Here’s how to organize your first book as a freelance author…

You’ve decided the time is right to start giving life to your ideas by writing your first book. This decision can be equally exciting and daunting, particularly if you’re the sort of freelance writer who’s strictly focused on shorter pieces, such as articles.

It’s crucial to have an organizational plan in place for any and all books that you write as a freelance author. Even if you’re incredibly passionate about your book, it can be difficult to maintain momentum. Consider, for a moment, how many beautiful, important stories have gone untold because their authors lost their focus along the way. Don’t let yourself join that unenviable group!

Begin by brainstorming…

Although keeping things organized will play a significant role in your book as it you progress through it, when you get started, you must give yourself permission to temporarily eschew structure for the sake of creativity. What’s that, you say? Your book is a work of nonfiction? Even so!

You need this initial time for brainstorming unabashedly. Even the shortest phrase you write down, the briefest subtopic, could be the catalyst for an entire chapter, or even a book series!

  • You might work best via a keyboard, but consider getting yourself a journal or a notebook solely dedicated to “all things your book.”
  • If you plan on doing a lot of research, it’s a good idea to purchase a binder. Not only is it a one-stop filing system, you can move around and categorize printouts whenever you’d like.
    • Think about utilizing folders/pockets, whether they exist independently of your journal/notebook/binder, or are built-in. If they’re the former, purchasing a folder tray can help – this physical reminder of organization can help keep you on task.
  • Are you working on a piece with a lot of interview research? As you complete each session, save the respective audio files into a folder primarily by date, and secondarily by interview topic. It’ll make it that much easier to refer to and implement as you progress through your book.
  • Even though we’re living in an increasingly digital world, nothing surpasses the authenticity of actually writing things down. In fact, it can even make an inspirational difference on those days when you feel as if you don’t have enough material to actually get your book off the ground.

Continue charting the course…

Once you’ve taken the time to methodically and confidently assemble a good amount of ideas, now comes the sorting. Say, for example, there are several sheets of paper/pages on which you’ve written sentences, words, whatever your process happens to be in the moment. You might notice that there are some trends among them…

  • It can help to place ideas into topic lists, such as “Setting,” “Characters,” and “Plot.”
  • Go through your brainstorming notes and cross them off as you move them to each list, thus simplifying and streamlining your thoughts.
  • A tactic that can work for fiction: do you have a reputation for telling great stories? Then, write how you would speak!
    • Record yourself speaking, and then transcribe what you say, lighting editing or embellishing details as you go.
  • Treat your book as if you’re telling a story piece by piece, like a word puzzle.
  • As your story comes together, make sure you don’t go off into too many tangents. Instead, save each one for potential sequels.

That time thing…

If there’s one thing that can stymie a freelancer’s career, it’s time management, so proceed wisely. Of course, the more established you already are on your freelancing path, the easier this could be for you. Now, look at time through a literary lens. If you’re going to self-publish, or have a deal with an indie publisher, then you might not be on as much of a timeline as if you chose the literary agent/major book publisher route.

  • Your productivity just might skyrocket if you dedicate certain days to writing at a target word count.
  • On social media (particularly Twitter), those who write slowly often use #turtlewriters – it can a quite a supportive writing community.

Wellbeing and writing…

In the end, what matters more than organization is how well you know yourself personally and professionally. Think about how you write best – is it under pressure/time constraints, or is it more slowly or moderately? Don’t try to rush or change your style if it means sacrificing your best work and, more importantly, your own wellbeing in the process.

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