I’ve always considered myself a pantser when it comes to writing, whether I’m working on a long or short work of fiction. With non-fiction articles, I tend to be a little more structured, fleshing out a rough outline with subheads and then filling in the sections with details. But lately, I found myself growing frustrated with my notebooks and lists of topics for my true crime podcast and for my blog. None of my ideas were in one central location and I needed to put some sort of plan in place, especially for the podcast content.
Begrudingly, I went to my husband and asked him for his kit of Post-It Notes. He has them in every shape and color because he uses journey mapping and storyboarding as part of his job in banking. My teenage daughter also discovered a love of planning out her story ideas on a wall in her bedroom so I’ve been the lone holdout.
I got to work with a black Sharpie one recent Saturday. It took a few false starts, but I organized my notes this way:
Green Post-It Notes held main ideas.
Blue Post-It Notes were subcategories.
For my blog, where my goal is to post three times a week, I rotate among true crime articles, lifestyle pieces and pop culture/book reviews. I started out by writing blue notes for every piece of content I’ve already created that I can repurpose for my blog, such as articles I write for magazines that I can simply copy and paste, along with a note about where they appeared. Then I wrote each book I’ve been meaning to review on separate notes. And finally, I got out my “true crime” notebook and pulled topic ideas from there onto blue notes. Once I was finished. I had about 10 blog post ideas ready to go. I was able to get four of them formatted and scheduled this week from my organization.
Next, I tackled my podcast topics. First, I wrote a names of missing people (along with their ages and locations) from North and South Carolina from my notebook of ideas and slapped those on the wall in blue Post-It Notes. Then I stepped back and examined the names to see if I could find patterns, because I like to organize my episodes in groups, such as “Missing Runners in North Carolina,” or “Missing After a Night Out.” While staring at the notes, I began seeing main categories materialize, so I wrote those out in green Post-Its and started moving the blue notes underneath where they fit. This is how I discovered several of the people missing were moms, so I created a new episode titled “Missing Moms in North Carolina” for this week’s episode. By the time I was finished, I had ideas for at least three or four new episodes, which was helpful for me in planning. This week was so much easier. As I wrote or scheduled a blog post that list, I took the corresponding note off the wall. (I also may have gotten a little carried away and convinced myself a missing person on my list was tied to a convicted serial killer in North Carolina. I don’t think she actually was, but I did have a bit of a “Criminal Minds” moment with my notes.)
I have a laminated map of the United States on the main empty wall of my home office, so unfortunately I had to do my brainstorming on top of the map, which my husband teased me about because of all the contrasting colors. But it works for me because I don’t have time to do the paint patching job that will be necessary if I take the map off the wall so I’ll keep it for now.
Do you use this type of brainstorming in your writing or content creation? I’d love to hear how you get your work organized.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer, freelance magazine editor and podcaster. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.