Organizing my Cluttered Mind Part 2: Keeping My Stories Straight

      Continuing on from my last post, I have been trying to maintain some semblance of organization while writing. I am a note taker, sometimes to the point of obsession. However, when it comes to keeping those notes organized, I am guilty of complete and utter failure. In the past I’d have three or four different notebooks on my desk, loose sheets of paper I stashed in my pockets, and my research folder on my laptop.

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Not my desk, but a close approximation.

     In my last post I mentioned that I have been using Scrivener in an attempt to become more organized. I have been using each project I’ve created in this software to house all of the research, links and photos I’ve gathered for each project.

     For the most part, I have only written one-off stories up until last year. Recently I’ve been in sequel/shared Universe mode. Two of my projects are closely related, so I decided to try and create a single file to keep track of what is going on in my stories. After doing some research on Scrivener templates, I downloaded a story bible template from here.

     I went through the template to see if it would fit my needs. It fit when I was looking for more or less; so I started using it, adding or subtracting elements as needed.

     The first thing that I did copy over my reference information that crossed over between the different stories. For example, I made a master timeline of all of the events that have occurred in each story, as well as events in the past that help to establish well known facts when in the universe created. I also created folders for the two different series sharing this reality. In those folders I put all of the character profiles, location profiles, and the synopsis for each of the stories in those series.

     I like the fact that now as I progress through each subsequent entry into either series, I will be able to reference any necessary information by simply referring to my story Bible, rather than trying to figure out which story I need to reference in order to get the information I need. I must admit that in the beginning I was afraid but I was going to be spending more time keeping track of my story Bible than I would be writing. But I’ve been spending no more than five or ten minutes at the end of each session updating any new information if needed.

     I’m also a writer that seems to receive inspiration for my stories at the least convenient times. In the past I would attempt to carry my notebook around with me and jot down any notes that I felt I needed in order to remember what came to me so suddenly. Using Evernote, and sometimes even my phone’s note taking app, I don’t have to worry about looking for my notebook to jot down my ideas. Most of the time I only use these apps to jot down notes: possible locations for a story, ideas for characters or backstory, and especially names for characters. I am horrible with names. So in the event that I think of a name I really like, I jot it down – or more accurately, type it into my smartphone. then when I get home, all I need to do is elaborate on those ideas within my story file.

     A couple of times, inspiration has led me two ideas that needed to be written down and greater links. Sometimes these passages how complete enough to go into my draft. When that does happen, transferring that information over isn’t all that difficult.

     As always, I’d love to hear from you:  how do those writers working on one or more series keep your storylines and characters organized for continuity purposes?

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3 thoughts on “Organizing my Cluttered Mind Part 2: Keeping My Stories Straight

  1. I tend to write without a plan, outline, or notes, but for the stories that absolutely require organization I use Excel. How I use it (different files vs. different spreadsheet tabs) really depends on the story at hand.

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  2. I have moved away from handwriting notes: because my family are bored of trying to eat meals between piles of notes and post-its; and I tend to get flustered when I know someone’s moved a pile. Also, dodgy bones in wrist makes writing difficult. At first using the computer and I-pad was a pain, a chore and a nightmare, but with time, I’ve come to see the benefits. It helps with the organising of different story plots, character creation and any side avenues of research.
    As for ideas…yeah…they come at the most inopportune moments: shopping, on the bus, walking the kids into school, 3 a.m., halfway through conversations. I have to resort to notes, so I carry a small notepad around with me and have developed a rather unique form of shorthand. I doubt these measures will help to organise my stories and ideas on a mental level, but they certainly help to create a more disciplined environment for writing, which I find makes me a calmer and more organised writer. But–gosh!–it was hard to go technological!
    I’m not particularly loyal to a story from start to finish, instead writing several ones at once in various genres, which may be clumsy, unprofessional or just plain wrong, but I find it helps to keep the writing going. My biggest problem is finding time.
    Thanks for another wonderful post! 🙂

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    • Sarah, I know how you feel. I used to have notebooks all around the house, just in case. It was so much clutter. I tried to scribble in a date and time to try and make sense of them later. It took me some time, but I like the note taking apps on my phone better now. I don’t need to worry about finding the right notebook, hunting through pages and pages of notes to find what I’m looking for, and manually typing it into my project. If I wrote dialog or actual manuscript- worthy material, I can just transfer the file to my laptop and do a quick copy and paste into my project.

      I’m also guilty of having multiple WIPs. Taking notes is a necessity, as I’m not always at a good stopping point in one project when an idea for another project occurs. But of course, the other downside to multiple projects is that it takes me so long to finish anything.

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