tracking a long novel's chapter content

Ah, Sigh. Earthly reality. Not my strongest point.
Problem. 27 chapters total. Many rewrites. But, have that part under control with version numbers in headers of each chapter.

Need to figure out HOW to THINK ABOUT planning DIY pages to somehow outline "pieces and parts" in each chapter, such as, vignettes in each chapter, anecdotes in each chapter.... so I dont accidentally repeat one, or more likely, tell a similar but not the same vignette, point, joke, etc. LATER in the book. The book is too huge (800 pages) to see overall.

I have plotted a MOTIFS project page foldout using InControl, an old piece of mac os9 software that does quite well for that aspect as long as one isnt wanting more than columns, column headers, boxes, and horizontal lines.

BUT, I keep looking for a wondrous earthly project planning page(s) that will somehow keep track of 'pieces and parts' in each chapter... so that I can I guess, lay them out and compare them, chapter by chapter to make sure the contents of each chapter stand alone without repetition elsehwere.

I hope I am being clear. I know, it's a little like asking for an orderly maze to be made from a huge pile of string. lol

If you have any human... or angelic ideas... I would be forever grateful


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WOW! 800 Pages?!?

I don't think I could write 800 words! CONGRATULATIONS!

I honestly have never written a thing, but when reading your post, I thought of the StoryBoard templates posted in the Creativity Pack. I think there is one with 4 boxes and one with 6 boxes. What if for each chapter, you had one page and on each page you would assign each box... upper left for vignette, upper right for jokes, lower left for points, etc. Then you could lay all of those chapters in front of you and get a sense of whether you repeated yourself or not... Just an idea - like I said, I have never written a thing!

Best of luck with your book! WOW Again!
Smiles, nay nay

That card-hole system


The first thing I thought of when I read the things you're trying to track is about that system that used to be used a long time ago--I wish I could remember the details, but it's here on the site somewhere.

Snapshot of system:

Cards, all of the same size.
Written on each card is a single piece of data.
Around the edges of the card are holes, the same number of holes in the same positions on each card.
Certain holes represent certain categories of information--in your case, chapters, types of information like anecdotes, vignettes, points, character history, etc.
For each card's data, the holes that apply to that data get snipped.
A clipped coat hanger or other piece of wire is your sorting tool.
A large box is your data repository.

The idea is that you write each little snippet of data on its own card, then categorize the data by snipping all the applicable holes. Then you stack all the cards together and use the coat hanger to 'sort out' the pieces you want to review. Example: If you want to see all the bits that appear in Chapter 1, you stick the hanger through your *entire* stack of cards in the 'chapter 1' hole. Any cards that fall out (having been previously snipped in that hole) are the Chapter 1 cards. Likewise, if you want to pull out 'anecdotes' appearing anywhere in the book, you'd stick the hanger through the 'anecdotes' hole instead, then shake the deck and the anecdotes would fall out, regardless of chapter.

The trick is finding cards that have holes punched that way. But if you pick up a spiral bound notebook of cards, you could remove the wire and use the holes that were used for the binding. You could do the same thing if you punched your own cards with a comb-binding punch, I think.

This is basically a searchable paper database. You could do the same sort of thing with any software that allowed you to 'tag' snippets of data. You'd then search for your tags and the data would be in your search results.

It would take a while to set this little doohickey up--both obtaining materials and transferring data to said device. Personally I'd print out your entire book in columnar format, then cut the thing apart with scissors and paste the paragraphs onto the cards. You might like 5x8 cards if your anecdotes are long. That also gives you lots of room for your holes and categorization.

Say the left edge is holes for which characters are involved. Then the top edge is, say, what kind of information. The right edge could be chapter numbers (in some fancy numbering system if you haven't got enough holes for a 1:1 relationship). The bottom could be overflow--extra characters or extra chapters or extra categories if needed.

Anyway, you can search the site for a more elegant description of the system and its history. I think this would solve your problem if you had the patience and diligence to set it up and keep it maintained.

[Edited: Found the old thread here: Linkety Link]

more suggestions

My first question is... are you looking for a paper based solution or a computer based?

If you're looking for a paper based one, then i agree with the others.

If you're looking for a OS X solution, might I recommend you take a look at Voodoo Pad Lite? This little app works like a wiki to corral all your snippets and ideas. So that you could keep track of all yer characters, plot points, world ideas, languages, etc.

If there's anything else we can do to help, please let us know.

Scrivener to the rescue!

