How the “Chaos to Clarity” writing system powers you to completion of your first (or next) book.
Huge writing projects are stressful and overwhelming. They are hard to start. And it is tough to maintain consistency while the destination lies far over the horizon.
That is why I created this Trello template which you can have for free. I only ask for your feedback or suggestions on how it could be improved.
Get yourself hooked on consistency by focusing on tasks that:
- Are so simple that failure is impossible,
- Move you forward at a steady pace, and
- Allow you to measure progress toward your destination.
A system is a way of turning a monumental goal — such as writing a book — into lots of little tasks — like writing a phrase. Once you have completed all the little tasks, you’ve achieved your main goal.
The most powerful systems reward consistency rather than rewarding only major milestones. That is because major milestone celebrations create a boom and crash economy in our reward system. Instead, we want to train ourselves to have consistent, tiny accomplishments that make good habits feel good.
The trick is to manage those little tasks so that completing each one feels like an accomplishment. That helps us settle into a comfortable routine until our goals are reached.
In effect, we operate under “cruise control.”
I created the Chaos to Clarity system because I needed a system:
- That has zero friction. It should not have features that get in the way of goals.
- Maximizes flexibility without adding complexity. We do not always work linearly or structurally. We want systems to add order to our chaotic processes without becoming chaotic themselves.
- Uses powerful, proven methods. When you are doing something consistently, you want it to be the best use of your time.
A zero friction writing system means being as simple as possible.
All you have to do to get started right now is open the Trello link and click the “Create board from template” button. https://trello.com/b/Cyn3R3Xh/story-writing. Then start adding scenes and characters.
Or, you can use the “Quick-Start” guide below to get up to speed first.
Maximizing flexibility means you can write the way you want.
Using the free Trello template, you can:
- Create all of your scene cards before you start writing.
- Start writing by the seat of your pants and create scene cards to keep track of where you are.
- Create some of your scene cards and switch between scene writing and structuring at your heart’s content.
- Something else.
The point is that the system is there to support you and stay out of your way, not to tell you what to do (except for the scene writing checklist which you can modify.)
Proven methods mean methods used by experts I trust.
I have used best-selling ghostwriter, Joshua Lisec’s “The Best Way to Say It” writing system for over 16 months. “The Best Way to Say It: How to Write Anything from Blogs to Books with Epic Persuasion.” https://gumroad.com/a/753013875/hRula (enthusiastically affiliated).
In fact, “The Best Way to Say it” is the system I used to get my first article published in a major publication.
Lisec’s system breaks down writing content to get your point across consistently every time. It uses an easy-to-follow Brain-Dump, Restructure, and Refine checklist.
Chaos to Clarity wraps a simplified version of Lisec’s system into a Trello template. For a novel:
- Create 50–60 scene cards with an “In which” phrase describing it as the card title.
- Drag scenes around to make your structure work.
- Complete each scene’s simplified “Best Way”-style checklist.
- As you complete scenes, move them to the appropriate Act under “Done.”
Now, try the Chaos to Clarity writing system on for size.
The above explains what the Chaos to Clarity system can do for you. But to see the benefits, you must see it in action. After I created my first few scene cards and tested out the scene-writing checklist, I knew I had something that was going to power me to the completion of my next book.
Use the quick start guide below to get up to speed and get the most out of the Chaos to Clarity system.
“Chaos to Clarity” Writing System Quick Start Guide.
Use this guide to quickly get started on a new story. You can substitute Google Docs documents with your preferred system, but the Trello template has only been tested with Google Docs.
- Once a week, place all of the cards you plan to complete that week in the “To-Do” list.
- Move cards that you have started working on to the “Doing” list.
- Move cards that are done to the “Done” list.
Create your Trello board.
- Create a new Trello board from the template. You will be prompted to create an account if you do not have one. Use the “free” option when creating an account. https://trello.com/b/Cyn3R3Xh/story-writing
- Name the board the same as the title of your book. You can always change it later.
Create your first “To-Do” item.
- Click the icon on the bottom-right corner of the “To Do” list.
- Replace “Miscellaneous Task” with “Create Main Character Card.”
- Click on “Create Card.”
- Drag the card to the “Doing” list.
Set up your Characters list.
- Click on the “Characters” heading card at the top of the “Characters” list.
- Click on the “Attachment” button on the right and attach a Google Docs Character Sheet template. If you do not have one, make one in Google There is a sample link in the description.
- Optionally, update the description of the “Characters” card with links to your preferred character creation system.
- Close the card.
Create your Main Character Card.
- Click on the “Characters” heading card.
- Click on the Character Sheet document you created above.
- Select File->Copy to create a copy of the sheet.
- Give the file name your main character’s name or use your preferred naming convention.
- Close the “Characters” card.
- Click on the “Main Character” card.
- Use the “Add an attachment” button to add your main character’s character sheet.
- Optionally give your character a brief description.
- Optionally attach an image representing your main character to the card and make it the cover for the card.
- Close the card.
- Move the card to the “To do” list.
- Move the “Create Main Character Card” card from the “Doing” list to the “Done” list.
- Optionally, click on the “Create Main Character Card” and then click the “Archive” button on the right. This will keep your “Done” list from being cluttered with miscellaneous items.
- Always move completed cards to “Done” before archiving.
Work on writing your Main Character.
- Move your Main Character Card to the “Doing” list.
- Click on the Google Docs character sheet.
- Close the sheet when you are tired of working on it.
- If you finish the sheet, move your main character to the “Done” list below the “Characters” heading card.
Create your First Scene Card.
- Create a scene in Google Docs using your preferred naming convention.
- Click the icon on the bottom-right corner of the “Act I” list.
- Replace the title with a phrase describing what the scene is about.
- Attach the scene document using the “Attachments” button on the right.
Writing your first scene.
- Move your first scene card from the “Act I Backlog” list to the “Doing” list.
- Optionally, complete the scene outline in the description or delete it and enter a summary of the scene.
- Click on the attached Google Doc to open it.
- Use the “Scene writing system” checklist to write the scene.
- After the checklist is complete, move the card to the “Done” list below the appropriate scene.