Have you ever wondered how screenwriters put together the 110 or so pages that constitute a feature script? Or how authors can keep everything straight in their heads when they're writing the 100s of pages required for a book? It doesn't matter if you're writing screenplays, books, letters, or online articles, there are some universal principles to organizing your writing. We hear a lot about writer's block but it might not exist if writer's spent more time organizing or planning their writing before they begin the actual writing process. How can you write with ideas scattered everywhere? How can you know what you have to say until you see it? Here are eight simple steps to help you collect your ideas and turn them into finished writing projects.
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Step 1Pick Up The Pieces
The MOST IMPORTANT step in organizing your writing is to break down your writing project into manageable pieces. Your project is that big knot of ideas filling your head. Put those ideas onto a computer page in bullet form. They don't have to make sense. They don't have to be complete sentences or placed in any kind of order. Once you have amassed all your ideas, quotes, dialogue, descriptions or any other thoughts for this project, you're ready to start organizing.
Step 2Project Length
Roughly decide on how long your project should be. You can deviate later from whatever you decide, but like all professional writers, you should have a time frame with which to begin. While book authors can be flexible with their pages, they still have to work within a publisher's page count. When screenwriters sit down to write, they have to be more disciplined because on the average, films don't vary that much in length and each page of a script represents one minute of film time. You don't have these kinds of constraints but you should create one for yourself. It's easier to work on a project when you can see the finish line.
Step 3Collect Similar Thoughts
Look over your printed page. You will no doubt see that several bullets follow the same line of thinking. Highlight all of those bullets with one color. Repeat the process with the next set of bullets using a different color. Continue doing this until all your bullets are highlighted.
Step 4Building The Story
Now arrange all the same color bullets in a group by copying and pasting. Leave a couple of blank lines between the groups.
Review one color group looking for bullets that are repetitive, expressing the same thoughts but worded differently (like this sentence : ). If you find any, get rid of one of the bullets or rewrite both of them into one new and better worded bullet. Do this with each color group.
Step 6Finding The Essence
Give each color group a title that describes the essence of that group's meaning. If you were writing a letter of complaint to your landscaper, you might see titles like: condition of the plants, current watering schedule, payment schedule, plan of action if improvements don't occur, etc. To create the article you're reading, titles like Finding The Essence, helped to organize the different groups.
Step 7Seeing What You Have To Say
Once you have your titles, it's easy to understand exactly what your letter, screenplay, book or any article is about. Now, move things around. Arrange the bullets under the titles in a logical order. When professionals write press releases, they present the most important idea at the top of the paragraph. You should do the same.
Step 8All those bullets scattered across the page are now organized into thinking patterns that create a map for you to follow. Your last organizational step is to arrange all the titles in a logical order. Here you may suddenly foresee that you have too much material for the size article planned. This is a convenient time to decide which titles are essential to the project and which can be eliminated. It's easier to do this now while you're just looking at bullets, than later after you've created eloquent sentences. Once you believe your material will more or less match your project page size, you are ready to have fun with the writing.
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