Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Fave

image courtesy of

So we all already know I'm a dork, but I am about to bring that realization to a new level. I luuuurve index cards for writing.

*happy sigh*

Actually, I pretty much love them for everything; they're just the absolute perfect size!

Whenever I'm working on a longer project, I like to use index cards to help organize. I do use yWriter for the actual computer writing-and-organizing part, but at the earlier stages in the writing process, it really helps for me to have a visual aide.

I break the book into acts--this time around I'm going with a five-act structure. At the top of five index cards, in big, pretty scribble, I mark the number and the name of the act. Each card gets a different color of marker. I use Sharpies--another office supply love.You do not want to let me loose in a Staples or Office Depot unattended. Believe it or not, I'm totally serious about this.

On those ACT cards, I mark the following, in their respective Sharpie colors: "Status," "Chapters," "Scenes," "Descript" and "Outcome."  I fill in the blanks as I organize, but using pencil. "Status" doesn't get filled in until I begin actual typing, the "Chapters" and "Scenes" headings are to keep track [by tally marks] of how many of each I have in any given act, and the "Descript" and "Outcome" are self-explanatory.

Then I begin organizing each act, by chapter. At this point, I'm in the pencil-only stage. Each new index card will get its own chapter, but those chapters will remain unordered and relatively blank, save for a one-or-two line description. I move from act to act, creating chapters and rearranging index cards until everything flows well from one thing to the next. Once I have everything squared away, those chapter cards will become official, with big pretty color-coded Sharpie markings to match the act in which they belong. While I'm making these official, I usually refer back to the ACT cards to make adjustments.

Each official CHAPTER card will then be marked with "Status," "Scenes," "Descript" and "Outcome," just like before. These will be filled in with pencil as I decide the content of the chapter, and on the back side, also in pencil, I'll make bullet notes of what scenes will be included. Eventually, those scenes will also have their own color-coded index cards, with information about theme, setting, characters, and so on and forth.

When I'm not using them, each color coded packet of cards gets clipped together. When it's time to write, I pin them all on a big cork board, right next to my laptop. The ACT cards go at the top from left to right, the Chapter cards in a line below their respective ACT cards, and then the SCENE cards get stuffed between the CHAPTER cards and the cork board so I can pull them out as I type. I can fill in, erase, or rearrange info as I go without having much reorganizing to do on the computer.

yWriter does make some of this unnecessary, as I can do almost the same thing with the computer files that I do with my cards (without the hassle of renaming and rearranging that Word requires), but I started doing this ages ago and now my brain relies on my happy little index cards like a crutch, lol. I used to do this for the really beefy research papers my loving professors assigned in college. Dork? Oh, yes.

Maybe it seems like a lot of work but that's the way my brain makes sense of ordering things. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the outline--but this is more dynamic and user-friendly, at least to me. How do you organize your longer writing projects--or do you bother at all?


  1. I start out with a 3-4 paragraph story, adding descriptions of characters, land, possible titles, whatever I need to remember. Then I start fleshing out the story. Then scenes get added here and there.

    I tried using Ywriter-too time consuming for me. After I get about 3-4 pages, I look over my character descriptions and decide where in the family tree to put them. I have a family tree program I use in my genealogy hunt. I created a tree for my characters. Using this tree I can put villains, secondary non-blood types who are valuable to me in an appropriate spot on the timeline without having to do much research on them, unless they earn their own story.

    My stories center on one family in the world I made up and takes place anywhere along the timeline of that world.

  2. O, what a good idea, to use a family tree program. Great tip!

  3. I'm more of a pants-er myself. I might sketch out a very general outline, but after that it's straight making it up as I go...

  4. Hey Jes ~ the campaign lists have been re-shuffled and it seems like we're in the same short stories group ! Hip hip hooray ! I did see the notice about the beta match and made a note of it somewhere ! Let the fun begin !!

    You might want to check out the Rule of Three Blogfest :
    - a must for fiction writers !

  5. Oh , and I know all about being let loose in a stationery shop ... I go wild with the notepads , envelopes , cards etc.

  6. I haven't worked on a longer project yet, so don't have a sense of what will work best for me there.

    But like you have a thing for index cards, I have a thing for sticky notes! I *love* sticky notes. Big ones, small ones. I don't know why, but they're my favorite thing to jot little bits of information on.

  7. Oh, and I had to post a second comment JUST to say that my verification word for my first comment was "pantist." Sounds almost like "pants-er."

  8. Hey Jes - looking forward to our 1st Campaign Challenge tomorrow !

  9. Hi Jes,
    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it :-)

    I use sticky notes for jotting quick ideas on the run but when it comes to working on a bigger project, like a timeline for my manuscript etc., I create Word document. I actually have quite a few docs in different folders on my laptop. I backup often on two different drives since I don't keep any hard copies :-)

  10. -->Michael-the-pantser lol...think I might have to call you that from now J/K... only not really. Maybe I should try your way; your stories are always great!

    -->Hey Mish, ya, we're in the same group even! Fun! I am actually considering the Rule of Three blogfest, but don't know for sure. I've been to absolutely OODLES of blogs this long weekend, and they're already starting to blur in my mind, so I'll have to look into it to remember the details. See you for the challenge tomorrow!

    -->Michael (Haynes). Oh yes, sticky notes are awesome too--I have a pen that spits the small-sized sticky notes out one end and page markers out the other. Pretty amazing. Just no refill...ahh well, can't win them all. Ironic word verification, that. lol.

    -->Angela--You bet! Blog hopping has been pretty fun! Hey, timeline--what another great idea. I'm definitely going to need one of those this go around (let's be honest, I could have used one last time too, as is obvious since I have long since scrapped that one, ha). Backups, ohhhh yes. Learned my lesson on that one, I did. lol. But I really only use Word for shorter stuff, and for notes. Once I have something longer completed in yWriter, I'll make a nice neat copy in a Word doc, since that's a more popular program. I used to be diehard about hard copies (since my no-backup escapade,lol) but have gotten out of the habit...

  11. Hi Jes,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Love your index card run-down.

  12. I've never actually tried to use index cards, but have heard lots of writers say how useful they are. Like the colour coded thing you have going on and the cork board - all sounds a bit too organised for me though!

    I tend to do quite in-depth character profiles on a program like Word, and often 'interview' the characters, so I can get a sense of who they are. I am also experimenting with using spreadsheets to sort out my timeline, although am not sure how well that's working at the moment. I also like using mind maps, although I usually find when I start writing I end up going off in a completely different direction...