How do you organize all the jumbles of idea generating, plot generating, character generating, and so on, in order to see what you have, so you can then take it and put it all together somehow? In my example, I have a 100 page document focused on one story (one novel) only. It has snippets of scenes, plot ideas, potential background for characters, what ifs and opposing what ifs, outlines and ideas for character’s backgrounds, and so on and so forth. Again, it’s specifically focused on one novel and one story idea, but it also includes multiple options for that novel and story idea etc. I’m finding that I can’t move forward with structuring this story without knowing what I even have, i.e. being able to SEE it so that I can make CHOICES about all of the above. I have never quite seen this problem addressed anywhere. I’ve seen info. on generating plot and characters, generating ideas, how to outline, how to write a synopsis etc., but no one tells you what to do with the disorganized mess you create when you’ve done all of the above. How do YOU do it? And have you heard of genius ways others have done it? How do you take your idea-generating mess and turn it into something cohesive to work from?
Eep. Wow, what a question. I suspect I’m not the right person to answer this because I don’t write this way and never have. If there are any writers who do, please speak up in the comments. I would love to hear different takes on this question and I’m sure Kim would too.
With that in mind, Kim, and taking everything that follows with a truckload of salt, my first thought was Scrivener, which is a software package for writers that allows you to bring all your novel materials together so you can see them all and get on with your writing. Here’s my post on Scrivener and why I find it so useful.1
WARNING: Scrivener is only for Macs, but there is similar software for PCs. (If you go here and scroll down you’ll find a list of such software.)
You’re drowning in too much stuff, what this software will allow you to do is immediately separate out your background material from the actual matter of your novel. I would put everything that isn’t actual scenes into research or some other folder. You need to get all your meta-material cleared away from your actual book. You especially need to clear away anything that isn’t directly related to the book your writing.
The important thing is that you find some way to get an overview of your novel so that you’re able to see the forest and not get lost looking at the trees, or worse, the bark and the leaves, or, worse still, the veins of the leaves, and the insects living under the bark, and the parasites dwelling in those insectes and, well, you get the idea. You need a global view too!
I used to advocate the use of a spreadsheet. But no longer use it because of Scrivener.
Sherwood Smith, who is a wonderful writer and very thoughtful and smart about it also has a response to your question over on her blog. Several of her readers have chimed in.
I hope some other writers will chime in here with helpful suggestions.
NOTE: Please ask your writing questions over here. It’s easier for me to keep track of them and answer them in order if they’re all at the end of that one post. Thanks! I’m taking writing advice quessies for the whole of January.