Thursday, July 25, 2013

Getting Organized

I am not an organized person. My house is filled with piles. Bills, books, notes. Things for work, things for school, things for writing. Craft projects started but never finished, more projects that I plan to start someday but haven't yet.
My piles do have some sense of organization, I suppose. There is a pile of books for my nephew, another pile of books that I'm reading for school, another pile of books to read for fun (the ever-present TBR pile that only seems to grow), and yet another pile of books on the craft of writing and my research.

The desk where my PC is situated is piled so high, I can no longer get to it. Good thing I have a laptop to write on, because otherwise, I don't think I'd be able to get any writing done.

But in order to write a book, I had to find some organization ability.

Before I made my first attempt at writing a book, I researched how to go about it. I compiled everything I could find and took it as law: THIS is how a novel is written. Do THIS, or fail. And what did it tell me? My research suggested what I called a Project Bible. I put together a 3-inch, 3-ring binder with everything I needed to know, in order to write my book.

It was filled with notes on back story, an outline, character interviews, maps, etc., etc., etc. I spent a lot of time putting this Project Bible together, and then I could never find anything in it. The whole point of the thing was to have everything at my fingertips--so if I forgot what color Sallie May's eyes were on page 237, I could simply flip through my Project Bible to the information on Sallie May and find out that yes, they were indeed supposed to be green, not blue.

As I went along with the writing process, I would think of something else that needed to be included. It would be scribbled on a sticky note and stuck willy-nilly in place, or scratched out on an index card and tossed inside.

My Project Bible turned out to be more problematic and time consuming than it was worth, particularly since I never finished that manuscript and I don't intend to now.

Skip ahead in time with me now to a couple of years ago when I decided to try writing again. Only this time, not only was I going to try writing just any old novel, I wanted to write a series. And not just any series, either, but a historical romance series.

Even if the idea of the Project Bible worked for me, how on earth would I fit everything I needed into a single 3-inch, 3-ring binder? When you consider that I would need notes on plot and character for each novel, plus more for the series as a whole, plus somewhere to store research notes for the period, and maybe also some notes on writing craft? Impossible. It just plain wasn't going to happen. I needed something else, something that could hold everything.

Thanks to the advances of modern technology, I already had the perfect solution on my computer. One-Note, part of the Office suite of software, has become my lifeline.

The program makes it very easy to set up individual notebooks for anything . I have a notebook for my historical research, another one for notes on writing craft, a third for my series, and yet another for my most recent project. Within each notebook, you can set up any number of tabs and pages within tabs, and tabs within pages within tabs . . . I think you get the drift. I can flip between all of it with just a couple of clicks of the mouse. And the best feature? It automatically saves everything you put in it, the moment you type it or paste it in. I don't have to worry about losing anything.

It fully integrates with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so that I can copy anything I want from one and paste it directly into the other. Or say I find a photo on the internet that fits my idea for a country manor home one of my characters will live in. All I have to do is copy it and paste it into One-Note.

When I find research that I know I will need to refer back to, I can copy and paste it into a new page in my research notebook, and it automatically includes the hyperlink for where I found the information, in case I ever need to go back to the original source again. Some of the research I find might be in PDF files. This program makes it easy for me to type my own notes over the PDF, to move it around and take bits from this and a smidge from that, and make something that makes sense for me. Also, any time I decide that something fits better over here than it did over there, all it takes is a couple of clicks to put things in an order that makes more sense.

Of course, I now realize that not every method will work for every writer. How do you keep all of your research and notes organized?

**Originally published at Lady Scribes**

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