How to Organize and Prioritize Your Writing Ideas 


Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the great ideas you have for writing projects? Are they swirling around in your head, so you’re too distracted to sit down at your desk? Or, if you sit down, you don’t know where to start?

Don’t worry; you’re in a great place.


You may think I’m crazy for saying that, but stay with me—let’s get all those ideas out of your head, so you don’t go crazy.

Create a list of your writing ideas

I’m a big believer in making lists, and it’s one of the first things I suggest to my coaching clients.

Making a list is an essential first step, so block off some time and find a calm, distraction-free writing space. Assign this task the same respect and focus you would to any writing session.

Begin the process by writing down all your ideas in the form of a list. Write enough of a phrase to remember your vision when you return to this list in the future.

Simply empty your brain onto the page. 

Don’t worry if some ideas are for a magazine article, essay, or short stories, while others might be for a larger project such as a story collection or a novel. You may have ideas about settings, characters, or themes that interest you, and some ideas may be general while others are more specific.

It doesn’t matter; just get your ideas down on the page.

Write as quickly as you can so you don’t have time to second-guess yourself or start listening to your inner critic. There will be plenty of time to edit later.

Cap your list at 30 ideas for now. If you are bursting with ideas, create an overflow list hidden from view and continue to put ideas there for future use.


Organize your list of writing ideas

Now you can organize your list. If you have ideas for more than one project, group them by genre – short stories, novels, poems, essays, articles, and so on.

If, for example, your project is a novel and you have a list of scenes, it might make sense to put them in chronological order, or you could group them by character.

If you are working on a collection of short stories, you could list them by title or a brief reference to what the story is about—young girl meets unicorn and discovers the meaning of life—you get the idea.

Don’t forget to say “yes” to your ideas on a regular basis.


Flesh out your writing ideas

Scan your list, take a minute to think about each idea, and add any details that come to mind. Stay loose. Simply jot down some notes, a place, a character, a name, an emotion, an era, a theme—anything that comes to you quickly and effortlessly. Don’t labor over this step; you’re simply sweeping up the crumbs left behind from creating your list of ideas.

You will have plenty of time to go back and add details as you go along, and I encourage you to do this as ideas rise to the surface. Think of all the new space you are creating in your brain for new ideas to emerge—and they will!


Identify your top 3 writing ideas

Now, you are ready to identify the three most appealing ideas on your list. Focus on how they feel right now. What calls to you? The topics that interest you will change over time, but let’s stay in the moment; the future will take care of itself.

The ideas that appeal to you right away might be the easiest or the shortest options, and that’s a great place to start, and you may well find you have more to say than you thought.

If you have ancillary material such as articles, research notes, and so on, put these in folders, whether physical or virtual and set them aside until you are actively working on that topic. There’s nothing like a stack of magazines, books, or tear sheets, to distract you from the task at hand.

Creating an “ideas list” will relieve the sense of overwhelm, and you should feel a great sense of accomplishment when you look at your completed list. Take a minute to pat yourself on the back!

Now, you have a list you can turn to when you don’t know what to write next or need a break from something you are working on.

I encourage you to visit your list often and add details as they come to you— you don’t want to forget them (and you will).

As you begin to remove items from your list because they are completed or in progress, feel free to add more ideas but don’t go over the total number and risk becoming overwhelmed.

Organization is key in sustaining a writing practice.

Before you know it, you will be organized and inspired to write!

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.


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2 Responses

  1. Personally, I can relate to feeling overwhelmed by my ideas and not knowing where to start. Making a list has been a helpful tool for me, and I appreciate the suggestion to cap the list at 30 ideas for now to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Organizing my list by genre or project has also been useful, and I like the idea of identifying the top three most appealing ideas to start with.

    Overall, having a comprehensive list of writing ideas is a great tool for sustaining a writing practice and staying inspired to write. As the author suggests, organization is key, and I will definitely be using these tips in my own writing practice. And thanks for the humorous intro about going crazy from too many ideas!

  2. Hi, Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m so glad that you found this blog helpful. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all our great ideas! Good luck. Keep me posted.

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I’m Kathryn Kay, the founder of A Writer Within. I offer support and inspiration to women writers through one-on-one coaching, editing services, and week-long retreats in Tuscany. My focus is on getting writers into the creative flow, beyond their internal critic, and their very best stories onto the page. If you have a writer within, let’s set her free!

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