Organizing Your Thoughts with Files

Aug 19, 2013 by

Just like your bookshelf and toolbox your brain needs to stay organized; if not it can be pretty hard trying to pull your ideas from the jumbled mess and apply it to a neat story.

I love to stay organized and I’m a bit file crazy so I’ve accumulated quite a few helpful (and maybe a little obsessive) files over the years:

Timeline

It’s hard for me to keep the order of everything straight so this is often the first file I need.

I make a bullet point for each plot point then smaller bullet points for more detailed segments within a point. For example:

  • The kids decide run away from home to join a circus
  •           They look up circuses online to find the closest one
  • They leave for the train station at midnight
  •            They beg a diner for breakfast
  •            They practice circus acts at the park
  • At the station they meet a clown running from the circus

Notice that everything they do on their way from home to the station is tabbed, that’s the segments I was talking about.

The empty point is for when I know something more needs to happen but I don’t know what yet.

Also if you have a more complex story with lots of side plots and story arcs you might want to make a timeline for each arc then figure out how to entwine them.

Story Files

While trying to focus on one story ideas for a dozen others will show up to get in my way. I need to forget them for now but I don’t want to forget them forever so I file them in a single story file.

I include the name (if it has one) and a blurb for it; more detailed information is put in a separate file about that specific story. My story file is sorted by priority, you don’t have to figure out where every story goes on the tier but at least divide high, medium and low out.

The story specific files really depend on the story; for example one of mine I don’t have the plot figured out yet just different elements like places and organizations so I have a file where I keep all the info on these elements.

For my main story I have a file where I write every detail about the world; dividing it by region so I can see what places are underdeveloped. I also file away geography, backstory and the original story (because it’s changed a lot…)

I file all my fanfiction ideas in a separate file and include a form like this one:

Title:
Fanfic of:
Genre:
Story:
Status:

I actually don’t know why it I don’t use a form in my other file, less needed I guess. Include whatever info is relevant or needed to you. Also it’s a nice reference to put a count (how many stories, how many of a certain genre, etc.) somewhere in the file.

Character Files

Besides my character spreadsheet I also use story specific files and I’m working on making a file for each character in my main story; plotting out all of their backstory (whether relevant or not) and character arcs.

I’ve tried filing their personality too but that’s always hard to sum up, and how likely am I to forget that? So I don’t bother anymore.

Blog File

One of my most useful files is the one I use for this blog. In it I keep all my ideas for future blog posts, notes on things to work on and a form that I redo for every month. The form reminds me to post on the first and helps me shedule the whole month by weeks. My form for this month looks like this:

1st: What to Expect this Month

Week 1: The MUSE in Music: Video Games

Week 2: Organizing Your Thoughts with Files

Week 3: Character Chatroom

Week 4: Unexpected Ways to Give You a Creativity Boost

Although some months have five weeks.

I also have a file for theme ideas for The MUSE in Music.

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P.S. For my files I like to use notepads on my computer. Word docs is actually better ’cause of spell check, italics, etc. but it’s harder to tell the files apart from the stories.

Although I know some writers like to use paper notebooks; so just use whatever works for you.

P.P.S. Sorry this post was late, it turned out bigger than I thought it would be.

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