View Full Version : Organisation tips?

08-26-2008, 03:15 AM
Hi guys,

I've gone through the list of writer's resources and I was wondering if anyone can help me with keeping things organised. Can anyone recommend a good way to keep their ideas/plots/research - all elements of their writing 'together'? I am on the cadge for some tips :) Basically, I have a rather uninspired method - I have two notebooks (for each character in my split narrative MS) that I take with me at all times and whenever I have a moment I write. Then, usually when I've finished a complete chapter (1st draft) I'll type it and print it (MS Works - ugh). It's a very simple method and works well enough I suppose, but are there any tips people would be willing to share that you think might help me in the whole writing process, or any programmes (preferably free) or on-line resources that you think are useful?

Many thanks,


08-26-2008, 05:20 AM
There are lots of people in here who organize their work on the computer. I don't happen to be one of them.:DI like stuff all over my work area so I pin loads of pictures to my wall and keep an upright file holder with files labelled and filled with info on archaeological details, time lines, costumes, etc. I do a lot of research for my historical novels and I want things at my fingertips.

08-26-2008, 05:44 AM
Free word processors better than Works:
OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/)
Abiword (http://www.abisource.com/)

Free organizer:
ywriter (http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter4.html)
You can also use this one to write your novel, but might want to do your edits in another word processor. There are screen shots to see what it looks like.

If you check out the Tech Help forum here you'll find more listed to take a look at and see what might suit your needs best.

08-26-2008, 07:09 AM
If you're organizing with paper and pen, do it the way some companies do when they brainstorm.

Draw a circle in the centre of the page, place the title there, and have arrows shooting off in all directions for various elements. Each arrow should point to a different element or idea. That way, although there may not be room for a lot of detail, the main elements are in view the whole time.

Good luck.

Clair Dickson
08-26-2008, 08:17 AM
For working on paper, you might try binders and use extra binder pockets (I like the ones that have the pockets on the outside, instead of the inside like regular folders.) Then you can keep loose stuff in the same place as other stuff. A big enough binger will have room for your notebooks, too.

Another option is a desktop file holder (usually holds a half-dozen hanging file folders.) It's not huge, so it'll likely only hold your current WIP, it's not closed away so it's easy to access, and it uses folders, so you can label and pull out just what you need (I put manilla folders in the hanging folders.)

Though, to be honest, I'm not sure quite what sort of organization you're looking for-- for the physcial/virtual materials or for the story itself?

One idea for the story though is post-it flags, color coded for what's on the page (blue for character info, yellow for places, green for plot, etc.) The downside is they hang off, but if you put them farther on the page, they won't hang off quite so far. I like my tabs all hanging off the top of the page. Colored paper clips might work, too.

Hope this helps. Funny thing is, my organization really is a banana box where I dump the notes and stuff. ANd one notebook where I jot down ideas and details.

08-26-2008, 12:36 PM
I tend to use OneNote to organise my story bits and pieces. I got a free copy of it when I was in uni, and have been using it ever since. If you can find the money to get it, I highly recommend it. I have a notebook tab for each project, and then page tabs for worldbuilding, plot, characters, etc.

Other options: yWriter is useful for organising your drafts. OpenOffice is far better than MS Works.

Linda Adams
08-26-2008, 02:41 PM
Since I don't like having lots of notebooks around, I organize all my files using folders on my computer. This is what's evolved over time:

_In Progress - Current copy and about a week's worth of backup
Administration - Query letters, synopsis, submission record
Notes - Any notes or ideas pertaining to the book.
Research - Any research materials, including a list of all the books I've researched. For newspaper articles, they go into a research folder in my file cabinet (I wouldn't mind the full verison of Adobe PDF; then I could save newspaper articles as electronically).
X Archives - Broken down by months, all the backups of everything.

I name every file with the date: Auctions_Aug 2008. Then, every few months or so, I'll do a sweep of the folders. Anything that I haven't touched in a while goes in the backups. I still have it, but I don't end up with a clutter of stuff.

What I find is that a lot of times, I don't need as much as I think I do. When I make my sweeps, I often find something I've forgotten about, which means it probably really wasn't necessary.

One key note: Whatever system you use, make sure you're consistent in using it. I've seen people who save a copy of the file in Folder A, then get an update and save it in a different folder. Later, when they have to find the correct version, it's very possible for them to grab the wrong version. Archive anything old that you're not using so that you don't have to wade through those items to get what you need.

Don't forget to make backups!

Marko Kloos
08-26-2008, 06:12 PM
I use Scrivener, which lets you keep all your lists, images, web pages, and other files right in the same place as your draft.

I used to organize everything manually in folders, but it was a bear to keep all the versions straight. Since I switched everything to Scrivener, life is much easier.

08-27-2008, 01:41 AM
Thanks again everyone for taking the time to reply to me. It's hard to explain what it is I am asking for really - just a vague, menacing thought that everyone's doing it better than me and that I should be clearer in my written approach.

