I know that the stereotypical image of a writer, like most artists, is the one where they are surrounded by half drunk cups of coffee, pen behind their ear while they look for it, scraps of paper tucked into every book and crevice. Organisation doesn’t seem like it would fit into this image, and it doesn’t. Of course, please feel free to keep drinking an ocean worth of coffee (or tea if you are that way inclined) because for goodness sake we need it, but otherwise it might be time to collate those scraps of paper.
I have, what I think, is a very simple system. I have two notebooks: the first is a small one that I can carry around with me most of the time. When I suddenly get an idea, I can write it down so it doesn’t get lost in the recesses of my mind. If you are more technically minded, you can do this with a smart phone or tablet, but I like the old fashioned method. The second notebook is for prose; for those times that I might want to write while out, but don’t want to lug my laptop out with me. I can then type this up when I get home- and do a bit of editing while I am at it. Of course, to make use of these things, I also carry a small pencil case (why yes, I DO have a large handbag thanks for asking.) In this pencil case I have two pens (in case one runs out!), a pencil, eraser and sharpener, (for sketches and maps) and a coloured pen (for diagrams and highlighting). Each area of my life is colour coded, so my writing colour is pink. The colour thing is not necessarily for writing, just good life organisation.* One of the reasons I prefer hand noting over digital noting is for the annotating and diagrams.
The next item I have is a plastic wallet. This is for all those scraps and doodles and writings that I have done if (for some reason) I didn’t have one of my notebooks. When I first started my current story, I was writing on a work a4 pad (during a lunch break… honest!). While that is now typed up, I like keeping the original work just in case I want to refer back to it at any point. Even if some of those original ideas change as I go along, I may want to incorporate those plot points later on in the story. This is also why I like to put my ideas in a notebook- it makes it harder to get rid of them so I don’t accidently ditch something I might want in the future.
All the rest of my organisation is digital. I have a folder on my computer (backed up, multiple times) called “Novel Stuff”. In the folder is a digital world map, plots, list of place names, character sheets, world building sheets, random prompts that don’t really fit in the story and of course the actual novel itself. As a PC user, I write with Microsoft Word. I have the navigation pane open and each chapter has a heading, so that I can find it on the pane. Some of the chapters have very descriptive titles so that I can find them easily to edit, but they can be changed later.
And there you have it!
Maybe it isn’t so simple after all.
Of course, this is just what works for me. The trick is to find your own method. If you have a very good memory and know where each scrap of paper hidden around your desk is, then please carry on! At least my method is a good excuse to visit a stationary shop and lust over their pretty, pretty notebooks.
*My colour coding started when I was at school. Each subject had its own colour for its highlighting and underlining, so when going through my notes and printouts I could tell at a glance which sheet was for which subject. Unfortunately this didn’t help me get better grades, but at least I could find things when pretending to revise.