Monday, March 14, 2011

Musing on Organization.

This week's topic is "How do you keep your novels, notes, and ideas organized."

I may be a hypocrite when it comes to being organized. I always preach about how important it is to outline and plot and research and save copies of everything. But does that mean my desk and filing cabinet are in perfect order? Er... not exactly.

A third of my notes are in a notebook. Most of those are things I had to jot down in a hurry, or lists I made so I don't forget something, or scribbles of brainstorming, or a few nonsense doodles that came out during a mental block. In other words, no one could read my notebook front to back and make sense of it. Not even me.

An other third of my notes are typed up, printed out, and in a three-ring binder or folder. But even those are messy because I have a ton of them. They sit in a stack, all of them unlabeled so I have to open each one and peek inside to find the one I need. Brilliant, I know.

The final third of my notes are typed up and saved on my computer (with a second copy on my flash drive). These are the most organized of my notes. Every three months or so, I take the time to re-organize my saved documents. I delete stuff I don't need, print out stuff that would be easier to reference on a hard copy, and then re-arrange the rest.

As for my ideas - I assume this means ideas for new projects? Because ideas for current projects are scribbled in my notebook somewhere. Ideas for projects I haven't started on yet stay lodged in my brain.

Keeping novels organized is easy. I sketch and outline for those and save copies of everything on a folder on my computer (and flash drive). I have a folder for each book and short story I've ever worked on so I can always go back to it and pick up where I left off if I need to.

Um, okay, this post ended up much shorter and much more pointless than I anticipated. I don't really have a moral or thought-provoking ending for you. My stuff isn't in neat-freak perfect order, but I know where everything is. Is there a better method out there? Probably. Maybe one of the other Wicked Writers will elaborate on that.

As for me, I'm off to work on Dark Heirloom some more. Have a great Monday. :-)


  1. I find myself a lot like you. I'm far from organized, in fact, I'm referred to as a paper hoarder by my friends and family.
    I have notes written EVERYWHERE about my books; ones I'm working on, ideas for new ones, names, etc.
    However, when it comes to plotting, I use a huge mirror, post-its, and dry erase markers. I've been known to get out of bed in the middle of the night to scribble something on the mirror in the dark; only one thing came out interesting in my sleep addled writing.
    As for my desk? That's another story for a day when everyone wants to cringe. You might want to go check out The Cave. It has dozens of published authors desks and writing areas. The address is

  2. Thanks for the link, CL. Those pics were entertaining! I'm inspired to push my desk near a window so I can write with dry erase markers on the glass. I can just imagine waking in the morning with marker ink smeared across my face, then notice a huge smudge on the window, followed by a very loud cuss. :D

  3. I had a friend in sales who told me every time he cleaned his desk, he got one new piece of business. At one point, he had 7 desks piled high with leads he was never going to get to in his lifetime.

    I'm feeling like a hamster with all the paperwork and now paperback novels I'm trying to get through. I'll have to be immortal to get finish them.

    But isn't it nice when we sit down to a nice, cleaned office? I did that last week. The words flew from my fingers!

    I use big Post-It tablets with chapters in a grid pattern, turning points, black moments and color code them for sex scenes, action/suspense, and in whose POV the chapter is written in. Under the scenes I run my timeline so I don't get the days and nights mixed up and stay consistent. I'm known to cover part of a wall with those Post-It pages while I'm working at a coffee shop. A friend of mine, who used to be a TV writer, showed me her board and she does the same thing with 4x4" Post-Its, and has a writing software program that goes along with it.

  4. I enjoyed reading how you do your organization. No moral of the story - but hey, it helped me look at how to improve my own system...

    Sharon - I am having trouble visualizing your post it note system. Any chance of you snapping a couple of pictures?

  5. George,
    I'm working on a new one now, should have the blocks done by this weekend and will snap a photo and send it, George. You can also Google Alex Sokoloff and she gives a pretty good detailed description on her blog, as well as a sample photo. She talks about the 3 act book (in Act II has Part I and Part 2), and what has to happen in each section. She's rather brilliant. Being a playwrite taught her to create this, and she finds it works for novels. I had the pleasure of hosting a seminar at my house last April for my romance chapter, as a writing retreat.