Writing | Publishing | Story & Book Development
    • Search

Writing – How to Plan & Organize Your Project

October 16th, 2012
From Dennis Lowery

In my previous article on “Finding Time to Write“, I showed you one way to use even small chunks of time to write a rough draft of your book(s). 

But you have to plan how to approach your writing project in an effective manner so the time spent is on first things, first, to get your footing. And more importantly, once you have the right plan, you have to execute it so you put those chunks of time to good use.

The following game plan for getting (and keeping) a project rolling has worked for me and perhaps it will help you too.

* * *

I have three very simple tools I use when starting and working on a project, that help me stay organized and get things done.

They are:

  1. A notepad of yellow letter size paper. Yellow because it is easier to spot amongst other paperwork on my desk–as are the pages if they come loose. And a letter size pad fits better in notebooks, folders and on aircraft tray tables. I use a separate pad for each writing project.
  2. A small digital voice recorder (sometimes I use the Voice Note/Recording capability of my cell phone).
  3. A calendar and/or planner. I believe in using technology to my benefit but I don’t rely just on my BlackBerry or PC for keeping my calendar, schedule and tasks organized; I primarily use an old-fashioned planner (I’ve used a Day-Timer since 1992, but any planner will do).

First, with a writing project of any size, as a starting point, you have to define broadly what you are going to write about.

I break this into two steps:

Step 1

  • What is the main topic for my book?
  • What is the main message regarding the topic that I want to thread throughout the book?
  • What are the major “take-away” points I want the reader to get from reading my book?

I’ll write each of the above on a single page of paper as the header with room underneath to answer the question and to elaborate on it. Once I’ve done that, I’ve created my major thought prompts for  what I’m writing about. I then answer the following questions:

Step 2

  • What information or data do I personally have on hand or direct access to that will help me write on the main topic?
  • What resources do I have to help find other information/data I need for the project?
  • What people do I know that may be able to contribute (verbally or with information/data) to developing content for this project?
  • What, if any applicable, events do I want to place special emphasis on, which will require more detail work in my project?

Again, I’ll write the above each on a single page of paper, as the header with space underneath to answer the question with room to expand on my thoughts.

If I’m traveling or don’t have pen/paper at hand I can also get this done by recording my thoughts/notes using a digital recorder or recording capability of my cell phone.

These become the major guiding elements and the foundation for my project. If you do the above, it will organize your thinking, provide the basis for detail planning and seeing it laid out it gives you that push to maintain momentum.

Each day, even if I only have a few minutes (for one of my own projects), I make notes on my project pad. Sometimes they’re rough notes, ideas, threads of thought to explore or remember to detail out later on. Sometimes they’re smoother more complete fully-fleshed portions I can key (or dictate) later on to add to my article or manuscript draft file document and folders.

Using your cell phone you probably have the capability to send email. This can be a great tool for you when you have a few spare minutes or a spare moment to give thought to your project. Here’s what I do. Using my BlackBerry I compose an email, address it to myself–and as I think of things for my project, I “jot” them down, or in some cases if the ideas/thoughts are flowing … I can get quite a bit typed up and then I email it. When I’m back in my office or on my laptop and pull my email; I have my notes and work in digital form to copy and paste into my article or manuscript draft so I can polish it further or expand on it. I have drafted entire articles, essays and book sections this way.

As I work the above process, what I want to do with the project and its components start to become clearer. I begin to see what information to gather, story events to recount and relate to the reader and the message I need to hone in on … all the pieces that make up the whole of the project. As these fall into place I find it easier to develop and add content, which creates the rough blocks of my first draft of the manuscript.

From my notes, I schedule reminders in my planner for following-up, and reaching out to contact the people on the list I develop and any in-depth research needed as I drive towards completing an initial draft of the manuscript.

* * *

There are many ways to handle a writing project; the above happens to be a way that has proven successful for me. These tips may be helpful to you as well with your writing project but feel free to ignore some or all of them–writing is a very personal thing and how you approach it may be very different.

