How To Create Order Out Of Chaos In Your Writing

By on April 23, 2020

When we start writing a novel, it often comes from a place of chaos. We have a brilliant idea that leaves us shaking with excitement, and from that idea comes so many others, tumbling forth so fast that we barely have time to write them down. Then we go back through our gloriously jumbled notebooks. We make mind maps. We write down words and phrases we like. We take pictures of locations, interiors, materials, clothing, anything that catches our eye and seems to fit in with the fictional world that is swirling around in our heads. We start to research and more notebooks and voice notes and jumbled, breathless answerphone messages and garbled barely readable text messages to ourselves pour in.

Then one day, we sit down to write.

Suddenly the brilliant, powerful, energizing chaos feels a little overwhelming. Like trying to untangle 12 meters of fairy lights that have been gathering dust at the bottom of a box for a year, and we can’t even find the ends, let alone know where to go from there.

To write your novel, you must find a way to create order from the chaos that your once lightbulb moment of brilliance has created. You must sift through everything that you have gathered, compartmentalize it, and learn how to spot and discard things that aren’t of any use to you, even though it might be a little painful to do so. 

The first thing to do is lay it all out, or at least as much of it as you can. If you can gather all your notes together into one big document, it will be easier to work from. So translate your answerphone messages, pull your images in, type out the scrappy bits of paper, and post-it notes until everything is together.

From here, you need to separate which information belongs where. Your novel is a story that has characters driving that story who live in a world that creates the backdrop to the story. Try to divide your notes into those sections that pertain to the story itself, the characters, and the world. 

Don’t throw anything out just yet!

Once you have down this, you can start to take a firmer grip on your organization. Start to create character personas, begin to build the world, what it looks like, what its rules are, and finally start to map out your plot, using the information an inspiration you have gathered as you do so.

From here, it should start to become more apparent what pieces no longer belong in this novel. While you might have had a genius idea or had a vision which is so beautiful, it brings a tear to your eye, if it doesn’t fit in this world, in this story that you are telling right now, you need to let it go. But don’t just cast these ideas aside, store them elsewhere, you never know, they could be the perfect fit for your next book!

Ordering your chaotic thoughts and notes and ideas and research by taking the time to do so methodically and carefully, and having the wisdom to be honest and kill your darlings can help you start your novel on the right foot. So, by all means, embrace and enjoy the chaos at the start, but the learn how to bring order to it and shape it into a novel you can be proud of!

bethany cadman
Bethany Cadman - bethanycadman.co.uk

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