Ishtar's Gate - yeah, I'm pretty much the same; I tend to keep everything on paper. I always want to be one of those people who have a million different folders in their computer that contain everything and do marvellous time saving things - I'm too darn impatient!

Mel - thanks, I think anything would be better than works (such as smashing a stone against another stone in the vague hope it will create something legible). Do you use any of those programmes. Would it be better to get a copy of Microsoft Word?

Carmy - oh yeah, you gotta love the spider diagram. I use them a lot when writing non-fiction, but never use them quite so much for every-day work. Thanks for the reminder that I should!

Clair - I think we're on the same page m'dear. Some time I must show you my little folder for all of the fabulously organised colour-coded notes I've made on one of my research topics. It makes me stupidly happy.

Rae22 - Ah, onenote. Is that useful? I was considering getting the new Word package (see above) - is that included? I'll check.

Linda - Thanks very much for the insight into your organisation! Would you like to come and do mine? I can't promise it woud be an easy job but I have an interesting topic and fluffy pets you could play with :)
Seriously though, thanks a heap for those tips.You're so right about consistency - I have problems with this. And the sweep idea is also great - it's easy to build up an information overload.

Marko - I haven't heard of scrivener before, thanks for the tip-off. I'll check it out!

Ta everyone, this is all good stuff!

Ms Hollands
08-27-2008, 01:50 AM
Maybe your method of disorganisation does, in fact, organise you.

I just guessed until I found a habit and I've gone with that ever since.

08-27-2008, 01:52 AM
Scrivener rocks, but it's a Mac application. Liquid Story Binder (http://www.blackobelisksoftware.com/)appears to be a similary program for Windows.

I have, use and love the former but have never tried the latter.

08-27-2008, 02:57 AM
Mel - thanks, I think anything would be better than works (such as smashing a stone against another stone in the vague hope it will create something legible). Do you use any of those programmes. Would it be better to get a copy of Microsoft Word?

I've never used Abiword, but have had OpenOffice for many years. There are lots of writers who like OpenOffice better than Word. I have ywriter and am playing with it, and it looks like it will be a very useful program.

Liquid Story Binder, have that too. I was recently able to download it for free, one day only. That one seems to be taking me a bit longer to learn than the others but it's a really nice program.

The nice thing about all of the above, well not sure about Abiword, is they update their programs often. Simon Haynes created ywriter for himself and is published. He seems to like those who use it to let him know of any bugs so he can fix them. He has a google groups you can find on his site I linked.

Jesse Wall created Liquid Story Binder and has a yahoo email list to join. He posts a lot, answering members questions when they have problems figuring out something. He also updates the program a lot.

I'd say, check out the free programs and see if they do what you're looking for, and if they don't then you could go with Word.

08-27-2008, 04:57 AM
Like Marko and san, I use Scrivener. It's very useful for keeping project notes, drafts, and research easily accessible in one place. But it's only for Macs, as has been mentioned. Liquid Binder looks nice, I think I'll try it for my PC Desktop. There's a thirty day trial :D

I also keep project folders in a two-drawer filing cabinet. The top drawer is for current projects and the bottom drawer is for inspiration, little clips, interesting things and finished projects. Each project has at least one folder, though larger projects may have several folders- a few for research, one for drafts and another for the mounting bibliography. I also keep a CD-RW in each folder for electronic back-up, just in case my computer crashes. I'd hate to retype everything! CD's aren't the best way to store information, not for me at least (I'm always scratching them), so I also have a flash drive containing all my writing.

But seriously, I love my filing cabinet. I think it was just 25$ at wall-mart.

08-27-2008, 06:12 AM
WIP's on the computer - in folders and subfolders. Paranoid backer-upper: major revisions burnt on CD's and stored offsite. On-the-go revisions either on USB stick, or uploaded to Google docs (neat, because I can save them in PDF format there). Odds and ends (dialogue threads, maps, plot notes) in a folder and notebook. I also use notecards - one for each character with descriptions etc, and I've also used them to plan timelines - put a major event on a card, and then put the cards in order etc etc.

08-27-2008, 06:27 AM
Sometimes I like to use a wiki to organize information about my story and its characters; it's great for allowing me to link between pages for easy reference.

I just found Evernote (http://evernote.com/) and am giving it a try--one of its myriad applications could be as an organizational tool for writing. Create a notebook devoted to keeping notes on your writing, or even a particular story, and you're set. You can add notes, copy and paste stuff from your browser, emails, etc., or even take pictures or scan in your handwritten stuff.

08-28-2008, 03:23 AM
I use yWriter 4 and a regular 200 pages notebook to jolt my ideas in.

I write using Works and I like it.

08-29-2008, 04:32 AM
Oh and I really like steno pads too. I keep one handy to jot down thoughts on what I'm reading. Then, on the first few pages I keep a table of contents so I can find the notes later. At some point I'll transcribe the notes to the computer so they'll be searchable. In my copious amount of free-time that is LOL