A question I see often is how people keep track of their writing, whether it’s for a Work in Progress, or whether it’s ideas for the future. Before you can finish your work and post to Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, or your blog, you need a way to organize your thoughts whether you write fantasy, sci-fi, erotica, nonfiction, or any other genre. Even pantsers can benefit as it can help keep track of characters and ideas as they come to them.
Here are a couple of options that seem to work:
- Notebooks – The good old notebook. They’ve been around long before this internet thing became popular. They come in all different sizes, colors, and binding types and writers tend to collect them (whether they use them or not). I have more notebooks than I can count ranging from one with a wolf scene on it, to a beautiful leather bound notebook, to a plain old composition book. Even pages in a binder could work.
There’s no one way to keep a notebook. You can write page after page as ideas come to you, or you could divide it into sections. Others keep different notebooks for different ideas or to separate out characters from plot outlines. Do what works for you.
Hint: Keep a notebook by your bed for when you have a great idea in the middle of the night and don’t want to forget it by the nextmorning.
- Wordpad – Simple, but useful. Nothing fancy needed here to write down quick notes and different notes can be kept in different files. Just be sure to back up your work!
- Excel – Or similar programs can be useful. Different columns and rows can be used to keep track of characters and their traits or roles in the story. They can be used to keep track of what happens at certain points of the plot as well. Play around with it.
- Google Docs – One of my favorite options. Automatically saves and you can have it at your finger tips at different computers or even on your phone. I find the phone app very useful. You can even use Google Drive to keep track of files between multiple computers. You have a choice of a variety of files from plain word documents to spread sheets.
- One Note – This still comes with some Microsoft computers. Unfortunately I haven’t found a place to download it and I believe that Microsoft has discontinued supporting it and I have yet to find another free program that does the same. (I believe Scrivener can be useful for this, but I’ve never used it. If someone with experience wants to chime in, let me know and I’ll add a section.)
If you happen to be lucky enough to have One Note on one or more computers it can be very useful. You can create “Sections” and “Pages” within the sections. You can nest Sections within other sections and Pages within other pages. I use the Sections to categorize my story types and other info and the Pages to keep track of stories, characters, plotlines, and whatever else.
- Computer/Google Doc Folders – Any time you create documents whether on your computer or in the cloud, it can be good to create folders to help separate stories, characters, etc. I create folders for my different types of stories and then nest folders for the individual stories within those folders. Of course you can keep narrowing down folders as needed.
- Your Phone Note App – If you’re caught off guard away from any pens and paper, your phone can be valuable. Just stick the note in your note app or email or text yourself and have your idea ready at your fingertips the next time you get to your notebook or computer.
- Other – Even a napkin can be useful in the right moment so long as you don’t lose it! For pantsers, scribbling in the corner of a page or writing a note in the computer page could work.
There are quite a variety of ways to keep track of your Works in Progress ranging from written by hand to typed into the computer or even your phone. Find your way to be ready when an idea strikes and keep accurate notes so you don’t have to go fishing back through your story for details.