Day 28: Mapping Out Writing Time: Brilliant Plots Require Easy Organization and Happiness Giveaway #2

If you wish to be a writer, write.

And write, I will.

But first, I have to tell you about the portable plotting organizer I put together the other day for my new WIP. It’s so simple, I can hardly stand it. It may very well keep me sane during my writing and revision process, and that, my friends, is HUGE in my book.

When I start a new project, I usually write a chapter or two, to see whether my muse is inspired to brainstorm. Next, I write the most basic of outlines and get to know my characters. Then, I plot away.

Plotting is hard work. It requires imagination, the ability to make the impossible believable, and incredible persistence, sometimes fortified with strong coffee or tea. I believe if a writer has a good system to organize plot, it makes writing so much easier. Or, at least it’s a productive way to unleash writer’s block angst, right? Can’t figure out what to write next? Bam! Take it out on the system and hash over your plot. Over the past few years, I’ve tried post-it notes, wall charts, computerized spreadsheets, and journals. And while they all work, they don’t quite click with me for one reason or another.

Then, I discovered the beauty of the index card. This may sound strange, but scenes became much easier for me to visualize and then capture the written word. Color coded 3″ X 5″ cards are cheap, easy to store and rearrange. I love how easy it is to throw away an index card or two if an idea is pure crap. No more scathing notes to myself (within reason) or huge X’s crossing out text…simply toss it out. Need to change a few scenes around? Just move the index cards, no problem. I love how there’s no organizational eyesores to clog up my brain with unnecessary noise. There’s no need to obsess about how I’m going to clean up my plotting, because I can’t read through all my scribbles. This clarity of focus helps me concentrate on writing, which is always a very good thing.

Two years ago, Spy Girl came home from school with math facts written on index cards, fastened by a loose leaf ring. I was smitten. If you love office supplies as much as I do, you’ll understand why I had to go to the store.

See the pretty cards all fanned out? These loose leaf rings are a lifesaver. I don’t have to worry about losing the sequence of events. Instant peace of mind.

I recently came up with a new idea for a manuscript. It freaked me out since I’m still putting the finishing touches on PB, plus I have a few other manuscripts in the works. But, who am I to say, “No,” to my muse? So, I went to the store to pick up some index cards, and found this index card organizer.

It may not look very impressive, but I practically drooled over it. Colored index cards, holes already punched in, 2 loose leaf rings, and 2 tabs. All of a sudden, I had the urge to figure out the best way to use this, and soon discovered the D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition–free downloadable productivity forms that can be printed on index cards. This takes my plotting system to a whole new level of organization.

Inside the cover, I wrote a couple inspirational quotes by Epictetus:
“First say to yourself what you will be; and then do what you have to do.”
“If you wish to be a writer, write.”

Then I printed out a few forms to see if my printer would print on index cards. And it did! Check out the Story Idea form:

Are you drooling yet? Here’s the Plot Point form:

What about now? And, the Character form:
Even though I’ve always written out characteristics and plot details on index cards, now my plotting system has the organizational function of a planner, but with the freedom I desperately need. 3″x5″ cards are small so the forms keep me in check to keep important information to one card. Sure you can write more information on the 4″x 6″ or 5″ x 8″ cards–but the smaller cards keep me focused to one idea per side.
This system isn’t for everyone. If you like using index cards but prefer a different method of keeping them together, there are spiral bound index cards and binders for index cards. I just like loose leaf rings. Another thing, if you go into the store and can’t find the same index card holder, have no fear. It’s easy to make yourself. All you need are index cards, a hole punch, and 2 loose leaf rings. Easy.
Whew. My inner geek is finally revealed. It’s quite liberating.
If you want to know more about how this all works, check out the D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition free downloadable forms. The folks who put these forms together totally rock. You can customize an organizational system perfect for your needs. They have forms to fit any size planner you have, and even adapt to well-known planning systems.
Now, all you need to do is create and write. Doesn’t that sound perfect?
Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Tighten up your plotting and write a scene after you spend a few minutes organizing your plot. It may seem like work but you will write closer to your story in a shorter period of time. Have fun!

HWM Happiness Giveaway #2

You didn’t think I’d wax poetic about my new plotting organizer all this time and not share my bounty, did you? Well, here’s the deal. I’m giving away a little package of goodies (see the photo) to one lucky person. This is what’s in the prize:
1 red cover index card organizer wit
  • Personalized cover in black ink (see photo on right for print sample)– WIP title, name, Secret Project, etc. Or leave blank. You choose.
  • Inside cover with 2 Epictetus quotes (see above photo #3). Or leave blank. Your choice.
  • 2 loose leaf rings
  • 2 red tabs
  • 2 clear tabs (from clear organizer but you’ll understand why once you see how the sections are divided)
  • white index cards with colored borders
  • D*I*Y Hipster reference cards so you know where to find forms to personalize for your own system
  • 1 Story Idea card
  • 4 Project cards
  • 5 Combined Action cards
  • 3 Book Note cards – remember books used for research
  • 3 Contact cards – people interviewed or agent info
  • 9 Plot Point cards (3 green, 3 yellow, 3 red)
  • 6 Character cards (2 green, 2 yellow, 2 red)
1 clear covered index card organizer with:
  • 2 loose leaf rings
  • white index cards
2 2″ loose leaf rings:
  • in case you decide to combine these two organizers or add more index cards

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win this fantastic package, let’s play a little Mad Libs in the Comments below: Plotting is like ___________. The only way to _______ is _______________. OR, tell me about your plotting routine. Deadline is Tuesday, January 19th, 11pm EST. Comment away!

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