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Vladimir Nabokov wrote the majority of his novels on 3×5″ index cards. Ernest Hemingway famously carried a Moleskine notebook around at all times. Jack Kerouac just sat down at a typewriter and wrote, first-thought-best-thought.
How do you write?
It’s easy to think you have to use the same writing methods as your favorite authors, but that can actually be detrimental to your creative process. There is no right or wrong way to plan and execute your writing projects. The key is to find the method that’s right for you.
Here are a few ideas on how to organize your writing, brought to you by the Writer’s Relief staff. Because, hey, we’re writers too!
1. Carry paper with you. It doesn’t have to be a Moleskine (although two of our submission strategists do keep them on hand at all times), but many writers find it helpful to keep some kind of paper on our person so we can jot down ideas as they come. Says Christine: “I have my handy-dandy notebook. I carry it everywhere with me, and whenever I see something that really hits me, I whip it out and start scratching away.”
Another staff member even has a back up plan in case he doesn’t have a notebook handy. “I fill napkins/slips of scrap paper/even my hands with lines of verse and story/essay ideas,” says Joe. “At home, I sit in front of my computer and compile any notes or lines of verse from my notebooks and loose scraps of paper and type them into a Word document. It is only then that any sense of organization takes shape.”
2. Construct, then write. For some writers, it’s important to create the world of a story long before the actual writing begins. “I’m very measure-twice-cut-once about my writing,” says Jessica. “I create detailed outlines of the plot, write little side stories to develop characters ahead of time, and—as weird as it sounds—create song playlists to get me in the mood of the piece.”
Another way to construct before you write is to jot plot points and events in your story on Post-it notes and stick them on a flat surface. As you flesh out the structure, you can move them around and re-stick them in different orders until you find the perfect way to present your narrative. This works especially well for nonlinear plot lines.
3. Consider going digital. With technology so readily available these days, some writers turn to writing software when it comes to organizing story ideas and writing. There are many programs out there that act as mind-mapping tools. One example is XMind, which allows you to create elaborate outlines of your entire story: characters, storylines, plot points, and even locations.
You might also consider WriteWayPro, which allows you to upload profiles and pictures of characters for easy tracking, organize outlines, sketch scenes, and more.
If your specialty is screenwriting, you have several software options that will not only help you format your screenplay properly, but auto-finish important elements like dialogue tags so you can write freely without fretting over margins. Final Draft has a particularly cool feature that allows you to split your screen between your script and a panel of digital index cards.
But even your smartphone can help when the mood suddenly strikes. This is something that Kriste employs: “Sometimes I’ll get a poetic line in my head and I’ll jot a memo or note on my phone.” Is the smartphone the new Moleskine?
4. Don’t plan at all! Not surprisingly, there are many writers who don’t plan ahead, and simply write when the mood strikes. It’s a common method, and one that has worked for many famous writers over the years. Priya says, “Sometimes I just sit down and write a whole poem. Planning usually messes me up.”
If you are still trying to find the perfect routine for your writing, test out these methods! Maybe one will be the perfect fit, or maybe a combination of all of them will work best for you. Whatever the case may be, just remember: Have fun! If you enjoy yourself writing it, your readers will enjoy themselves too.
QUESTION: Do you use any of the methods above? Or do you have your own unique routine? Share your thoughts below in the comments section!