Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Binding My Thoughts - 3 Ring Style

Photo by Clicksense
For those of you who know me, its an understatement to call me a Type-A personality. And nothing truly gets my organizing juices going like creating a new binder for a new novel. Yup...I'm THAT wild and crazy.

All jokes aside, creating a binder for your work in progress, can be both time and sanity saving. First of all, many of you may say that as a "Panster" you just go with the flow, run with the moment, shift like the wind. You have no need for atrocities like binders!  You DO need to do some sort of research or note taking to keep on track.  Be it notes about a certain scene or reminders to insert such-and-such a clue for your detective, chances are you'll have occasion to jot something down on paper.  Chances'll lose it five minutes later if you don't put it somewhere specific.

When I start a book, I usually buy a three-ring binder and dividers, a pack of legal pads, sticky notes, and colored pens.  This is my "Writing Survival Kit", there may be some chocolate in there as well. 

In the binder go all of my Snowflake printouts - sentence, paragraph, and page long threads I use to expand the story out.  Then my character sketches, my plot blocks, and usually a list of conflicts for both the romance and the suspense plot.

Then I have a section for Returned Critiques. Stuff other writers have written on my chapters that I found true or helpful. I use this section extensively when I'm editing.  Details that I need to add later that might be missed if I toss the critiques in a drawer and forget about them.

I have a Research Section...a large section...that has all of my printouts and photocopies and notes. I try to look over this before I start a chapter. 

Do I know what the building looks like? Have I made sure to take a look at personal accounts of things in the city like Yelp or other blogs? Have I at least taken a peek with Google Earth?  

Details can really make your story great, pulling the reader into the moment with you. But poor details or inaccurate ones can really irritate them to the point of closing your book. 

Next are my Nocturnal Notes. I keep note cards on my nightstand and sometimes when a thought strikes me I have to jot it down right then and there otherwise it'll be gone. I have a pocket folder in my binder for all the little card and scraps of paper that I generate.

Finally I have sticky notes jutting out at all angles reminding me of things I feel I need to watch in my own writing. "High Stakes!" one reads. "Include the Weather!" another one shouts...I'm writing about a town during a hurricane so its kind of important.

Of course, if you don't use your binder, then its not worth anything. Take the time to look over what you've written in it, saved, or tucked into the pockets. All that information is nothing but a coaster if you don't open the binder once in a while.

What are some tricks you have for keeping things straight and sane during your writing process?

Until next time...Go Write!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have a binder, with notes and character profiles in the front pocket and the outline in the back. As I complete each page, I print it out and stick in the binder for editing later.
Sorry, I'm just not more organized than that!

Raquel Byrnes said...

That's actually pretty organized, Alex. Good for you =).

Hart Johnson said...

You do thousands of times more planning than I do, but i DO love a good binder. I use it most extensively at the revision stage--the book in one section, critiques in one, notes for things I plan to change, the research...

At the WRITING stage I use a spiral notebook--it is just less unruly in the bathtub and still has the sections... the first few are for writing, the last for my timeline/notes, with the one before the last for more detailed scenes I work out ahead of time (only happens a couple times a book)

I ALSO tend to use an excel spreadsheet for keeping track of characters and details (like the one I just finished had a high school student for the narrator, so I had her schedule/teachers/one or two classmates on a page so her day was easy to keep straight)

Erin Kane Spock said...

Okay, so you have me finally using my Dramatist, but I don't know if you can make me use a binder.
You're not the boss of me!

RaShelle said...

Fire breathing - COOL! I have a character chart for each character. Sometimes I chage something about a character. Loved the info about the firebreather. LOL

Elena Solodow said...

So you're saying having a notebook with folded pages of extra notes/crits stuffed willy-nilly inside is not an effective method!?

Oh wait...I already knew that.