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How to Organize the Writing Process

Why should writers stay organized? Because disorganization leads to writer’s block and confusion. These organizational tools for writing will help writers see the beginning, middle, and end of their work.

“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”~ Napoleon Hill.

What do you imagine for your next blog post, magazine article, book — or your writing career? The sky’s the limit! You can take your writing anywhere, but you have to get and stay organized.

Here are four organizational tools for the writing process that will help you succeed…

4 Ways to Organize the Writing Process

Guest Post – Hope Hammond

Writing in all of its forms takes some planning. You can jump right into an article or story, but you’ll be planning as you write. Longer pieces and novels can stall out if a writer doesn’t have long-term plans in place.

I’ve learned from a few of my own large projects that planning and organizing are kind of fun. All I needed were the right tools to process all of the information in my head into something usable. Below are four organizational tools that any type of writer can use for the writing process.

1. Mind Mapping – for Article and Story Ideas

These visual tools are great for writers to use when they have trouble coming up with ideas or feel like they don’t know anything to write about. A mind map starts with just one topic bubble, in which you write a topic such as, writing.

Other sub-topic bubbles sprout off of this bubble as writers think of anything pertaining to writing. For instance, I’d create two new bubbles on freelance and fiction writing since I work in both those areas. Each new sub-topic bubble sprouts from the previous and grows more specific. Soon, you have a visual map of specific topic ideas. Mind mapping software makes using this technique quick and easy. I prefer the free software, FreeMind, for my mind maps.

To learn more about how mind mapping helps writers stay organized, read Mind Mapping for Writers – How to Mind Map a Story or Article.

2. Outlining – to Keep the Writing Process Clear

Every elementary school child learns about outlining, but we tend to let it go as we get older. Most larger projects require outlining for the writer to stay organized and on task during the writing process. Outlining is a simple step-by-step method for organizing a lot of content on one or two pages.

Most outlines start with standard headers titled; introduction, paragraph one, paragraph two, paragraph three and end with a conclusion. Each heading in the outline contains a couple of brief sentences describing each section. It is helpful and also very specific. Try out the free organizational tool, WorkFlowy, to get an idea of how much information these outlines can handle.

3. Flowcharts – for Solving Plotting Problems

Visual writers can stay organized with flowcharts. These diagrams were originally designed to describe processes for engineers, computer programmers and even in business offices.

Writers can also use the flowchart to work out questions about their fiction plots and even create an outline for a how-to, step-by-step or instructional type article. A quick glance at the flowchart and it’s easy to see where in the plot or process you are when writing. Flowchart software such as Gliffy is low-cost. Anyone can get started with a free trial.

4. Whiteboarding – a Physical or Online Organizational Tool

Sometimes writers need to throw a bunch of information onto one big, empty space. This information ranges from article research, to pictures, to website links and even snippets of writing. Whiteboards work in the real world and on computers, especially if you are a freelance writer who needs to stay organized (it’s your career!).

Notepad and other word processing software have their own limits making them unsuitable for whiteboarding. Notepad doesn’t keep formatting and won’t display images. Word processors display a bunch of page formatting and end up looking cluttered. Whiteboarding or note taking software is good to have for general idea research. The online site, Typheous Stickies is an organizational tool that allows writers to create free personalized accounts with whiteboards to store and organize their content.

To learn more about mind mapping, read Use Both Sides of Your Brain: New Mind-Mapping Techniques, Third Edition by Tony Buzan.

For more tips on keeping your writing organized, read The 6 Best Ways for Writers to Remember Ideas.

Do you find it easy or hard to stay organized as a writer? Do you use organizational tools for the writing process? Comments welcome below!

About the Author:  Hope Hammond is a freelance writer. She specializes in web content creation. She’s also working on her first book, and occasionally posts updates about it at her blog, FEBS.

Hope also wrote Creative Writing Prompts for Writers – Make Your Words Flow for Quips & Tips for Successful Writers.


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6 thoughts on “How to Organize the Writing Process”

  1. wow thank you so much for this great article. I was having so much problems on staying organized in building my site, from building content, keeping up with username and passwords, ideas, traffic building and building creditably. It gets very stressful.

  2. I’m not a visual/spatial thinker so mind maps really don’t work well for me. I love the power of databases for their ability to store information and present it differently depending on how the data is queried. But databases can be complex beasties and I wanted something simpler.

    I modified an open source software called tiddlywiki to make an electronic relational file card system for my novels. It’s called TiddlyWikiWrite and it’s free/open source and available now.

  3. Excellent topic and so important! Organization is key to writing successfully. Even with all of the graphic organizers, the schools still are not properly teaching organization. You can’t write coherently if you don’t have your thoughts set out meaningfully.

  4. These are some really great tips. I think as writer I do most of time on an instinctive level, but it might be more helpful at times, especially with the larger works, to be more methodical with my organization. I also need to work harder on organizing notes and making sure I have all the information down when I do research. I hate when I know I just read something and I can’t find the book or the quote anywhere!

  5. Hi Laurie and Hope,

    This are definitely not your standard organizing tips. Interesting and cutting edge, I’ve not seen them put together anywhere else.

    I’m normally not a flowchart/outline kind of guy but these look like they could be a real help. I’ll let you know how it goes!