Writing a book is both exciting and, yes, often daunting. You might even go so far as to call it scary, overwhelming, impossible, or traumatizing (all words I’ve heard from clients!). You’ve got so many ideas to juggle, characters to develop, and storylines to weave together, and keeping track of it is a full-time job. Trying to keep track of everything in your head never works, and so maybe you end up with dozens of writing notebooks, a slew of mismatched and half-finished Google Docs, an assortment of notes on your phone, and the odd email to yourself from 2 a.m. when you woke up with a thought you didn’t want to lose.
You start collecting all your ideas, research, and notes and then you sit down to start writing the book and… yikes.
Where do you even start? It’s all such a mess.
That’s why it’s important to have a plan and organize your book before you start writing, and if you’ve already started writing and you’re finding yourself sinking deeper into this writer’s morass, I’m reaching out with a hand to pull you up.
Maybe you’re still traumatized by the Artax scene from The Neverending Story like I am. But that’s NOT GONNA BE YOU.
So, let’s dive right in with…
Why is it important to organize and plan your book?
How does organizing and planning your book can help you write better, faster, and with less stress? First, it’ll help you keep track of all of your ideas so that you don’t forget anything important.
Second, you’ll be better able to stay focused and avoid getting overwhelmed by the scope of your project, because, yes, writing a book is a project. (That’s why I offer Writing Project Management (WPM) for those of you who need a little help.)
It can also help you identify any potential problems or plot holes before you start writing, which will save you tons of time and frustration when you get to revisions.
And fourth—and perhaps most importantly in my opinion—organizing and planning your book will let you see your story holistically, so that as you start drafting, you’ll be able to create a narrative arc that makes sense, hooks readers, and tells the story you really want to tell.
What types of things should you organize for your book writing project?
Specifics will depend on your specific project, of course, but there are some common elements that you might want to consider organizing all together:
- Characters: Who are the main characters in your story? What are their backgrounds, motivations, and goals? What do they look like, what do they feel, and most importantly: what is their inner arc?
- Plot: What is the main storyline of your book? How does it develop over time? What are the key turning points? I firmly stand behind knowing at least your 7 most important beats (or plot points), and preferably before you star writing.
- Setting: Where does your story take place? What are the important details about the setting that you need to convey to your readers? Your settings are integral to creating an atmosphere and sense of place. If you lose sight of setting, your story will feel ‘white-boxed’.
- Themes: What are the big ideas or themes that you want to explore in your book? How will you develop and convey these themes? Your themes can have a major impact on how your reader feels when they close your book—and you do want them to feel something.
- Research: What kind of research are you collecting for your worldbuilding and story? How are you organizing those notes so that you can easily find and use them?
- The Outline Itself: Yep, I take a firm stance here—everyone should outline their books. The degree to which you do it (whether gently outlining just the 7 most important beats or fully outlining each scene) and whether you do it before you write or during revisions is up to you. Maybe this is a hybrid approach, but I’m committed to die on this hill.
What’s the point of planning and organizing your book?
When you organize and plan your book, you gain a bird’s eye view of your story, which allows you to see your story in a holistic way. This is especially helpful when you start drafting because you’ll be able to create a cohesive narrative arc that makes sense to readers. With a clear understanding of the overall story structure, you’ll be able to create a stronger and more engaging story that hooks readers and keeps them invested from start to finish.
Having a solid plan in place also helps you stay true to the story you want to tell. When you have a clear vision of what you want your book to be, you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked or distracted by irrelevant details. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on the big picture and make sure that every scene, character, and plot point serves the larger story.
Plus, when you see your story holistically, you’ll be better equipped to identify potential plot holes or inconsistencies before you start writing. This can save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run, as you won’t have to go back and make major revisions after you’ve already started writing.
Organizing and planning your book allows you to create a story that is well-structured, engaging, and true to your vision. By taking the time to plan and organize your ideas, you’ll be setting yourself up for success and making the writing process smoother and more enjoyable.
Common Methods of Organizing Your Book
There are many different methods of organizing your book. You could use a spreadsheet, whiteboard it or put stickies on your wall, or write it all in a notebook. (I recently got a ReMarkable and I LOVE free-writing in it for story ideas.)
These methods can be helpful, but they can also be limited. Spreadsheets become unwieldy, the tabs on their worksheets become difficult to navigate, and they’re kinda ugly to look at, too. Whiteboards are great but messy, and keeping track of a bunch of stickies on a wall can work for an initial planning session, but doesn’t really make sense for a 6 month + writing project. And notebooks—well, if you’re anything like me, you never have the right one with you when you’re writing a note, and so you end up with 20 of them for the same book project.
Not to mention, none of these methods are good for collaborating with co-writers, if you have them, or sharing with beta readers for feedback and brainstorming.
So then, that begs the question:
What makes a really great book organizing tool?
It should be easy to use, flexible, customizable, and equally importantly: delightful to look at. Because you’re gonna be looking at it a lot.
It should allow you to easily add and organize different elements of your book writing project, and should allow you to easily collaborate and share your plan with your writing group or beta readers. It should be accessible from anywhere, so that you can work on your book plan from your computer, tablet, or phone, without carting around a thousand different planners, notebooks, or a whole whiteboard.
But does such a magical thing exist? 😉
You bet. May I introduce you to…
The Fiction Writing Blueprint — The last tool you’ll ever need for planning, organizing, and writing your book. Seriously.
Okay but first: What is a blueprint for writing a book?
It’s a one-stop-writing-shop. A detailed plan created by you with all of the key elements of your book, including characters, plot, settings, themes, and scenes. Think of it like a roadmap for your book, giving you a clear, organized, not-overwhelming, and fun direction for writing your book. It takes the confusion, the overwhelm, and the mess and it guides you into a plan for your book that makes sense and will keep readers turning pages.
It can be as detailed or as high-level as you want it to be, but the key is to have a plan in place before you start writing (my preference), or use it to self-check during revisions if you wrote without an outline in place.
You’ve worked with series bibles, character bibles, and a dozen different ways to plot a story before, but you don’t need all that. It’s mental clutter. Let’s do it better, more efficiently, and keep your writing project on track. And most importantly: let’s set it up in a way that won’t make you bored of your book before you even start writing it.
Let’s set it up in a tool that will make you excited to write, even if you’ve always been a discovery writer (a pantser).
I’ve created just this tool, and I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart here, folks: This didn’t come without tears. I’ve been studying story structure since 2005. I’ve read every book on it. I’ve taken classes. I’ve written multiple books, fumbling my way through intuitive writing, failures at outlining, and re-writing my first book literally 5 times, over the course of 13 years. I know what goes into writing a book—the positive emotions, the negative ones, and the hours upon hours of really hard work.
I knew how to write a book, knew how story arcs worked, as I’m sure you do, and still it was so hard and so painful.
I tried everything to make that process feel less painful.
When I first started trying to create my own system, even that didn’t work straight away. It took me multiple years to tweak this until it was perfect. And when I finally realized that it was everything we writers needed to be, I honestly cried. Years of pain honestly erased with this one little tool.
I spent a long time perfecting, and then I started testing it with other writers. Dozens of them. Every single one of them was blown away when I showed them how to use it. And as of now, every one of them is still using it as their tool of choice for planning and writing books.
Now, I know it’s ready for you. The question is: Are you ready to take control of your writing life?
If you are, I’d be honored if you tried my Fiction Writing Blueprint. I know you’re going to love it.
The Fiction Writing Blueprint in action
(Potential spoilers for my upcoming series in this video if you look too closely.)