Watch for my next article (and tip): “This simple four-word question, can transform your ability to get things done

Comments are closed.

Some (not all) of our Feedback & Testimonials

  • “I could not have written this book without the advice and support of Dennis. I was consistently amazed by his advice, creativity, and ability to describe situations with clarity and simplicity. I have great respect and admiration for him. He is a Superstar!” Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris, Major General, USAF (Retired)
  • “Dennis, well, I’ve perused your sites, and ALL you’ve put out there. I must say NOTHING and no one comes close… not even 10% of what you present. [This next is to his attorney who is reviewing my standard agreement]: I have talked to a number of prospects [writers] and none come close to how I feel about, Dennis.” L .M. [ghostwriting client prospects, name withheld due to confidentiality - commenting via email]
  • “I like it!!! You have me hooked. The descriptions aren’t overwhelming. The dialogue seems realistic and I could see this becoming a novel soon. Nice job on this piece!!!” Adrianne Avery
    [about reading an excerpt from an early part of The Devil’s Writer]
  • “I really need to take this to heart. I tend to blindly believe everyone is good and I’ve been burned a good few times because of it. I enjoyed reading this. It is wise.” NJ
    [on reading Dennis Lowery's "About Being Good... to Others"]
  • “Linda and I are thankful to Dennis Lowery and his firm’s superb services that enabled us to reach our publication goal—June 4, 2011, the 53rd anniversary of my graduation from the Naval Academy.” Frank Gamboa, Captain, USN (Retired)
  • “Your posts embrace universality, and address the human condition as it is. We all need to strive to go that extra mile. One of things, I enjoy while reading your posts, is that you show no reluctance in revealing innermost thoughts. The sense of realism is also present,yet with a seemingly effortless way.” NMJ
    [subscriber to www.DennisLowery.com commenting at Google+ on the post: Oxygen mask...]
  • “Adducent is a top-notch, first class organization which I would highly recommend to another who may have an interest in publishing a book. I’ve used this company in publishing two books and they were most helpful in helping me navigate through the many obstacles in book publishing.” Rear Adm. Greg Slavonic, USN (Ret), Principal Leader, Strategic Communications & Public Affairs at Computer Sciences Corporation
  • “Finally, the world is getting to know what we’ve already known all this time . . . that Dennis Lowery has quite the imagination . . oh, and he can write !!!” Dulce Fazel, Esq.
  • “You write very well. I can tell your message is heartfelt and sincere (as I would hope, considering your intended audience), and I applaud you for letting that show through your writing.” SC
    [on reading Dennis Lowery's "About Being Good... to Others"]
  • “I wanted to thank you for the beautiful posts you wrote recently. They stay with me for a long time. I hear the words in my heart and always amazed at their timing, with things that happen in my life. It gives me strength. Please keep inspiring us all.” Galit Breman
    [subscriber to www.DennisLowery.com]
  • “And finally, big thanks to Dennis Lowery, who helped to gel the story, and stitch it all together. Without his guidance, this project would never have been finalized.” Barbara Benke
  • “Working with Dennis Lowery has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional career. He can do it all, and make it look easy. He has all the skills and attributes needed to help his clients succeed. He is so easy to work with and always delivers great results. Dennis should be on everyone’s speed dial.” Kerry Kachejian
    President & CEO, Bold Solutions, LLC
  • “Excellent, as usual, Dennis Lowery!” Pietro Montevecchio
    [commenting at G+ on, Night Descending]
  • “I very much enjoyed reading you´re little Halloween story” [Excerpt from ‘Waiting on my Witch’] Mike S
  • “It was great how the reader could go through the whole life of the main character. I didn’t want the book to end…” SG
  • “Honestly, your writings are written so well and so personally that I’ve never been drawn in by what someone has had to say so much in my life.” Reader of Dennis Lowery's personal blog
  • “It has a Fitzgerald’s story line feel to it… Irony. How wonderful. I love this story.” [Regarding ‘Rising Sun ~ Setting Sun’] Vicky Klopp
  • “Excellent short story. Your writing style reminds me of my favorite short story author–O’Henry!” [comment upon reading, “Rising Sun ~ Setting Sun”] Jim Zumwalt
