6 Ways to Manage Your Writing (and lots more ways NOT to)

Footloose and Fancy-Free (A.K.A. “Don’t Do This”)

“How do you manage your writing? Like, your process from idea to completed novel, how you manage your ideas and what software you use?”


I have used, in no particular order:

  • Emailing myself
  • Brain-storming with mindmaps in a notebook
  • Muttering phrases I didn’t want to forget into my phone’s sound-recorder (note: I REALLY don’t advise this one)
  • Texting ideas to myself
  • Every app from colornote to evernote to springpad for ideas
  • Word
  • Text files
  • Private website pages
  • Elaborate outlines in Photoshop so I could use pretty fonts (because I hate my handwriting and… never mind)

Spoiler alert: it ended up being a disorganized mess, and I spent more time searching for information than I did refining it.

I know. Totally baffling.[/box]

Since the beginning, I’ve refined things a bit. Here’s what it looks like now.

Behold the Order (A.K.A. “I Can Find Things Now”)

  1. When I get an idea, I write it down in one of three places:
    • Scrivener (this program is BRILLIANT. I will be doing a full review later in the month).
    • A Phone Program That Syncs With My Computer (I use OneNote, but there are many options) so I can transfer notes to Scrivener later.
    • Microsoft Word files (same content as Scrivener, but sometimes seeing the words in a different format helps my brain.
    • P. S. I use Word also because of these brilliant templates, but I’ll get into all THAT later.)
  2. As the idea grows into a scene or conversation, I write it down in one of those three places.
  3. I accept that those scenes often have no connection to anything else yet. I have the ending to Notte already tucked away, but haven’t reached it yet in the manuscript. That’s all right. The in-between parts will come.
  4. Keep writing. If you use Scrivener, it means you can drag those scenes around in different order, making your own fully-fleshed-out outline completely customizable.
  5. Don’t throw out ANYTHING. I keep a folder labeled “Spare” in Scrivener for scenes I no longer intend to use – and keeping them there keeps them with the manuscript, never loss, and organized.
  6. Discover I have a coherent plot.

The thing is, this takes time. It means CARVING OUT TIME.

And that means giving up other things (good things, even) to devote it to writing.

I reiterate:

Sometimes, you have to give up other (good) things to devote time to writing.

Time doesn’t free up on its own.

So there’s your answer. It’s not a complicated process, and it’s not the only way to do it, but you know what? It works.

What’s Your Process? Your Neighbor’s? The One That Worked For Your Aunt?

Let me know in the comments below. Let’s take advantage of this “internet” thing and learn from each other. 🙂


A three-times bestselling author, Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and been the keynote speaker for the Write Practice Retreat. Author of two series with five books and fifty-plus short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom and used up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon in the process. When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away. P.S. Red is still her favorite color.