Get Your Story Straight! Tips to Organize Your Novel.
That great idea you had going into your project is evolving chapter by chapter. By the time you’ve gotten two-thirds through the story, you’ve realized exact what the point of it all was, maybe you can even think of a half-suitable ending, but the point is, the story wasn’t what you were expecting, it’s not consistent and the plot is running straight out of left field - So, what do you do? You need to organize your novel. Here’s how to start:
- Start a notebook. Paper may not be faster, but it is linear and that’s super important. Put dividers in for 1) plot notes and outlines, 2) characters, 3) settings, and 4) timelines. This is how you keep your thoughts organized. Put the date on the page as you write in it. This way you can see what’s changed and when.
- Start with plot notes. I know the story may not be all about plot, but the truth is that if you’re having trouble keeping your story on a logical, straight forward plot line, you need to lay down the law. Decide what the plot is going to be. Say it as simply as possible. Make sure the beginning is relevant to the end. The most satisfying plots generally revolve around one singular goal or wish of the main character and show a progression towards that goal. Whether or not that goal is fully realized by the character is for you to determine, but this very general suggestion will make sure that the story remains consistent no matter what happens.
- Because this first tab is so important, read the few sentences you came up with to describe your entire plot out loud. Does it make logical sense? Read it to a friend. Ask them for a response and ways to improve. Is the character’s goal the same thing in the beginning as it is in the end? (If not, it better be a conscious switch!) Is the revelation learned in the end relevant to the beginning of the story?
- Now fill out the character section. The more you can know about the character the better. Specifically know their goals, wishes, fears, subconscious feelings and wishes, their backstory, and their outcome. While all of this can change, if consistency is your issue, make sure you get the details down. Learn who your character is. Even try doodling them - even if you are a terrible artist, it’s for you so you have an image reference.
- The settings tab is to keep track of places you’ve used in your writing. Write detailed descriptions, pinpoint a couple of recognizable and distinguishable features that would be memorably different if the details were altered. This is also the section to put in self-made maps and world notes.
- Last tab, write a timeline with estimated dates. This is your safe-check. Be aware of how time passes!