  • “A really good read with a crisp narrative style…” S. Barton
  • “Mesmerising…” Nina M.
    [on reading an excerpt from "The Forbidden Journal"]
  • “The Dripping Sound” is Absolutely Terrific!!! It captured and lured me as Alfred Hitchcock would have. Jaye M.
  • “A great and indeed agonizing story of a young girl who experiences life changing events in a short period of time. Evil meets good face to face. This novel was surprising, captivating and brilliantly written.” Tutu
  • “The estimable Dennis Lowery has brought forth a host of thoughts in this poignant and eloquent post. It’s masterfully written, and thought provoking.” Lina A.
    [blog subscriber at www.DennisLowery.com commenting on the post: Not everyone understands honesty… but everyone understands punishment]
  • “Interesting and suspenseful. I really enjoyed reading this book. It kept my attention, I can’t want for the next one!” Cindy Chaney
  • “Talent and skill is developed over time and must be nurtured by those who have an eye to see what others miss. Dennis M. Lowery is a gifted, insightful and talented artist, who is able to listen and can hear what is intended (a rare skill) and has the writing talent to create masterpieces out of fragmented ideas. Thanks, Dennis, for sharing your gifts with the world.” Dr. Demetrius S. Carolina, Sr.
  • “This is a very impressive piece and I’d be very willing to read more when or if there will be more to the story! Good Job!” Liam P.
    [about reading an excerpt from an early part of The Devil’s Writer]
  • “We just love the book…. you did such a fantastic job! Larry is taking it to his office to show his staff – he is absolutely thrilled.” A. Schlesinger
  • “The author has not only created a wonderful mix of fact and fiction, he has created characters that are very believable. It makes you believe the characters in the story are real. Usually this is the part of stories that are missing. The story line is great but the characters are flat. Not so with this one.”
  • “This is the first essay I read on Figment.com aside from the typical story variety, and to be completely honest, you have a really amazing talent for weaving inspiration with your words. I’m sure your daughters appreciate the beautiful message you put together for them. I really enjoyed the rawness in your tone throughout this essay. It was heartfelt and captured the message with a polished simplicity that is very rare in writers today. I really appreciated that aspect of your writing. The only critique I have is that I have nothing negative to critique about! And I guess that’s a good thing! Overall, bravo! I honestly enjoyed this, and I hope to read more of your writings and stories.” :)))))) Miss J.
    [on reading Dennis Lowery's "About Being Good... to Others"]
  • “’The moon mocked his baldness even more than the girls in the village.’ –> LOL. That made me laugh. Great story! Especially the irony at the end, how it was his personality the girls didn’t like, not his baldness. Nicely done ♥” Nyan C.
    [on reading Dennis Lowery's "The First Werewolf"]
  • “My gratitude also goes to Dennis Lowery at Adducent, Inc. He was an enthusiastic and discerning partner who made our book idea into an actual book.” – J. Phillip “Jack” London, author of Character: The Ultimate Success Factor and Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of CACI (NYSE), a $3.8 billion information technology and professional services company that celebrated its 50th year in business in 2012. He served as CACI’s President and Chief Executive Officer for 23 years between 1984 and 2007. J. Phillip "Jack" London
    Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of CACI (NYSE)
  • “While writing a book is often a constant journey of starts and stops, Dennis provided the motivation and expertise to get me over my last “stop.” Dennis, understanding the importance of the message the book contained, pressed me to get it out—and provided the ultimate vehicle for my doing so.” James G. Zumwalt
  • “To the team at Adducent who carried out my vision, particular president (and senior editor) Dennis Lowery. His patience, wisdom, insight and experience helped me navigate the many hurdles in publishing a book. His entire team was a pleasure to work with and always available to answer any question or concern which arose along this journey.” Greg Slavonic, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.), author of Leadership in Action | Principles Forged in the Crucible of Military Service Can Lead Corporate America Back to the Top
