Starting a project can sometimes be the hardest task of the whole process- ask any writer about book and article proposals, and they'll groan outright. I conjecture the same is true in the other creative arts as well. When you are working on a specific story you want to tell, it is helpful to map out how you want to go. I tend to be an 'in the moment' scrapper: I grab the picture that speaks to me that moment, and then go from there. I am completely different when I am focusing on a specific time or story- I like neat, organized, and easy to complete, or I'll never finish. I am currently working on a small mini album of my trip to Colorado last month. I took this with me on the plane, so it had to be portable and easy to accomplish. Many scrappers will tell you this- when you are focusing on specifics, decide in advance just how much product you are going to use and pull it all out. (Most kits are created this way- papers coordinate with embellishments and ribbon, etc. but can be mixed and matched for a cohesive look.) It will solve the endless deliberations of just what exactly to put on the page.

For this project, I have simple piles, as you can see below. They are grouped into events, and they go in chronological order clockwise from the left side of the desk to the right. The last pile is the papers and embellishments I have chosen to use. (Scraps leftover from larger projects are great for mini-albums!) This is simple and fast. Minus the journaling, my Colorado album came together in about an hour and a half start to finish. Larger projects may require a more intense organization system. With my wedding album, I've worked in chunks (rehearsal, arriving, family, ceremony, reception, etc.) with the same use of product and color through out. Sometimes it helps to use a sketch or two and continually rotate them- which will also help with the cohesiveness of a story. I've linked to a bunch of advice about organizing those "big" stories at the bottom of this post.
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Sometimes it is helpful to organize your thoughts into a beginning, middle, and end type structure before you get down to work. You can see how I've done this in the picture below (the page is from my art journal). It is just a quick brainstorming of what you want to say. I sometimes even jot a color combination that comes to mind when I think of the subject, like blue and green on a layout about James.
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I also think it is important to note that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, particularly in scrapbooking (I can't say the same for writing, which is a whole different breed all together.) There are magazines and web sites chock full of inspiration. One of the best tools in a scrapper's toolbox is the sketch- the underlying design to a beautiful layout. These sketches can be used over and over again. I also collect these in my scrapping journal for reference. I get inspired by so many different things each time I look at them- sometimes it's the colors, sometimes it's a technique the artist used, sometimes it's a photograph. When working on a large project, pick a few that really work for what you are doing, and use them over and over. It makes it so much easier.
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If you take the time to organize a road map before beginning a project, that time invested will pay vast dividends during the actual project. Decide what main colors you are going to use: my Colorado album has mostly blue and green with pops of red and black. Decide what products/embellishments you want to use: ribbon, buttons, alphas, paint, etc. Decide if you are going to use a sketch or not, and of course, decide which photographs tell the story the best.

Below are links to advice and information on each of these steps.
Week in the Life Album Creation– A good demonstration of working a plan and going with it. Also chock full of tips in general about basic digital skills. (Ali Edwards)
Anatomy of an Album– Another great show and tell of an album at completion- seeing the organization and the hows and whys of how to make it work. (Ali Edwards)
Illustrating Stories– A great all around resource for things related to telling the story, chock full of links to sketch, challenge, dare, and tutorial blogs. (Liz Ness and Jackie Wood)
Shimelle– I can't recommend her online classes/tutorials enough. I took a few for free, and have since paid for others- it is delightful. She does a wonderful job. Clear instructions, lots of support. (Shimelle Lane)
Organizing a theme album– Two Peas has tons, and I do mean tons, of great tutorials. This one is great- explains how to organize and get started. (Tia Bennet)
Using one product line– This is another 2peas tutorial that really explains how to use a limited amount of products from one product line to speed up scrapbooking. (Anne Heyen)

I'll update this as I think of more…this is all I can think of off the top of my head.

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Making a road map (Collecting Stories #5)

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