Writing Advice Article: How To Advance Your Writing Career by Creating Story Folders

Advance Your Career by Creating Story Folders by Karen S. Wiesner

Writing Advice Article: How To Advance Your Writing Career by Creating Story Folders

Advance Your Career by Creating Story Folders

by Karen S. Wiesner

Based on Bring Your Fiction to Life: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity and CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer’s Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}


CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction: A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plots, and Relationships 3d coverWriters spin fantasies in their heads, and this is where most of their work is done in conceiving a story. In previous writing reference titles, I’ve likened the process of writing to brewing coffee in a percolator. The stories inside my head are in a creative coffeepot, brewing away. In the percolating stage of the writing process, stories come to life in large or small spurts. This can amount to a sketch of a character or two, setting description, some vague or definite plotline or action scenes, glimmers of specific relationships, and maybe even a few conversations. Most of it wouldn’t make sense to anyone except me.


When a story idea is constantly boiling up, it’s time to put it into an outline form and puzzle it out. When it’s not quite ready, it sits on the backburner, simmering gently. In this way, over the course of years, I can conceivably come up with everything I need to write without taking my concentration away from the story that I’m currently puzzling out. I have countless stories inside my head at any given time, brewing away gently until the time comes when they’re ready to be written. That’s why it’s so important to have story folders to hold these ideas; they prevent me from forgetting anything that could become a vital piece of the story puzzle.


Using two-pocket folders and tablet paper (or whatever’s on hand to jot notes on), write the title of each book on the front, and then transfer all your notes (including any outlining and writing you’ve done on the story–anything that you might need or use) into this folder. You can also do the same thing with a computer file or the memo section of an electronic device for each story idea if you find that easier than just writing something on a scrap of paper and putting it in the folder. In this way, whenever you have a thought about this story, you can write notes and tuck it into the appropriate place.


If you don’t currently have notes but the story idea is strong enough, you can create a folder for it, planning to fill it over time. I have a specific folder just for glimmers of ideas. Sometimes a glimmer becomes a full-fledged story that gets its own story folder.


By the time you’re ready to begin working on a particular story, ideally you’ll have a nice stack of “impending story fruit” to pick from. Again, I can’t stress how important it to start each project with a “ripe” idea–one that’s ready to go through the initial stages. If you don’t have a story folder bursting with ideas, don’t take it off the shelf until it’s ready to be worked on–unless you have no choice because of an approaching release date. If you start and discover you can’t get far–and your deadlines allow it–put it back and work on something that is ready. What you’ve added will be progress when you are more prepared.


Another reason for creating story folders as soon as you have the first spark of an idea is that, while jumping from project to project may be an effective way to work for some writers, ultimately it can prevent you from making significant progress with any one project. Most writers can’t concentrate on more than one story at a time (while also having a bunch of ideas simmering on the backburner) if they want to move forward steadily. You don’t want story ideas to distract you if they’re moving at a frantic pace toward fruition while you’re working on another project. When you have deadlines–or even if you don’t–it’s not a good idea to abandon a project you’re working on just because something more exciting shows up at an inopportune time. This is natural though–you want it to happen. But if you’re trying to make headway with one project when another suddenly commands your attention, you need to find a way to set the new ideas aside and refocus your concentration on your current project.


writing notesYou can do this by writing out notes on the new idea and relegating the idea to its project folder, which you can pick up and review at a more convenient time. Shelving the idea is a quick process with either of these because most of the time the notes you’ll write about a growing story at a given time are only enough to fill a scrap note or a single sheet of paper. Occasionally, you may need to take a little more time to purge the abundant ideas from your head so they don’t overwhelm you. In that case, find time to write down all the notes that come to you until you’re stalled or are temporarily free of it. By shelving the story folder once more, you effectively retain all the ideas but stall “the harvest” until you have more time to focus on the project. Once you’ve done this, you can concentrate fully on your WIP again.


Finally, in creating story folders, you also give yourself the foundation for years of potential writing material. For career authors, this is so critical to your momentum and your ability to deliver well-crafted stories indefinitely. What will happen if you run out of ideas? Your career will stall and, let’s be honest, readers are fickle. If you’re not making yourself present and active, your books hitting bookstores often, you may be forgotten sooner or later. Creating story folders allows you to have many, many ideas in different stages of development over time, and that builds momentum. Since working on stories that are ripe is ideal, having story ideas on the backburner (simmering until the day you’re ready to put them into action) is imperative. Your stories written with this process will be better and stronger, especially if you’re writing in layers.


Now you’ve got a solid way of organizing all your story ideas to ensure you have lots of projects growing over a period of (hopefully) years.


About the Author

Creating realistic, unforgettable characters one story at a time.

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 130 titles published in the past 20 years, which have been nominated/won 134 awards, and has 39 more releases contracted for spanning many genres and formats. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestseller, First Draft in 30 Days, Cohesive Story Building, Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, and  Bring  Your  Fiction to  Life:  Crafting  Three-Dimensional  Stories with  Depth and  Complexity.  Her newest, Writing  Blurbs  That  Sizzle–And  Sell!, is available now.

Karen used to run a blurb service for authors. She’s crafted back cover and high concept blurbs for all of her own books and series as well as those for the stories in several award-winning anthologies, and evaluated, revised and crafted series, back cover and high concept blurbs for the entire backlist of nearly five hundred books in one publisher’s catalog.

You can check out more of Karen’s many books with Writers Exchange on her author page (which will include the 130 mentioned above, plus more new books as they come out).



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