  • “Nicely written, anecdotal, and peppered with humor and photos…” HRC
  • “Dennis Lowery encouraged me to complete the book and provided invaluable editing assistance and guidance in navigating the vast oceans of the world of publishing.” Hank McKinney, Rear Admiral, USN (Retired)
  • “Dennis is a highly skilled writer, editor, and mentor. He believed in me and my book KH601 from the beginning and helped me make an idea and dream become a reality. More importantly Dennis helped me capture and record some of the most important aspects of my career in the Central Intelligence Agency and my life on paper. For this I will be forever grateful.” Richard Irwin
    Chief Operating Officer (COO) at SNVC
  • “Love it!” Patsy D
  • “Dennis Lowery, your eloquent and poignant words personify the concept of the “butterfly effect” for we are affected by the world around us as much it is affected by us. Such words can only come from a creative soul; so sensitive and able to sense the effects, and strong enough to be able to transform them into some cohesive form. Kudos to you Dennis!! And thank you so much for stringing the lines you so beautifully dotted.” Nina M.
  • “I have been on the road. Went to Office Depot and printed all. Everything is awesome; I love it! Great minds think alike.” –Business executive/ghostwriting client comment via email on reading the final draft of the adventure/thriller novel written for him based on his rough idea.]
  • [To Dennis Lowery] “I shared your website for I think you are an amazing writer!” Ana C
  • “I do have to say your work is very impressive. You know what you are doing.” Rob M
  • “A special thanks to Dennis Lowery. Thank you for your support and guidance through this project; you have helped me make this dream a reality.” Carisa Bisagno
  • “I’ve had the good fortune for the past five years to work closely with Dennis on several different book projects. He is a highly skilled writer and editor and showed unequaled patience when answering the mountain of any questions I presented him on a regular basis. I know I was not his only client, and was impressed by his management ability to work with other clients but to ensure my projects kept moving forward so as to meet the agreed upon deadline and deliverable date. He is the consummate professional whose attention to detail and work ethic is beyond reproach. I continue to work with Dennis on other projects and highly recommend him!” Greg Slavonic
    Rear Admiral (Ret.), US Navy, Senior Executive | Communications & Public Relations | Marketing | Public Speaker
  • “I would like to express my deepest appreciation for the unwavering support of my publisher, and friend, Dennis who created an environment in which I was able to explore without boundaries both the idea and practice of becoming a published author. His steady hand, sense of humor, and perspective on life as a Navy veteran were a match for my style from day one. Thank you, Dennis for your partnership, mentoring, and coaching through one of the most challenging years of my career. You inspired me to live and write with the Navy core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.” Dr. Curtis L. Odom, Ed.D.
  • “Dennis, the project went exactly as you described it when we first spoke. As I mentioned during our last conversation, your insight, direction, and patience were invaluable to me as I learned about the process and asked a seemingly endless number of questions. I have no doubt that you spent significantly more time guiding me through this process than you had planned, and I am grateful for your kindness and generosity. It is extraordinarily refreshing to work with someone who does what he says he will do, on time, without excuses or drama, and delivers a finished product as promised. I wish more people would conduct business in the manner you do.Many thanks for your help and best regards.” George W. Clarke, President, Clarke Resources
  • “After reading through this draft I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude for such a meaningful quality product. I believe this book will be a blessing for many people for years to come.” Ghostwriting Client (name withheld due to confidentiality agreement)
  • “Fantastic writing. Captivating. A book for all ages, you do not get much of those! Cannot wait for the next one.” Miemie
  • “Very nice writing!” [comment upon reading, “Rising Sun ~ Setting Sun”] Alexander M.
  • “Your, ‘What Wasn’t There…’ is absolutely beautiful… quite lovely and honest” JM, Connecticut
  • “Intriguing and draws you in. Love it!” Leanne D.