Because I am not the most methodical of creatures, I often struggle with organization when writing a novel. I’ve used outlines, pictographs, spreadsheets, and mind maps. None of these has been completely satisfactory to me. So, I thought I would offer up to anyone interested in writing, some of the ways I’ve combined the usage of a few of these methods.
First off, I like an outline. It helps me understand the order of things including where they are and where they should be. Here is an example of my first outline for “Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire”

WV Outline Ver 5 0 (2)

Obviously this is a Word document and as such has its limitations, particularly when the structure of the story changes to any degree. When I started to write “Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers” I decided I needed something a bit more dynamic, and so I attempted to use a spreadsheet form of outline

SprdshtOutline

But this two was overly cumbersome when scenes or chapters needed to be rearranged. Then I discovered an inexpensive program that helps deal with these details. Again, I have to thank Jane Friedman for introducing me to it. It’s called Scribner, and here is a screen shot of it that shows some of the features.

Scribner

What I like best about it is that I can take entire scenes or chapters and move them around at will. Also, if you are using it to actually write your work, its intended use, you can capture references, web sites, pictures, other files, etc., and have instant access to them from within the program. This is a colossal time saver, especially in the beginning when you are doing a lot of research.
So, across three novels, I’ve gone from a Word outline document, to an excel file outline to a specialized software application, all because my mind is less organized than a bowl of soup. I’m not promoting any of these methods, but each does have its advantages and disadvantages. I expect in my next novel, I will adapt the way I use these today into something different for the next book. Someday, perhaps, I’ll hit upon the perfect solution. I wonder if I’ll share it with the world, or keep it to myself. Hmmmmm…

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