For Writers: Organizing for Pantsers and Planners

Writing is hard. Whether you’ve been doing it professionally for years, trying to get published one day, or just doing it all for fun, some things never change. Like the way the words will flow one day, but the next it’s like you’ve never written a day in your life. Or how some characters just come to life while others stare at you blankly from the page. Writing can just suck sometimes.

But, we write for a reason. We write because we have stories to tell. There are characters inside of us with words that demand to be spoken! If don’t tell the stories in our brains, in our hearts and souls, then no one will.

Now, when it comes to actually writing those stories, well, that’s something else entirely. As I’ve come to learn, writers are usually either Planners or Pantsers. Planners, obviously, plan. They know the book before it even goes on the page. Pantsers on the other hand “fly” by the seat of their pants. They write as the words come to them and see where the wind blows them. But, whichever kind of writer you are, even if you’re a little of both, there is a certain amount of organization that you’re going to need in order to make your writing the best it can be. And help you to continue to remember what you’ve been writing in the first place.

Here are some really helpful tips/tricks/ideas to keep your writing organized and your story the best it can be, whether you’re a Pantser or a Planner!

1. Build a World Bible

There are a ton of world bible/world building templates out there some are even listed on my site here. Whether you do it before you start writing, as you write, or after your first draft, a world bible can help you keep track of everything in the world you’re creating. The more you build, the more real your world will be to your readers. Here are some things to keep in mind:

a. What does the nature of the land look like?

b. What does the world (location) look like?

c. How do your characters travel?

d. What is the history of your world?

e. What is their clothing like/made of?

f. Magic/Technology

g. Language

2. Build Your Characters

When I write, I usually have an image in my head of what my characters are going to look like. But, if you only mention their eye color in chapter 4 and you’re now on chapter 20, do you try and scroll around and find it, or you do you scroll over to your character list and look at everyone’s descriptions? Trust me, after thousands of words flow from your fingers, you may just forget the color of someone’s eyes or the last name of a random character. And there will be someone who notices it even if you can’t remember! Make a table/spreadsheet/something to keep build your characters. Eye color/hair color/height/weight/pet peeves etc.

3. Keep a Running Tab on Names

In my notes on my phone, there is one page completely dedicated to names. When I see a name I love or I think of one as I’m sitting at work, I add it to the list. It saves me time and effort. I already have the names I love lined up and once I picture my character, I can go through my list and see what sticks out to me. Now, you might have to do some work sooner or later to find the right name, but having that list is more helpful than you imagine.

4. Save Your Drafts

When I first started writing, I never saved my previous drafts. Heck, I didn’t even like having more than one draft of what I wrote. And then I realized how silly both of those things are. Revisiting your draft will only make it better and better. Each read will bring you something you never noticed before. You’ll add, take away, and come away with something you didn’t think you’d have! But, sometimes after another read through, you may realize that something just doesn’t quite fit, but the scene you took out in a previous draft could work perfectly. Saving that old draft just saved you a lot of trouble, right? So, save your drafts. Write multiple drafts. Be the best writer you can be!

If you’re a Planner, you’ll be doing this organizing sooner rather than later, and if you’re a Pantser you may not do this at all. But, as a Pantser myself, I will tell you that doing it at all can be really helpful (even if it’s after you’ve already written a draft.)

What other organization tips do you swear by to keep your writing on track?

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