How To Organize Your Writing Using A Working Table of Contents

Create a working table of contents (WTOC) for all your writings. Think of the WTOC as an idea list. The working table of contents lists not only the vignettes or articles you’ve written, but also the vignettes or articles you plan to write. Use actual or working titles for each vignette, chapter, blog post idea or article.

# HOT TIP – Create a Working Table of Contents document in a table in your word processing software or use spreadsheet software, such as Excel.

In your WTOC, next to the titles you’ve written, record the current word count. Also, create a column to notate the phase the writing is in (i.e. prewritten, 1st draft, middle drafts, close to final, needs proofing, ready to publish, etc.).

Keep ALL your writing in one place on your computer. Start with a folder titled “MY WRITINGS” or “MY BLOG POSTS” (or title of your collection), for instance. Within that folder, create a new folder for each vignette OR working title. Within each folder, save your drafts and revisions along with other supporting documentation, and research for that vignette, chapter, blog post idea or article.

Keep ALL your copies and edits of your writing together too. Mirror your computer folders by creating manila folders for each of your articles, vignettes, or chapters. Print the latest drafts and revisions and place them in their respective folders. Also, collect supporting documents in the folder to create a compost of ideas and springboard material. For instance, photos, articles about your topic, research notes, letters, interviews with characters who appear in the story, etc.

Store all your writings in one place. If you have a filing cabinet or drawer where they can all reside together, great! If not, consider purchasing a portable file tub with a lid. These are especially handy when you go on vacation and want to take your writing with you. For those who live in hurricane or flood evacuation zones, the tote tub filing system makes it easy to grab and go, never leaving behind your precious works.

Feed your creativity. Visit museums, antique stores, and places that carry the associations of your stories. Make dates with yourself to feed the muse. Go for walks in the park. Write in a journal. Listen to music. Fill your well with fresh ideas and new musings. The more you feed the muse, the more often she’ll meet you on the page.

Download a free .pdf of the Working Table of Contents here.

Please leave a comment below this blog post to let me know what you think.

Let’s get organized!

Video – My FAVORITE Must Have Book for Writers

When it comes to this writing tool, I’m a rabid proponent that EVERY writer MUST have the J.I. Rodale Synonym Finder on his or her bookshelf.

You’ll see why when you watch this video.

Don’t wait another minute to add this book to your Writer’s Essential Bookshelf. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone writes without a plethora of word choices right there at their fingertips. Do you?

Originally posted on where Debra Marrs shares additional writing tips and resources.

Letter to A Memoir Writer

Dear writer,

It’s a new week in Writing Your Life Stories land.

So you may be asking yourself: What are we doing here? I can appreciate that
because you’ve probably had a lot of information about writing thrown at you.

So here’s what I want you to know and what you want to focus on this week. [Read more…]

Use Nostalgia To Energize Your Storytelling

Everything about the change of seasons makes me nostalgic. I feel energized by a return to my past. Thinking about ‘back in the day’ no matter my age creates such an emotional rush. It’s one reason I write. To remember and record these scenes from my past, whether it’s as fiction or non-fiction. Nostalgia does that for us. It sweeps us into a past that’s filled with scenes—from a school yard to our backyard. Eating snacks after school, doing homework and watching our favorite shows on TV. When our memory bank revisits these scenes, we not only “see” ourselves, we also “feel” what it was like to be there.

The brain is wired that way. The brain is energized and gets all juicy when we reconnect [Read more…]