How To Organize Your Notes

Do you have too much information to keep track of for your novel?

Are all your notes weighing you down?

Do you have index cards, post-it notes, and loose paper flying free all over the place?

Well, this post can help! (I think.)

how to organize your notes rachel poli

I started writing George Florence in November 2013. Since then I’ve edited two drafts. Then I re-wrote the whole novel, completely changing the dynamic of it. I am currently on the second draft of that version.

So I tell people I’m on the second draft, but it’s technically the fourth draft. The information is the same, the plot is the same, the cases are the same.

Yet every time I’ve edited the draft, I’ve looked at pacing, dialogue, character development, and that kind of stuff. I’ve looked at plot, but never really paid any attention to whether or not my information was correct.

Yes, this is fiction, but I need to throw a little bit of reality in there. It’s not a fantasy world, so I can’t just make up news laws as I go along.

It’s a lot of information and since this novel has been on paper since late 2013 (it’s been in my head much longer than that), I have my fair share of notes piled up.

There are a number of ways you can organize your notes.

1. An accordion folder

I use a 13-pocket accordion folder for each of my novels. One pocket for each draft. It gets big and bulky, but it keeps my novels away from each other and is easy for me to organize my drafts.

Depending on how many drafts of the novel I have, I use the back pockets for my notes as well. I toss index cards in there as well as a notebook or two. It keeps everything contained and the folder closes with a rope so nothing will ever fall out.

2. Notebooks

This is an obvious one. A notebook is made of paper and that where you write your notes. Duh.

If you use a notebook all the paper is together and contained by the binding. Better yet, you can get a five-subject notebook. The more paper for notes, the better. Plus, if you ever jot something down quickly on an index card or the like, most multi-subject notebooks have a built-in pocket folder. So easy enough.

3. Filing cabinet

I have a filing cabinet where I keep all my novels. Of course, you can use it to keep your research and notes for each novel.

I’m sure you’ve researched something for one novel and needed to know the same information for another novel. Why not have your own Google system in a cabinet? Then if you need to know something, you can ask yourself.

4. Your computer

Let’s be honest, most of us keep notes and research on our computer instead of printing it out or handwriting it.

If you research on the Internet, you can easily just bookmark a page or copy down the link to the website you found on a Word Document and go back to it later. It’s faster to type notes than it is to hand write them and you can get it anywhere at anytime. If you save it to Dropbox or your e-mail, you can check your notes on your phone or tablet when you’re not home.

Technology is wonderful.

What are some ways your organize your notes for your novels?

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13 thoughts on “How To Organize Your Notes

  1. Have to admit that the computer storage has backfired on me many times. Having a thumb drive or portable drive to keep backups helps. Still enough crashes has led me to stick to notebooks more than computers. One thing that connects to this is that it’s smart to designate a place for the notebooks. I used to keep them in a pile somewhere and people would move them or mistake them for fair game. Now I have a shelf that all of them are on. This is more to protect them from accidents and other people than actual organization.

    This is an interesting comment field with the border moving as I add lines. Nice new theme on the blog.

    • Honestly, I forgot about my flashdrive. Both my USB ports are broken on my laptop (it’s five years old) so I haven’t used that in a while. When it comes to notes, I do like having them in notebooks. I don’t really know why.
      Thank you, I’m glad you like the new theme!

      • I’ve wondered about the notebooks too. Maybe it’s an instinctual comfort from our days of taking notes in school. You always knew they were safe in the notebook. Though not as safe as a trapper keeper, but that would be odd these days.

  2. I have notebooks everywhere!!! That’s actually a really good system. Currently, my own system is all over the place depending on the project. I’ve got to get everything cleaned up and organized. Then I’ve got to come up with a more universal organization system because what I’ve got right now is driving me bonkers.

    • Yeah… It’s hard not to have everything all over the place. Mine is in one spot, but I do have to go through it all.

  3. It’s one of the reasons I like Scrivener as you can keep stuff in that. But I have scraps of paper all over. This is the second post I have read this week on note organisation. Maybe the universe is telling me something!

    • I have never used Scrivener, though I’ve heard good things about it. It’s something I plan on getting at some point.
      I’ve just been trying to organize everything lately which is what made me write the post in the first place.

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