How I Learned to Organize My Story

It’s funny how one can take a break from writing a story and when you come back to it, it feels a bit rusty, but once you get some momentum going you end up surpassing your all-time word count record.

Why did I stop writing the piece? Because I needed to figure out how the story went. I realized that  writing sometimes requires organization. I used to think that I was the type of writer who can just free-write without a plan, but now I know that anytime I start to get confused by my own story, I need to stop writing and look at the plan. This time I actually created a spreadsheet to map out the weeks of the story.

Here’s what’s happening. I’m writing a story about a song competition, like American Idol. But I’ve never watched a whole season of the show. I usually drop off after the first round of auditions. The show itself doesn’t really appeal to me. I like some of the singers that have been discovered like Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Hedley (of Canadian Idol fame), Adam Lambert and Haley Reinhart most recently. But the competition itself doesn’t really hold my interest. I’m just not committed enough to sit through a whole season of it. Maybe if I had cable it would be more appealing for me, but even when I had cable, I was more interested in watching The Simpsons to get my tube fix.

So why am I writing a story about a song competition? Good question. I think it’s a good setting for this story.

I really wish I knew what Sass Jordan is famous for, other than being Sass Jordan.

I really wish I knew what Sass Jordan is famous for, other than being Sass Jordan.

But when it came down to actually writing the story, I only have experience with the first part of the competition, both as a spectator and a contestant. Yes, I auditioned for Canadian Idol. I didn’t get past the first round. Coincidentally, my boyfriend also auditioned for Canadian Idol. He got as far as performing in front of the celebrity judges. He met Sass Jordan! (Canucks will get a chuckle out of that.)

I knew I needed to map the process, but I didn’t know how. I joined a writing community to ask their opinion but, of course, as soon as I did that, I was already thinking about the process and decided to try on my own anyway. First I looked up “How does American Idol work” on Google. That led me to about.com, which became my guide. I opened a new spreadsheet and began mapping it out.

That became an unexpectedly fun part. Not only did I know now how many weeks this competition would take (eighteen) I began to fill in the themes for the nights I wanted eventful things to happen on. Now I have the rest of my story more or less mapped out. I may need to tweak things a bit as I go along, but the task is no longer as daunting as I thought it would be. All it took was me stepping back from the word document for a minute and giving the song competition a good think.

The hardest part was getting myself to sit down long enough to think about it. Because it was confusing I didn’t want to think it all the way through. I was not happy that it was confusing me, but I was also afraid of thinking about it so I avoided it for a good two weeks before I finally did it.

I’m glad I did. I don’t think I would continue this story if I didn’t step back and do a bit of organization, and where would I be? Right where I started off: not knowing a thing about my own story, and not writing.

In the end, I not only got back into the story but I wrote well over my 500 word goal for the day–all thanks to a little organization.

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