Is Your Manuscript in a Mess? Find Order in the Chaos With This Simple Exercise

I love organizing really big messes. Not closets or garages. The messes I like to organize are massive amounts of content. A sentence here, a paragraph there, and a transcript elsewhere, and they all need to be synthesized into a coherent, compelling document.

The messier, the better! I love to restructure, and repurpose ideas. This is why we offer to take your existing vault of content: interviews, podcasts, workshops, courses, blogs, etc., and mine your content gems to be included in your thought-leader book.

The methodology is simple. We look for your strongest content to be the anchor and search for your recurring topics and where you said it best for each topic. Within the topics, we look for stories and themes, as well as practical guidelines and professional opinions. This allows us to flesh out your arguments and put your ideas into context and build value for the readers.

When we have any gaps, we interview you to understand your perspective and write it clearly for your reader.

That still sounds messy, right? I agree.

Once we’re confident that we have your best thoughts, we get very, very messy. I generally thrive on being paperless in my business, but for this exercise, I go crazy with the printer.

For this exercise you will need:

·         Print-outs of all your content

·         Tape

·         Scissors

·         A huge room or hallway

1. Print everything. Yes, everything. Try to keep information organized by topic, at least at the onset.

2. Within each topic, spread them on a huge table. Cut and splice each bit of content where it belongs in context of the other content, and begin taping it together to make a massive, long document. Pay attention to what a reader would need to know first, then second, et al.

3. Then, hang each topic on a wall. Consider the topics visually. If one is much shorter than the others, does it belong with another section? If one is much longer, should it be cut?  Is there an idea that should be moved from one topic to another?

This is also the time to decide on the order of the information. What will the ideal reader need to know first? Find an order that will make sense for her. In some cases this will be obvious, like you choose the apple before you slice it, but in other cases it’s more a matter of choice.

4. Take a picture of your final decisions for each topic, and take them down taped together so you can go back and organize your files into the master chapters. You’re almost there!

Next week’s blog is going to tell you how you can go back to these Frankenstein chapters and whip them into orderly, uniform units, so stay tuned.

How do you organize your content? What ideas do you find most helpful? I’d love to know if you are getting stuck on organizing so we can troubleshoot together.