Writing stories of whatever length, can mean gathering a lot of information. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m organised, then spend hours looking for that one snippet of research, or a name I thought would fit, or a picture of a setting. And the longer it takes to search through my notebooks, folders, drawers and diary, the more frustrated I become. I’m a bit of a luddite I admit; my preference for paper based information is not very productive in terms of using my time. In addition, although I don’t venture far from my desk, my system isn’t very practical if I’m not at home and have to lug the stuff about. I’d probably lose it anyway. And to top it all, our house is tiny and I’m already surrounded by bulging bookshelves full of paper and files which threaten to topple on my head and heaven’s forbid my laptop.
As I’m in the process of sorting five manuscripts out this year in preparation for publication and have gathered and continue to gather lots of information I may need at my fingertips, I decided I’d get a bit more savvy and step out of my paper filled comfort zone. It’s just as hard to break ingrained habits as it is to maintain them and I can’t claim that I’m fully paper less but I’m getting there.
“Organizing is a journey, not a destination.”
I’ve used Microsoft OneNote for some time for gathering information, but rather like my desk it became cluttered with information I soon forgot about. However, it is a powerful tool and what’s more, it’s so easy to use. It represents a folder with tabs, just like my old fashioned system but it’s kept online and you can access it very easily from any device if you’ve set it up properly. In preparation for my editing and revisions I’ve set up this simple ‘story bible’ for each one of my projects with tabs for plot, characters, setting, research and notes. I can clip stuff easily from the internet using a chrome extension, I can type in notes just as I would write them and save images. I can even make the ‘page’ look like lined not paper. What’s not to like? I’ve stopped scribbling stuff down on sticky notes, on the back of my hand and stopped trying to remember things I’m so sure I won’t forget, because I will.
So now I can access everything to do with one project all in one place. It’s not perfect though and depends very much on the user, as most things technical. And I still misfile things. Yesterday I spent ages looking for notes I was convinced I’d typed up after reading a reference book on the subject matter. I cursed and cursed blaming the laptop, the eternal black hole of the internet and even the dog until I realised I’d saved it in the wrong place. So not infallible then. But I don’t suppose anything ever will be with my scatterbrain.
Ah, well, at least I’ve saved a few trees and maybe eventually a forest or two.