One of the biggest challenges in life is organizing all of the details. I put off hundreds of things till I have my life settled, and never get around to any of them. Organization, or the lack thereof, stalls a lot of my writing as well. However, once I have hashed and sorted through the tangled mess, I’ve found that thoughts organized into complete ideas make a much better story. The organization allows me to write more effectively as well.
My most efficient writing is when I use the breakdown method. This requires a tentative plan for the storyline of the book. I can’t write what has to happen next if I have no idea where the story is going. Another avenue of organizing a plot is by utilizing the various structures such as the three act structure or the hero’s journey.
But even before fleshing out an entire plot, every story has to have a base idea or central concept. I want to go through steps that I use to organize my thoughts into an idea. I feel like all story ideas are like potions. A concoction of ingredients that have been collected over the expanse of years. Your entire life has been spent collecting thoughts. Now you have to organize them into complete and usable ideas.
Step 1: Find the Focus
Even with organizing your closet or filing documents, the first step is to find the focus or central topic. Shoes go with clothes, in the closet, on the floor or a bottom shelf. Tax documents go in a file drawer near other financial files. Identifying the topic dictates where things should go in your home. The focus or topic of one or more thoughts will identify the foundation of your creative idea.
Every home needs a foundation, and every idea has a focus. The focus of this blog post is organizing. The focus of one of my works in progress is a rewrite of Cinderella. This is the thought you will build on and develop from. You find the focus by picking out what excites you the most. This may be a theme, a genre, a character, or even a feeling.
Step 2: Add to it
It you’re like me, my attempts at organizing results in piles of papers all around me on every flat surface available. Each pile with a different topic or focus. Since the appearance to anyone else is just a mess, I have to come up with another step in the organizational process. Adding things together. Since I don’t have room for a hundred piles, I need to combine them in some way. So I look for similarities, what goes well together. It makes sense to keep story ideas with writing notes.
In the case of thoughts-to-ideas, I want to add concepts to the focus idea that will complement and enhance the focus. If the starting focus is a feeling, I look for the theme or scenarios that bring that feeling. If the focus is a character, I look for what events would add conflict to the personality or would have caused the unique attributes of the character.
Step 3: Make it Fun
Any time that I clean my apartment, I have to find some motivation to keep it clean. Sometimes I give myself challenges, or I have some system I come up with. I used to hate putting away my clothes, I still don’t like putting away laundry, but I have a system for clothes I’ve only just worn once or twice. Since I’ve had many of those moments when I felt like I just wore everything in my closet, and I don’t even remember what I wore yesterday, I came up with a system. My nicer shirts are hung all together, on one side is the shirt I will wear today, then when I put it away, I put it at the back. So all of my shirts are cycled through in a system, scrambled up periodically when they are washed.
When it comes to creative ideas, the last part of the organizing is to throw in a twist. Complete the idea by making it something you want to explore by further developing the story. This last crazy step in the idea may be a contradicting element. Like an heir that no one knows about. Or taking a fish story and putting it in space. Take a random ingredient and throw it in the potion to see what kind of explosion it makes with what color of smoke.
Organizing thoughts into ideas is simply making a complete creative idea that can now be used to create. Unlike sorting through the endless items in your home, completing an idea only requires three thoughts. A focus, a complement, and something crazy gives you enough of an idea to start creating.
Utilize these three steps to straighten out your home and manage your time. But more importantly, organize your thoughts into ideas for your stories and then run with them!