Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wiritng a Novel - Keeping it all Organized

One of the most daunting aspects of writing a novel is the sheer volume of words involved. Not only must they be written, but they must be organized somehow. Otherwise, you're bound to find yourself buried in an avalanche of words, paragraphs, and chapters. Every author has their own way of keeping it all organized, but my personal preference is a piece of software called MacJournal. (Microsoft Word, for the PC and Mac, is capable of some of the features I mention in this post. However, I prefer MacJournal, which is a faster, lighter program.)

The advantage of using MacJournal–as opposed to opening some other word processor and just typing away–is that you can easily organize and label each entry. As the name suggests, MacJournal is primarily a tool meant for keeping a desktop journal, so it automatically (and helpfully) names each new entry with the current date and time. I typically use one entry for each scene in the novel, and I rename it to reflect whatever happens of import in that scene. I also like to add blank entries in between other passages, to help denote chapter breaks.

My MacJournal project for The Unrighteous. Left column shows the entries/scenes for the story. In the 'Notes' section, you can see some of the entries I used for research and plotting.

In writing a novel, I often find myself getting stuck on certain passages and returning to them later. To call attention to these 'orphan' entries, I use various colored labels as tags. (In the screenshot above, I used the red to denote when I'd finished writing and editing each section)

I use a separate folder, contained within the same document, for all my reference notes. For example, any pertinent research I've done, important notes for the characters, facts that need to be checked, or other amendments that need to be made. I find that one of the worst things I can do while writing is to let myself get distracted with minor details, so having places like these where I can stick notes for future editing is a big help.

Another of my favorite features is MacJournal's word count, which is automatically displayed at the corner of the interface. Because I'm always writing with a word count goal in mind, knowing exactly how much I've written during each session helps me clearly gauge my progress.

Have another method of organizing your writing you'd like to share? Feel free to let me know in the comments!


  1. I don't have any writing tips as I am not a writer but I just wanted to say it is very interesting getting an inside look into how you work! Thank you for this.