Thursday, November 6, 2014

How to Organize Your Story Notes: Should You Keep a Story Bible?

In some ways, organizing story notes has never been easier.  The old mainstays of pen and paper are available in innumerable forms, including regular sheets of paper, post-it notes, notecards, notebooks, steno pads, and journals.  A personal favorite of mine is a pocket-sized Moleskine (or Moleskine-style notebook), which is the perfect size for portability, usability, and cutting and pasting in snippets or printed sheets.

But as far as portability and ease of use goes, it's hard to top free cloud services like Google Keep - which essentially functions as an ever expanding wall of digital post-it notes.  Or if you prefer keeping a tighter rein on your digital files, organizing your doc or txt files in a Dropbox folder will make them accessible anywhere with an internet connection.  Bottom line is, if you carry a smartphone, you already have everything you need to keep as many or as few story notes as you want.

So the question becomes:  Should you?

The simple answer is that it depends.

At the very least, as a writer, you should have some record-keeping method on hand at all times just in case inspiration should strike.  A random story idea, a sudden moment of clarity regarding a particular difficult plot point, a unique insight - these vital notions are prone to effervescence like an elaborate dream upon waking.  Having Google Keep only a few taps away on your smartphone means that you can record these ideas within moments of their occurrence, but I'll admit to also carrying a low-tech contingency for the odd situations where batteries run out or internet connections fail: a Midori Memorandum card in my wallet, which is the size of a credit card and contains 31 tracing-paper-thin sheets:

And a PicoPen on my keychain:

That's about as unobtrusive a note taking setup as you can get, though writers with larger hands may find the PicoPen a little small, in which case a Fisher Space Pen may be an ideal if slightly less convenient upgrade.

I've taken random story notes while riding a train in Tokyo, walking the streets in Portland and flying high above the clouds over Hawaii.  Your brain is always working on problems even when your attention is elsewhere, so learning to be receptive to those sudden strikes of inspiration - and having the means to record those revelations while they're still coherent enough to be recollected - can save you hours of staring blankly at a blinking cursor, trying to reconstruct your thoughts after the fact.

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