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Organizing my ideas

Like many writers I am constantly scribbling down notes: story ideas that pop into my head, random lines I really like the sound of, thoughts on expanding books I'm already working on, and so on. I carry a notebook and pen everywhere (even the purse I only use a few times a year has a little notepad and pen tucked into it, so it'll be ready if I need it). Which is great for getting the ideas down, but no so great for finding them later. Especially now that I have several notebooks full of various ideas all jumbled together.

Today I decided to get organized. I've had an index card box for quite a while, but have only been using it to hold cards on the story ideas that are reasonably well developed, with a reference to each book that has notes on that idea (I number my notebooks). So, for ex, the LOKI'S BOY card just had the title and "notes in book #3, a few chapts in book #5". All the little snippets and plot ideas that hadn't expanded beyond a couple pages were still floating in limbo. I realized, flipping through my current notebook, how easily I could miss some of the exciting stuff I've jotted down.

So I'm going through each of my notebooks (just finished the current one, moving to the archived books), writing each idea on an index card and filing it. My card box is now divided into "Full Ideas", "Plot Tidbits", "Characters", and "Misc" (which right now contains random lines, setting ideas, and world-building thoughts, one or more of which may get its own section if I find I have enough related notes).

The idea is that when I'm looking for a story idea, or looking for ideas to build on one I'm trying to work with, I can just open up the box and shuffle through the cards, and find a whole ton of inspiration all at once! We'll see how that works out. ;)

How do you keep track of your ideas, especially the ones for stories you can't write just yet, or that don't really have a story yet?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 29th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
I am the queen of not being organized unfortuately..

Hey... on a different note entirely. I have 12 pages, a chapter that I need a really quick read on. Would you be able to take a look. If not, no worries at all. I just thought of you because you're beautiful. :)
Sep. 29th, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC)
Sure, just send it along to megan at megancrewe dot com, and let me know what sort of feedback you're looking for. :)
Sep. 29th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
I'm the same way, I'll write on any surface I can find when I have an idea. (They seem to come at the most inopportune times, don't they?) For most of my dedicated novels, however, I tend to keep a journal for each story I come up with. I have WAY too many journals spread out; many of them have more than one ideas.

Come to think of it, I really don't have any sense of organization. I'm probably not one to talk to about getting those things together in any kind of planned way. ;)
Oct. 2nd, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, I can never keep all the ideas for one story in one journal... because I can only really carry one at a time, and I'm always getting ideas for more than one! The best I can manage is to get the five-subject notebooks and dedicate one section to each of the major ideas I'm working on (plus one section for random stuff). And then of course those notes overflow into the next notebook as each fills up... It's hard to keep track!
Sep. 29th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
I do not have a good system -- I need a better one! Right now, I hold everything in my head (no wonder I have migraines, heh). But at the moment, I'm working on two revisions and planning a new ms...and my head's overflowing! I like the note cards. I have a notebook which has some stuff in it, but I always forget to look.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, I can't imagine trying to keep it all in my head! I forget things so easily. (And I know this because I'll go back and look over notes I jotted down even a few days ago and go, oh! I forgot I had that great idea! :P ) I couldn't get by without my notebooks.
Sep. 29th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
I use supernotecard from www.mindola.com

My process seems to have worked out to:

step one: Write and freewrite snippets from different characters up to 20K words.

step two: Organize those snippets into characters and what happens to them.

step three: Create a general outling, including POV.

step four: Write to fill in some of that outline up to 50K

step five: Examine outline, fill in the outline, figure out the plothols.

setp six: Finish the draft

And then I revise :D

It seems to be working quite well for my current WiP - almost done.

Oct. 2nd, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I outline pretty thoroughly, but never so thoroughly that the outline pretty much becomes the rough draft!
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
I don't think of it as the outline becoming the first draft. It's easier for me to think of going back and forth between writing and outlining. They're in separate places, supernotecard for the outline and Word for the draft.
Sep. 29th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
I have no idea how I keep track of my ideas. I try and keep them all in one place . . . that helps.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
True. At least I know where all my notebooks are!
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
I write all my ideas down in computer files...early on in a project I might have a few written pages, plus some plot and character notes, all in one file...as the project progresses, I move the story part to one file and keep all the notes separate. I also sometimes stick scenes I cut into the "notes" file. My notes file for MUG ended up being longer than the novel itself!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
I don't know why, but I find it much easier to brainstorm and play with ideas on paper than on the computer. I've done a few outlines on the computer and even then I always end up printing them out to work with them, so I stopped trying. :P

Sounds like a good way to keep everything organized, though!
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
I tend to write my ideas down in my laptop right away, or more usually, my purple leather journal. If that's not there then on any scrap of paper I can find. As long as I write it down, cause if I don't I'll most likely forget it.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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