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Keeping track of your ideas

We are writers, we have story ideas--we can agree on this, yes? :) And in some way, we generally like to hold on to those ideas for future use.

Me, I mostly go the standard route. Carry a notebook with me everywhere, when one fills up, it goes into my notebook box and I start a new one. Unfortunately, this method has its downsides. Yes, I have all my ideas written down. No, I do not enjoy paging through notebook after notebook trying to find that one page where I distantly remember writing that great first paragraph or those insightful character notes.

To try to combat this, I started using my trusty index cards for more than just outlining. I have a bunch of them with the major ideas I've come up with in the last few years (i.e., the ones I've come back to more than once and keep thinking about), which I keep in a box like this. I even numbered my notebooks, and wrote which notebooks had notes on each idea on that idea's card.

However, that only works so well. Because sometimes I want to go back and find notes on one of the many ideas that were not big enough that I filled out an index card on them. Or that weren't all that big at the time, but I find myself thinking about them again and maybe they could use an index card... if I could find those first notes. I suppose I could go through all my notebooks and write every single idea on its own index card, but I fear then I might have almost just as hard a time finding anything in my little box. I might need more than one box! I have a lot of little bits and pieces of ideas.

I may end up doing that at some point, when I have a nice long stretch of free time. In the meantime, I'm curious--how do the rest of you keep track of your ideas? Any of you have some excellent method I can steal? :D

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
skutir
Feb. 13th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not very organized in that regard, but I do keep word files going with ideas so I don't lose them. If it's an idea to a WIP I might add it to a word file with notes on that text or scrawl it on the latest draft or write a private blog entry to transfer to the word file later.
megancrewe
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
Putting them on the computer's not a bad idea... I just get so many away from the computer, and then I am lazy about transferring them. :P
juliakarr
Feb. 13th, 2008 05:43 pm (UTC)
I'll be looking forward to what others say. I have notebooks and Word files full of ideas and partial storylines. I need to get organized, too!
megancrewe
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
Seems like no one's all that organized! Must be a writerly thing. ;)
astres
Feb. 13th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
Most of the ideas that I do have are old ideas from when I was in grade 10-12. Now, when I get ideas, I put them in livejournal posts. I'm probably going to start tagging them so I can find them easily.
megancrewe
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
That's a cool idea, putting them in posts and then tagging them. I think I'd have to start a separate LJ for that, though, or this one would get really cluttered. :)
astres
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
You could just post them as private and tag them "ideas" or something like that.

Also, you could make a private community and then you could post right off your lj account (no switching log ins)
writerpo
Feb. 13th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
I'm the worst person to ask. I don't tend to write down my ideas. I let them go swirly in my head for a few years until I finally get down to the task of writing. I've lost more ideas than I care to count, this way, but most of them are so half-formed anyway, that I need them to mix with other ideas before they become anything worth pursuing.

~Peter
megancrewe
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
Yeah, I let the ideas "go swirly" for a while, too (I like to call it "letting them percolate"), I just tend to jot down any particularly sparkly bits. Which can mean I have notes for one idea spread out through three different notebooks. :P
writerpo
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
That's why I don't write them down. I can't be bothered to wade through scraps of papers and various notebooks to actually find the ideas. I actually do have some lined journals filled with ideas, but they're more archaeological oddities than practical storage. The only thing that's ever made it out of one of these journals was a scene from my latest novel, which was the only thing that survived when the novel originally died in diskette wipe disaster four years ago. That scrap saved the novel.

~Peter
rj_anderson
Feb. 13th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
Two-pocket folders, one for each WiP. I tuck everything in there -- printed-out research notes, index cards, restaurant receipts on which I have scribbled bits of dialogue, etc. If it starts to overflow, I get another two-pocket folder of the same color and separate the notes into "Research" and "Story".

My folder for KNIFE is green; my folders for TOUCHING INDIGO (and they are stuffed to bursting at the moment -- I might have to start a third folder) are blue.
megancrewe
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
Oooh, I like the idea of having pocket folders for WIPs. I manage to keep pretty good track of my notes on my big projects, but not that good. I might end up trying that myself.

But what do you do with ideas that aren't related to your major WIPs?
rj_anderson
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:34 am (UTC)
I don't have that many ideas! I have to go looking for them... and I don't tend to look, unless I need one.
anywherebeyond
Feb. 14th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
Ha ha, I don't write anything down. If an idea is good enough for me to complete, I won't forget it. It's my own personal slush pile. :D
megancrewe
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
Heh. I tend to remember the ideas that really work (that's how I know I want to go looking for them), but once I start working out details... The details I forget. Sometimes I even forget details about the story I'm in the middle of writing. So I make lots of notes and lists and stuff. :)
fabulousfrock
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
Like Saundra I remember all the basic ideas if they're good. Sometimes I sit down to work out specifics and I just have a plotting notebook for that...plotting is always deliberate, so it's easy to keep everything in one notebook. (Although I have sometimes had conversations with Dade or something and failed to write it down...)
deva_fagan
Feb. 14th, 2008 09:35 am (UTC)
I have files on my computer for different proto-projects. I write things down on scraps of paper when I think of them, stuff them in my purse, and then later on I either copy them into the file for the project, or if they are for something new and it's just a tiny idea, I put them into a separate "tidbits" file. Occasionally I go trolling through the tidbits file to see if anything sparks out at me as something I could add to a current project (or in case something suddenly explodes from a tidbit to a full-fledged plot or character concept).

And I have a small notebook that fits in my purse that I've been using for the past few weeks to record notes on the pirate book, since that's what I've been obsessing over the most (that is, until last night when an entirely different story walked into my brain, unbidden).

Good luck with your note-taking!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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The Clouded Sky
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