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Keeping track of everything

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Bearman1, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. Bearman1

    Bearman1 Scribe

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    Does anyone else find it difficult to keep track of all the details that build up when writing a novel?

    I am currently writing my first novel and although I cannot write it everyday (work, everyday life issues) I feel like I am making steady progress. However I do find myself forgetting minor plot points and little hints that I make in previous chapters.

    For those more experienced writers out there, is this something that you would rectify with edits and proof-reads?

    Or do you keep track of everything via notes and/or in your head?

    Thanks,
     
  2. acapes

    acapes Sage

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    Hey Bearman1, I think one of the hardest things is learning how we as writers best operate - so for me, absolutely, I refine and work on continuity and sub plots etc during revisions. For me, the first draft is more of an explosion and it's not until the dust settles that I take a close look.

    But of course, your method might be more keeping track with notes and supplementary documents, and if so cool, go with it. I actually leave 'notes to self' within my first draft if I'm worried I'll forget something, but mostly I charge ahead writing the first draft because the mood of the story is something I want to hold on to and revising, for me, is a different headspace.

    Have you got a file of notes built up already?
     
  3. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    You definitely want to keep notes, and find a system of organizing them that works for you. (Some people will say "the system is Scrivener; done.")

    Keep in mind, sometimes the fastest way is just to use Find on your story itself, when you know what exact words to search for, or at least what words bring you to the passage that talks about it. Just yesterday I wasn't sure if I'd given my villain five or six henchmen on a raid-- so I Searched for "five," and (an MS Word trick) used control-PageDown to Find Again until I'd flicked through the book in a few seconds. Yup, five minions.
     
  4. Bearman1

    Bearman1 Scribe

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    At the moment I am writing each chapter in an individual word document and making short notes of what each chapter was about. That way when I forget something I flick back to the chapter and have a quick skim through. I never thought about using Find before, but that will be a great solution for finding passages.

    I do have a notepad that is chock full of notes, only, because this is the first draft right now my mind is all over the place. Like you said Acapes it is important to capture the mood of the novel. I know there are definitely things I have missed and/or forgotten.

    A strange part of me is kinda looking forward to sitting down and editing the whole thing once it is done!
     
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    It sounds like you got a system that works. Yes, make notes, but don't worry if you miss some things. And yes, for me, editing is where you take care of all the inconsistencies. With each editing pass, I focus on one thing, trying to fix things up and make it better, whether that's plot, character development, world building, or just minor stuff. The trick is to take on one job at a time and try not to fix everything all in one go. Otherwise, you're just going to confuse yourself even more and end up with a bigger mess to fix.
     
  6. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    I keep a separate Word file for ideas as they come and try to put them as chronologically in order as possible with a short title that lets me remember what the idea actually was. If you use the headings tab and the document map at the same time it's easy to navigate through everything. Something to remember when you come to put every chapter on one file.

    I keep each chapter saved separately, I also paste them into one master file. It gives me two copies, and has saved work in the past when several individual chapter files became corrupt. At least I had a copy on the master file and could recover them.
     
  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I do it in editing. I find when I hammer something home too often or discover a line of thought I didn't follow through with, it's easier to assess whether it's important in the scope of the work, if the whole thing is written first. Honestly, my books go through so much revision, sometimes I've put in something on a whim and don't even really "go with it" until my crit partners give me feedback on whether it helped or hurt my story. For instance, once I had a side plot I wanted to try out and my crit partner really liked the scene I added into the story, but he hated all the reason for it happening. That gave me a really good opportunity to consider the "how" and "why" of the scene and I think I made it much stronger in revision. But until I got someone else's perspective on whether it worked, it was hard to figure out HOW to work it in really solidly.

    I'm either "writing" or I'm "editing". It's really hard to do both at once because they're sometimes counterproductive. If you spend too much time editing while you write, it can mean you never finish. Conversely, if you write too hastily, you end up with a pile of garbage and beginning editing is very daunting. I think every writer needs to find the balance that works best for them. As you get better, you'll do less crappy first drafts and that makes editing easier in turn.
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    There are a ton of tools out there. Evernote and OneNote are two popular ones (Windows-based), but there are many others, including Notepad++ or Word (or LibreOffice).

    I have only one piece of advice: one bucket.

