Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Anatomy of a Book – Organizing the Writing

So far I’ve talked about where story ideas come from, naming characters, dramatic story situations, title choices, character charts, brainstorming and chapter charts. Scroll down for more of this blog series on how I put a book together.

A book can be a unwieldy thing. Organization helps bring clarity and form to it, while also making its different elements easy to access when needed.
Most writers these days use MS Word as their go-to word processor. It’s the program preferred by editors in traditional publishing, and text written with it is easy to format for independent publishing. Beyond this, it has multiple features that make life simpler for writers, including its system of folders and files.

I’ve used other writing programs such as WriteWay and Scriveners. Elements from these have been added to my writing process, but I always come back to MS Word. I’m a linear writer for the most part, starting at the beginning and going on until the end like some ancient troubadour telling a story. There are other ways, but I’ve discovered that those which encourage writing scenes out of order or thinking in terms of screenplays are of limited use to me.
For my Italian Billionaire books in MS Word,I have a main folder labeled Contemporary Novels that’s stored in Documents. This works because I also write historical romances that also have a folder. Within my Contemporary Novels folder, I’ve created an Italian Billionaires folder. Each of the three books in this series, so far, then has its own folder labeled with the title. The one I’m using at present says The Amalfitano, which is short hand for the longer title, “The Amalfitano’s Bold Abduction.”

Everything I’ve done to create the book to this point has been saved as a file in its title folder. Labels for the files created to this point are: Chapter Chart, Character Chart, Italian Words and Phrases, Revision Notes, Research, Story Notes, and Text The Amalfitano’s Bold Abduction. Other files will be added as needed, but these are the basics I'm using for the series.
As I work, the main book text file is open, of course, but I often keep my chapter and character charts open as well for easy toggling between the three. At one time, I wrote and saved each chapter in a separate file, merging them when the story was done, but now the entire book is saved in a single file.

Billionaire's Home on Private Island
Another feature that’s useful for writers is Microsoft's Picture library. For each story, I create a folder within Pictures that’s labeled with the book title. Photos I’ve taken on location, as well as useful images I find on the Internet, are saved in this folder. Examples include photos of actors and models that may serve as quick memory aids for the main characters; photos of house exteriors and interiors for settings; atmospheric landscapes that may provide inspiration for scenes; views of towns, cities, mountains or beaches that I may need; boats, cars, trucks and bikes that could work for the story; flora and fauna I like; pets, artwork or other objects that may be referenced in the book, and so on. Anything that can add to the color and authenticity of the story or aid my memory winds up here. The results can be a kaleidoscopic vision of the book itself.
With all my book details organized and my visual aids in place, I can concentrate on stepping into my story world and doing my best to take the reader with me.


Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.


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