Open Book Blog Hop – Organising your writing


Welcome to the weekly blog hop.  Today the topic is:

Share how you keep your characters, storylines, etc., organised. Do you use an outline? Notecards? Post-its all over your walls?

Am I organised with my writing, well, the answer to that is yes and no. I do work to a general outline of my story and idea, but I don’t do a lot of detailed planning. I have a general skeleton which I follow, and I have the ending in place when I begin my writing. From this starting point, I set about adding all the flesh, making sure it all heads in the general direction of the ending I have already determined.

I have discovered, over the past year, that the psychology of my characters is very important in explaining how they behave and why they do the things they do. As a result of this, I do a character outline and develop the personality traits and hints at intellectual prowess and abilities upfront as these need to unfold in line with the plot. The psychological revelations about my characters are entwined into the story line as I develop it. As the ending is already know, I know what kind of person is required to achieve the planned outcome.

I do research and editing as I go along and try to ensure that the historical principles I am using to support my story line are woven in along the correct historical timeline and path. For example, in my latest WIP, Robert, my British soldier, belongs to the Protectorate Regiment which played a major role in the siege of Mafeking, a small but strategically important town bordering on the Transvaal, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Bechuanaland (Botswana) at the time. When I progressed my story to the point of the scorched earth policy that was implemented by Lord Roberts and Field Marshal Kitchener, I had to follow the path of that regiment when it relocated to the Elands River camp. My telling of the scorched earth policy is thus told from the perspective of the old Eastern Transvaal.

My research is thorough and is all stored on my computer under various files. I need these to do the bibliography at the end of the book.

On the face of it, from the above, I would say I am organised. So why did I say yes and no. The answer to that is all my organisation is in my head. I don’t write anything down or keep any spreadsheets. Other than the research documents, I don’t have a single thing in a hard copy. I don’t write it down, for the same reason I never take a notebook to a work meeting. I just don’t need to. I never forget what I need to remember. Even years later, I can remember the detail of every work assignment I have ever done, what the issues were and I can find the documentation if I want/need to.

I do use a calendar for work, or else I get to involved in my work and forget to attend meetings, but that is the only electronic reminder I use for anything in my life.

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47 thoughts on “Open Book Blog Hop – Organising your writing

  1. I wish I had your gift for remembering, Robbie. I have to write EVERYTHING down, otherwise I’m apt to forget. I am definitely a pen and paper person and a keyboard/documents person!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Jim, I did that the first time around. The problem with not having your ending is that you might not be able to end it when you get there. I don’t like weak endings which is why I sometimes get annoyed with Stephen King’s books.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you say bibliography? OMG. Why I write fiction with action and maybe simple geographic or hardware details and avoid historical fiction altogether. Elmore Leonard bumped his word count in “Tishomingo Blues” with a bunch of cinematographer-esque time-wasting, read that as head time built around the US Civil War, with what I call “interpretive” history. He didn’t bother to credit whatever books his research assistant read. I interview people, and if what they had to say helped in any way I credit them in the acknowledgments. But Biblio? Ow! Dang, that’s college business!
    But, the Ph.D. in Rhetoric demands it on three-page argument and comparison/contrast papers otherwise it becomes an opinion and sound bite fest. Web content not acceptable unless from an academic journal. As a devout Googler I’d never pass that class…
    Cool that you work that way, though, because just putting it in there ups your cred!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, for this book I have used over 20 sources of information so I need a Biblio. I think all the sources are reliable and credible. I use these sources to establish the fact patterns, timelines and learn about the historical details, like types of guns used, type of gun-powder (black or white), layout of the trenches. Otherwise the book won’t ring true. I like the research. That is why I write historical fiction. I do research at work too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is a longer discussion here beyond writing regarding eidetic/photographic/HSAM and hyperthymesia memory. You have a memory for written/read detail which is a good thing! Write on.


  3. I’m a note free zone here, after having had to structure and plan in my job it’s a relief to be free. I leave all the continuity issues to the voices in my head. They seem to know what they’re doing

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m pretty much the same as you Robbie. I keep faaaaar too much in my head when I should write it down, but I figure, no one else needs access to it, so why not keep it in my head? It works for me, that’s what counts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to know a guy with a photographic memory. The obscure facts he could come up with were amazing. But I can’t imagine him ever writing a novel…his brain just didn’t work that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. That’s impressive. I think my memory is better than most people’s, but I could never remember all this. And I don’t think you should have said yes and no. You’re organized; your system works for you. That’s what matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good points here, Robbie. I don’t organize until I reach a point in which I say, “oh no, where did I put that character?” or “when did that character meet so-and-so,” etc. Then I start my “organizational chart.’ This usually happens after I’ve written about 30 or 40 pages. I find I like doing it this way. I start as a pantster – writing by the seat of my pants, enjoying the ride, until the drive begins to feel like I’m going cross country instead of just to the next town. Then, I need my own “map” of how to get there. 🙂


  8. Basically I said if you take notes and enter everything in the computer, it would just slow you down. Since you can remember all the details, taking notes is not necessary! Good job! I shared something on my blog today.

    Liked by 1 person

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