SusanBeth--Writing Question


I was re-reading your Kit construction node and I realized you're a published writer.

How do you organize your index cards, WIPs, and all the little things that writers (or at least I) collect such as names, phrases, or mannerisms?

I'd enjoy hearing anything about the organization side of your writing life.


Syndicate content

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

My Writing Organization

I'm not SusanBeth, but this post looks lonely without any comments. So here's what my organizational process is:

Index Cards: Don't keep those. They drive me crazy, and once they start annoying me, I throw them away. But then, I also don't outline, so no need for them there.

Names, Phrases, Mannerisms: Don't save those either. I'd just spend time accumulating them and never use them. The last short story I wrote, I just plucked names out of a program for an event I was attending.

WIPs: I have a folder called Current Projects. Then it's broken down into Novels, Short Stories, etc. Inside those are folders for each project. When I get a response back for a sub, I PDF, save with the name and date. Novel is in Scrivener, and short stories are in Word.

Submissions: It's a steno pad. When a story gets a response, I highlight the entry so I know that sub is done.

Story Bible for Novel: It's also a steno pad. The first few pages I divided in four and used those for the alphabet. I put names of characters and place names in there. After that, it's a character per page. Not a lot of stuff. It's not like I write a character description and have to add everything to the character page. It's more like if I refer back to the description, then I'll grab the detail.

Research: I try to get away with as little as I can. I don't do any for my short stories. For my novel, it did require more extensive research for the location. Since I'm visual spatial, I put images on a slide to illustrate the research. (I'm a PowerPoint speed demon, so this didn't take time -- but it helped me remember the research better).

My organization goal is to keep it as simple as possible and do as little as possible. No binders, no tabs, etc. Creating new work is more important.

Thanks, Linda!


I appreciate sharing what works for you.

And I like the idea of keeping an entire submissions binder. Brilliant!


Whoo. Big subject

There's the way I organized things originally:

The writing itself I did in Word/various other wps over the years, all supporting/organizing stuff kept on paper in a binder devoted to each project, plus 'general writing stuff' notebooks where I kept random ideas, bits of dialog, names I liked, and all that writerly cruft.

The novel binders had tabs for various categories: character info, outline, timeline, list of locations/maps, list of clues/red herrings, list of things to research, list of things to correct (i.e., stuff I'd written I knew was bad and desperately needed to improve) and so forth.

Most of this was done in the obvious way. The outline was a tad different: I plotted my novels out on index cards (yay!), one scene per card, so I could shuffle them about as I went along. These were plain white cards at the start, but as the process went on I added colored stickers in one corner of the card to ID the pov character for the scene, plus I did various other markings to note other aspects I wanted to track, such as scenes with physical conflict and scenes with humor and scenes that belonged to particular subplots. (This would look like a confusing mess to an outsider, but it conveyed to me the info I needed.)

Anyway, after I had my plot semi-set, I glued the index cards to sheets of paper in a 2x2 grip (horizontally) using just a dab of glue stick. This made it relatively easy to pull the cards off when I inevitably made changes as the writing went on.

Oh, and I printed out the day's writing at the end of each session and kept that in the binder, too. As a backup, but I also did some rewriting on it.

That was stage one. At some point I stopped using the paper binder and kept everything on the computer. I'd make a folder on my desktop for each project, and kept all the files for the project in there, using wp files plus various others. For example, I used a spreadsheet for my outline. This let me assign various columns for word ct, and what stage of work that scene was in, and POV characters, and level of tension in scene, and on and on, with the text from the index card typed into the last column. I used to do the timeline in a paint program!

But I still printed a hardcopy of my writing as I went along, and I still used index cards as I worked out the plot.

Overall, this had it good and bad aspects -- it kept the info neatly corraled, but finding stuff was sometimes hard and switching programs every time I wanted to review the outline, say, was a bit of a PITA.

Currently I use Scrivener for virtually all my writing and organizing. Each scene is in its own section (I Chapterize later on) and all the various other stuff goes into sections in the Research area, broken down into pretty much the same as the sections in my old binders. Which is very neat, and makes finding stuff very easy, though sometimes Scrivener isn't quite as, uh, complex? detailed? flexible? as using the dedicated programs I used before.

But I still use index cards for the original outlining. NOTHING can replace index cards. :D

You and index cards=)


Thanks so much for taking the time to post.

I do have one more question: do you organize your writer's notebook with names, places, character descriptions, etc.? Or do you record in it and it stays that way?


Hey, I want them to use an Index Card for my gravestone. :D

The initial idea was that I'd organize my general notebook. But I never got around to it, so it's basically a stream of consciousness mishmash.

As for using it -- sometimes when I'm feeling uninspired, I just pick one up (I've filled four notebooks so far), open to a random page, and start reading. Generally within a handful of pages I'll come across something that gives me an idea. Actually, it's often bits of several notes, like a line of dialog from one, a character name from another, an intriguing chunk from a news story I'd made a note about. All mushed together.

Note: I almost never use exactly what I've actually written down, it just kicks off one of those thought chains that goes, "Hmm. Yeah, a train crash, caused by some terrorist... Yeah, but what if my hero is a vet? And suddenly he has to treat a human because he's the only medical person around? But wouldn't there be bound to be doctor or nurse or whatever on an entire passenger train? Well, maybe not as many people are there. Do they have small trains? Maybe just one passenger car on what's mostly a freight train. No, that sounds stupid. And there's always houses and such along train tracks so help would arrive soon. What if it was a small plane instead? Then they could sort of crash land in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and maybe the vet is a woman, and another passenger -- maybe the injured guy she has to treat? -- is the fiance she just broke up with because he was cheating on her? But why would they be on the same small plane? Well, they're on the way back from a vacation, and it was only there that she learned about the cheating. Maybe he cheated ON the vacation? And the "other woman" is aboard the plane, too? Or it was a business trip, and it's a coworker he was involved with. But why would the vet be aboard? What kind of business could they be involved in?"

And so on. Eventually I settle on some idea that appeals, but very likely it is so mutated from the note(s) that kicked the chain off that nobody but me would recognize the link. :D

interesting use of your writer's notebook


I like the way you used your writer's notebook. I NEVER am without ideas, but I always think, "Oooh, this name would be perfect for a villain, or this setting would be perfect for a romantic tiff."

On a side note, you still using your writer's kit for life management? I was super-productive with scancards, but I've run out of cards and have been balking at making more. I'm on summer break--so to be fair, I'm balking at doing anything.

Except daydream about having the 'perfect' time management tool. Ah, elusive nirvana.

Needless to say, I'm thinking about returning to your writer's kit...I just want a SIMPLE organizational tool.

As always, thank you so much for sharing,