How To Be an Organized Writer

Being an Organized Writer May Take Some Getting Used To

It’s okay to be disorganized in your first draft. Heck, that’s what they’re for. But as you revise you should cut extraneous ideas. The mere act of streamlining should make your writing appear better organized.

Dear Tori,
I have a really hard time organizing what I write. I feel like I jump from topic to topic with no rhyme or reason. How can I be more organized?

You’ve come to the right professional editor. I am, if nothing else, organized.

Keep your ratio of ideas to sentences at one to one. That’s one idea per sentence. Split sentences with multiple ideas into multiple sentences. If it seems choppy, ask yourself what made you want to put those ideas in the same sentence in the first place. If you thought they were related ideas, explain how they were related. If you just thought they were all interesting but didn’t really have a reason for saying them all at once, cut the less compelling bits.

  1. You need to keep your paper focused on one main argument
  2. That’s one thesis statement per paper
  3. One supporting argument per paragraph
  4. Nothing unrelated to your argument. Even if it’s interesting
  5. You need to be brutal when you’re editing. Cut every tangent. Delete every non-sequitor.
  6. Never stop asking yourself if what you’re writing is relevant to the point you want to make.
  7. Never stop asking yourself how it’s relevant to the sentence that comes after it, and the sentence that comes next.
  8. Never stop explaining these points of relevance to your reader.

But there’s more to organized writing than focus

The key to organized writing is, really, the key to good writing in general. I swear I’m not biased when I say that the key to organized writing is thoughtful editing.

Print out a copy of what you’ve written and bloody it with a red pen. Pretend you are an incredibly clever, incredibly unsympathetic, reader. Pretend you’re willfully obtuse. Misinterpret your intentions wherever possible. Fill your margins with questions for yourself. Then go back and answer those questions.

The key to writing good transitions is having a reader ask you good questions about how your ideas are related.

If you can’t occupy a fresh head-space for a self-edit, you can always find someone else to edit for you. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but there are some excellent professional editors out there who are happy to do just that.

Keep those questions coming! Just email with “Dear Tori” in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!


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