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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

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