    Whatever you use, use only that. Everything goes into one bucket. As soon as you start keeping some stuff *here* and other stuff *there* you will start to lose control. If you decide to change, moving e.g. from OneNote to Scrivener, move *everything*.

    I cannot stress too much the importance of having everything in one place. Read 'Getting Things Done' for why this is important, if you are interested.
     
  9. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    As said, taking notes can help. And reviewing them on occasion.

    Another method would be to re-read the previous section written (maybe to a little editing) before moving on to new words added.

    Finally, skimming over what you previously read on occasion, if you're forgetting 'minor' details written/included that will become important later, to refresh yourself. But, in any case, you'll have to edit and revise beyond the first draft.

    One thing that will help is to keep notes of important 'things', especially if you're hoping to turn your first novel in to a series. Consistency in that arena is very important.
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I use OneNote for my stories, but I use EverNote for other, completely unrelated projects, like my articles on the MS Blog. Both are fantastic programs. But in OneNote it's easy to move things around on a big white page, and I feel that makes it easier for me to juice up the creative process inside the program. EverNote is all organizing, all the time. And that's great for the things I use it for, where I'm just trying to compress too many ideas into smaller ones.

    People say great things about Scrivener. I've tried it a little, and I can see why. But the idea of having writing and notes in one program intimidates me. Notes can be just another distraction if you aren't careful.
     
  11. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Auror

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    I used to have a huge organization issue!

    I still do to some extent, I start out with notes scribbled on what ever item is available, pizza box lids, foil from cigarette packs, once on the bottom of my shoe even! You name it, I may have done it at some point.

    Then eventually I dump these into a shoe box, I pull out these papers on a day, or as is usually the case for me, night when it is dead quiet.

    I take the box and remove everything, I look at the notes, half ideas etc. and try to place them into some type of logical order. Fill in any gaps I'm able and type it all out into an "outline(A)" just the thoughts, and order of things.
    Later I'll come back and make a better "outline(B)" here is where I try to expand on thoughts, finish filling in gaps I can see and I also plug in research links, book references with pg numbers and paragraph numbers ect. I can't tell you how many times this has saved my rear end. I've recently started emailing myself my outlines with links, notes etc. I add to it as I need to, as time goes on and the project progresses.

    Then I turned around and got scrivener, I'm still learning how to use it, but so far I enjoy the ease it provides in helping me gather all the various bits and pieces to keep my story in order, and allows me to put blank spaces where stuff is missing. Like: "Why did the chick cross the road, without looking?" These types of questions pop up all the time, at least for me. It allows me keep writing, but I don't forget what question was in need of answering and where. it is literally an "at a glance" type deal which for me is freaking awesome.


    Good luck, and like Caged said it does get easier with time, practice, trial and error. :)


    Hope that helps some.

    All the best,
    ~BL~
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  12. Bearman1

    Bearman1 Scribe

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    I have seen a lot of people tlaking about Scrivener. Is it worth upgrading to that from Word?

    I am little confused about what it does differently?

    Thanks,
     
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Scrivener has a great free trial. 30 days, only counting days you've used the program.

    One of these days I might start using Scrivener to write, but I don't think for notes.
     
  14. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Auror

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    I wondered the same thing myself, and I had a gift card that was about to expire, that along with the sale of the program brought the price down far enough that I went ahead and bought it. Best $ I've spent in a long time. I tried ywriter and was underwhelmed. However ywriter is free so that might be a good place for you to start. You never know until u try.
     
  15. acapes

    acapes Sage

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    Sounds like you're on the right track, and yeah, for me, holding onto the mood is vital.

    And I really enjoy editing & revising too - some folks think that I am crazy for that but it's somehow more satisfying to refine something sometimes!
     
  16. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Bearman1 likes this.
  17. Bansidhe

    Bansidhe Minstrel

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    No matter how much we plan (or not), I think quite a lot of us come across those unexpected but magical moments of inspiration where previously un-thought of connections are made, or a character's motivation changes or become abundantly clear. I'm a fast drafter, so I make a note of the epiphany or change, and keep going with the information in mind (perfect is the enemy of done!). Then, in revisions, I'll go back and add the necessary layers so it looks like I planned it that way all along! ;)
     
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