My first thought was, boy do you need Scrivener! It's a fantastic writer's program for the Mac and would help you with a lot of your concerns. My second thought was... maybe you don't want a computer solution, in which case a notebook with tabs to cover most of your issues might work. I'm assuming your novel is fantasy of some sort since few other kinds of novels run that long. If so, you may want to check out the pages for some ideas of how others deal with novels of that length.

wow, you guys are so smart

thank you sincerely for your paper and software solutions for the issues regarding my trying to keep track of the seeming ga-zillion puzzle pioeces of my manuscript. I appreciate it. Your suggestions were heavenly... and I think I finally understand the paper/punch/spiral 3x5 cards thingie. (physical manifestations in matter are often so puzzling on earth)

I did also download Scrivener and am slowly working my way through the tutorial, not sure yet how it all works, but I am 'winging it' to see what I can learn and how to apply it.

I had one teeny new idea... you know how ideas come to you rather than you thinking them up sometimes? Well, here's my teeny idea... transparent pages. I am not sure what this means practically, but you know, in other worlds, not on earth, one can see through things easily. I was just thinking about that film with what's that fellows name? Tom Cruise, where he has computer lightup letters and numbers 'in the air' and moves them around with his hands. Now there's a Divine idea. And, when I saw that, instead of thinking I was seeing something new; it looked old. On a different planet, of course.

In a more down to earth vein, I was thinking if only I could see through the 'layers' to each motif of each chapter, overlaying one chapter's data over other hcapters' data.... and 'seeing through' them... sort of like Photo Shop, working in layers... or like remember when people made 'multimedia' dvds thinking they were the next BIG tech, and they worked in layers, some of which were transparent, some opaque?

Ok, ok, enough of all this I think I might try to upload the 'schema' I created, a pix of it, just so maybe it would be helpful to someone... it is in In Control which is an old OX9 neat piece of software that is no longer made, but perhaps the 'idea' of it might help someone....

also to the soul nay nay who said they had not written anything... just add the word 'yet' to that. Most often when a book is written, the book comes to find the author and asks to be written down as best the author can, not the other way around. Never say you're not a writer. That we know the alphabet, words, the stories of our own lives, is a magical, magical thing.

who cannot spell. lol.

Novels and Transparencies

I was looking over the novel organization ideas too. I fear my two are in so many notebooks, computer files, index cards, file folders, etc. that I'll never get them all together. I have moved most of the digitized components to Scrivener. I admit I don't think I'm using it "fully," but it is working well.

I was intrigued about your idea of using layers. I'm old enough to remember using transparencies to give talks instead of Power Point. My collage professors used them too. Not only could you print to them from the computer, you could also draw on them with markers. They were just sheets of clear plastic film. I wonder if you could try something with them? It would be interesting to put locations, charters, and plot points on different sheets and try different combinations and layers to see what ideas they spark. Let me know if/when you develop the idea further.

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that is IT exactly Miss LisaPT.
For overheads. Dry markers. Print out on printer.

I think, staggered lines and columns

I'll mess with it

some might say, well, why not just make a long long list? Why want to read 'through' transparencies? Not sure, but frankly, I think that's the way I think... through layers, nearly x-ray like through dozens, even hundreds of associations. I think many people 'think' like that. And it is a mystery to those who don't. Just like it's often a mystery to me how people think linearly.

Just have to follow this transparency idea... I think you should play with them too. I think your idea of using such to see what they spark is fascinating

also, from my ante-diluvian life and mind regarding your two novels... I have been writing for 50 years and publishing significantly for 25 years. I have had many trials and errors and successes too re organizing and moving forward. Just this for you: I found getting a BIG calander at office supply that normallly goes on wall, with one month to a page in blocks that are about 3.5x3.5 (minimum) and writing all chapter titles and whatever data you want to track gives a huge and readable overview of the book when its long. You just leave blank what you're not sure of yet, or put it in and change it later. Seeing the overall pattern is sort of looking at 'the hand' of a long piece of unfurled cloth.... you can see where there are loose threads, holes, competent and even beautiful weaving

THEN, say there are twenty chapters in one of your novels... take 20 folders or accordian files and number them 1-20. Throw into each all your 'stuff' according to the prelim chapters' structure on BIG wall calander. It moves the novel /nf book/ dissertation forward, and presses a writer to get over the procrastination that comes with indecision. You make the descisions while reserving judgment about changing some things around later

ALTHOUGH, I would say , OFTEN, 'first thought, right thought." Especially if you organize it swiftly. There is a greater mind that knows more than ego alone. You sound like you are way ahead by having so much entered already in Scrivener

Let us know how it goes. My experience in my advancing years is that most everyone has a book in the bottom drawer somewhere, either in dream, or in reality. I always hope people will let what they have been given to write, all see the light of day