The other day, I was visiting with a friend from church and she said, “I LOVE organizing!” She was referring to closets, shelves, houses, etc. I told her she was welcome to come over to my house and organize anytime.
Closets might not be my expertise, but book organization is becoming mine. I love making sense of someone’s life. How each story fits in with others. Where each one falls on a timeline. One of my clients recently commented, after reading her first draft, “How did she know that about me?” She didn’t remember that her book came together thanks to bits and pieces that she and her family has luckily assembled over the years.
Sometimes, I carry the ideas in my head, and it’s challenging to take it all in. To see the forest for the trees. A book-length story can be a beast sometimes. But it’s doable.
Here are some things that have helped me organize my client books:
Create categories. Sometimes, when something feels out of place or I am unsure where something fits, I put it in an “Uncategorized” category. It’s easier to find things when they are filed somewhere.
Print out what you have. It’s easier to shuffle stories around if you have a hard copy. In this day and age of digital, seeing something on paper is valuable when you can’t always access your email.
Start with what you have and fill in the blanks. It’s easy to get caught up in what we still need, instead of forging ahead with what we already have. Sometimes I type START HERE in caps in the document so I can find it later when I have the information for that blank.
Don’t toss anything out. At least not while your project is unfinished. A year after I submitted a magazine piece to an editor, he called me to ask for names of people that are in a photo. I looked up my steno pad and voila, there it was. Same with personal histories. Don’t chuck anything until you have printed your book. You might need it again someday.
Mark up your sources. When I am done using a document as a source, I put a date and checkmark on top so I know I’ve used the information. This way, I know what I’ve completed, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
With a little advance work getting organized, your book should come together in no time!