Following are some steps to help you organize when you begin your project:
1. Make a brief outline before you start to compile your stories. It should not take you longer than a few minutes. A Timeline of your life may be your guide. This becomes your map.
2. Write a few notes on what your finished product is. Not only does this help you develop and stick to a theme, but it helps you focus on an introduction and conclusion for your finished product.
3. Write—or at least think about—your story in sections, chapters, blocks, sub-themes. Again, it helps to keep you on track and forces you to toss out the material you do not need. Yes—as hard as that is—we all have to do it; however, as we want to chronicle all our stories, you may put some that do not fit well in an addendum, so do not throw them too far!
4. Interview family members or people relevant to your writing. Make a list of names, contact information, and the date of the interview. Be sure to get a signed release form allowing you to use the material. (Interviewing will be covered later.)
5. Stories are always more fun to read when you sprinkle anecdotes and quotes from people you have interviewed. Other quotes may come from diaries, letters, books, or old newspaper accounts. Use famous quotes if relevant to your story. (Be sure to document your sources.)
6. Try writing without your notes, but refer to your notes when you need to. Also make notes as you go about your daily life or as they occur to you. You may choose to incorporate them later or they may become other stories.
7. As you write, use transitions to move your story from one story to the next or one chapter to the next. Transitions help readers follow the story easily.
8. Justify everything you use. Ask yourself questions: Is this advancing the story? Why is this important? What happens to the story if I leave it out? (Remember, do not toss it far, but you may wish to “relocate” it until which time it may fit your overall goal.)
9. Know how you want to end your story before you start. It makes it easier to write when you know where to stop. So when you are thinking of your opening, think, too, of your ending.
Whether you decide to store your stories which are in progress or finished on your computer or in a paper filing system, there are several steps and approaches you might use.
One author I know keeps a filing system of folders in her computer for Stories in Progress; Stories Which Need Proofing; Completed Stories; and Stories Sent to Publishers. This system can work in paper form as well.
Another approach could be to keep folders for various topics or time frames. For example: School Years; Vacations; Teenage Years. Also, there could be some overlapping in some cases, and you may wish to consider a Miscellaneous file.
You may wish to use your computer for organizing your work in a series of folders and sub-folders, but , wisely, you may wish to print your stories as well. AND...don't forget to back-up your files!