Spring Cleaning for Your Writing?

Here in Illinois, it’s a real back and forth between being Winter out or being Spring out. One day it’s a whole 40 degrees out and the next 70, and then of course, back to 40. I mean, it could rain and snow in the same day, and it does. But we’re used to that here, it means Spring has begun. Each Spring many of us start the process of spring cleaning our homes. This year I’ve come across a few articles about this process in our homes, as well as business cleanses. I’ve decided Infinite Reverie could benefit from going through a business cleanse this year.

All this talk about cleanses though got me thinking. Yes, it will be hard work but fairly easy to give my business a good cleaning, but what about my fiction writing? I don’t really classify it as a part of Infinite Reverie, those stories are all me, a separate entity.

I don’t know about you, but rarely does inspiration or a thought strike when I’m actually sitting in front of my computer. And rarely can I remember that idea if I don’t at least take notes on it. It would be so awesome if I was able to have every one of these notes and ideas in one place all organized. Instead I have notebooks, journals, sticky notes, index cards, digital notes on my iPad and computer. I have actually emailed myself ideas when out and about from my phone. None of this takes in to account all the random scraps of paper or things jotted on the side of something else.

It’s a real pain to know you had a idea for a particular story, especially if it’s one in progress, and not able to find it.

I’ve decided I am in desperate need of a writing cleanse, or Spring cleaning for my writing.

The first thing I had to decide is what writings went to what area. What was personal, and what was business. (Many of these sort of blur the line.) I mean, the blog is on Infinitereverie.com, but they are personal to me. I can’t really use fiction verses non-fiction since I do have a non-fiction in progress too. (If you have a website and/or blog, you may find yourself having to make these decisions too.) Ultimately, I ended up with three categories. Business-Business (BB), Business-Personal (BP), and Personal-Personal (PP).

When we organize or declutter physical stuff in our homes, we usually have some form of keep, donate, and toss piles. Donate doesn’t really apply here, so instead of these labels, I’m using current, later, and toss.

Download your free checklist here Writing Cleanse Checklist.

Step 1: Categorizing

I started on my computer files and notes on my iPad, and will work my way through notebooks and journals, and then on to those smaller more random notes. Sorting each one into the BB, BP, or PP area. (Just to note, I’m sure as time goes on I’ll find more random notes, especially as the house and business Spring cleanings progress. I try to make sure everything ends up in my office, but it doesn’t always work out that way.)

Step 2:  Sorting

Then go through and sort it into the current, later, or toss. For paper items it’s easy enough just to literally pile them up on the floor or a table, but for the digital files I created files for BB, BP, and PP, and subfolders in each for current, later, and toss. I could have easily just deleted the toss stuff as I came across it, but I prefer to wait until I have everything else sorted. I don’t remember every idea I’ve had, I may find more somewhere else that makes it valid or useful.

Step 3: Organizing

At times this got a little confusing for me. Some of my notes were so shorthanded or basic I wasn’t really sure what story it was really intended for or what I had initially planned to do with it. But, I think I got through it. At this point I made index cards with the title or working title of every story in progress (basically any story that currently has a file in Scrivener), for paper notes. Most of the digital notes I just transferred or copy and pasted into Scrivener. I should note that I was more focused on the current pile here.

I did notice as I was going through these again, that I had already made changes or used that idea in the story, at that point I did toss it or delete it. If the idea or note was specific to a scene or chapter, I did just add it to the notes on the inspector for that scene or chapter. Notes or ideas that were character or setting specific to the setting or character sheets, and general notes or whatever didn’t really fit anywhere else, just went onto the notes page I have for each story. (I should also note, that I did keep a few notes/ideas for things that had already been changed. Because, well, they might be better.)

For the paper, I used highlighters to organize them into where they would later need to be transferred. Just to make it easy later.

The later pile was a little more difficult. If I was seeing enough for something that wasn’t current, I created a Scrivener file for it. If it was random or pieces of information or just not a whole lot of information, I added it to the doc I created for Possible Future Projects/Stories. A lot of these laters, were really for series, I’m not working on that particular book yet because I’m still working on one that comes before it. I didn’t want to create a separate file in Scrivener for these just yet, instead I created a subfolder in my writing folder with the title and future series.

I should also note that I created a spreadsheet that listed all current and future stories with a title, working title, or short description (just enough to jog my memory), with file names and where exactly I could find that file on my computer. This is something I can easily print out to keep on my bulletin board for easy reference later.

Step 4: Transferring

Now the fun part. Ok, maybe not. But it does feel really, really good when it’s all done and all those paper scraps are in the recycle bin. For this step I took a pile from my current, opened the Scrivener file for it, and started transferring the notes/ideas/whatever in where it belonged. Remember when I said I color coded these in the last step to make this easier? Well, it did help a lot. Instead of clicking all over the place, I was able to enter all the character and setting notes while in that section and so on.

Once everything was where it belonged on my computer, I printed everything out. I switched out what was in my current book binders with the updated files, created an ideas binder for that later doc, and created a few new binders for stories that had enough to warrant it. This part of the step isn’t necessary, but I prefer paper to screen for a lot of things. (I plan to use these to store those new ideas and notes that pop up as they arrive, I added an envelope pouch to each binder to store those.)

Step 5: Planning

This step could also be called creating a system. A system or a process you try to follow for the future. Sure once a year or even a few times a year, we could all take a day doing this cleanse over and over, but I find it very frustrating to know I had an idea for something, only to discover I can’t find it. I know I’ll have to do a cleanse to some extent every year, but to try and keep myself more organized all year, I’ve decided to test out a few processes over the next couple of months and see what works best for me.

Regardless of what process I end up with, I plan to integrate it into the processes I already have for Infinite Reverie. Who knows, maybe I’ll find better processes or systems for things I have in place now.Writing Cleanse Image

I’d like to hear from you! What processes or systems do you use? Do you do a writing cleanse? How do you keep it all organized?

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