind is the proof. When I watch a movie, I can usually predict everything that will happen simply because what happens follows this simple idea. Call it formula, if you will, but it is far from formulaic, if you ask me.

I still have to fill in the details of what actually happens and ensure they fit in this structure. That’s all done at the beginning, before I even type “It was a dark and stormy night…” Just kidding, I would never start a story like that, but you get the point. I hope.

Each of those scenes is about 2,500 words. That’s ten pages. So there’s a lot of room for my imagination to roam free. It like setting up a level for a video game. It might be a small level, but there are lots of things to do while I’m in it.

Okay, I say 2,500 words. That’s just my word count. My goal for my novel is 100,000 words so if I don’t make 2,500, it’s okay. If I get in the ballpark, I can still get a good total within the range of 80,000 to 100,000 words. Sometimes, there will be scenes that go way over while others go way under. You can force a scene to be any more than it wants to be. Otherwise, you’re just goine to sound forced. For those who just want 60,000 words (which is a good start for beginning writers, BTW), 1,500 words is a good target for scene word counts. Either way, that’s a lot of words. A large sandbox to play in.

If you’re shooting for more, you can bump up that count in each scene, giving yourself a big level and more room to describe food (***cough***George R.R. Martin ***cough***). Or whatever it is you find appealing.

My point is, organization can be done at the beginning of the project so that all you have to do is focus on what’s important. Your magnus opus, your masterpiece. Now, go out and write.

I hope this have provide a bit of insight into my style of writing and may it inspire you to have yours and continue to write. Please let me know if there’s anything you would like to see and, as always, happy writing!


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