It’s a great idea to keep notes when you are writing. Ideas take time to percolate, like coffee brewing, and while they do, you can come across any number of idea gems, story gold, and factual diamonds that can be long forgotten when you finally sit down to write that story.
Now I keep as much as I can electronically. I have a ‘books’ that contains a folder for each of the projects I am working on. For each book I have a ‘notes’ folder with subfolders for ‘research’, ‘characters’ and ‘plot ideas’. I have a range of documents: character profiles, plot, chapter outlines, research still needed, list of character names (and spelling of those names), etc. Within some of the lengthier documents I create a table of contents – this is easily done within Microsoft Word. It enables me to find the particular piece of research I need as quickly as possible.
If your writing (like mine) is based in an actual place you may also have collected maps, brochures, photos, etc. Again, if you can, keep these electronically, but for all hardcopy notes, you will need to develop a filing system: tabbed manila folders, plastic wallets, large envelopes, shoeboxes – as long as these are adequately labeled.
Having come to the idea of organising my notes once I was well into the writing process, wasted much valuable time; having to stop writing to organise my notes because I could never find what I needed. I strongly advise you to start off with some sort of system…it doesn’t matter how you do it, but inevitably, your notes will grow exponentially as you write.
You might already have a great way of keeping your notes in order – fantastic! Unless you have a photographic memory, you will not hold in your mind all the details you collect. It is important to review your notes – this will remind you of detail you wanted to include in your writing, give you fresh ideas to incorporate into your writing, or prompt some new writing project.
My biggest tip: gather ad take notes, organise your notes, review your notes!
Photo credit: both photos