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Keeping Track


Keeping Track – Organising your workload

Not so much a question, but I thought it would useful to share some methods of organising the workload, as well as ways of organising the occasional flood of ideas we sometimes get. So this is my system:-

On Windows


Filing - Each chapter in its own file, plus a file of notes for each (deleted when they are no longer needed). To keep them in order, I use the 01, 02, 03, 04 etc, to 10, 11... at the start of each file. Computers use the Dewey system to order numerical files, hence the 0 is needed in front on single numbers or they will be displayed out of order.

In addition, each chapter is saved in its own document, so everything associated with book one, is in one folder, and everything for book two in another. I also have subfolders – previous drafts, rejected ideas (perhaps they can be salvaged at a later date), and one for notes.

Keeping Ideas - I keep a master file of ideas inserted into some sort of chronological order. Some of these are a few sentences, others, entire scenes. If I get lost, I refer to it. It sort of forms the big picture of what I am working on but has many gaps. In addition, I use the documents map feature and preset headings, it helps with the navigation of the file, which at the moment is touching 250,000 words. Seriously, I don’t delete anything, you never know when it will come in useful, and I do tend to sleep with a notebook close to my bed because after all, my memory is like a wire mesh bucket at times, so if I don’t write out an idea out there and then, I lose it.

Outlining - I outline about three chapters at a time. It helps with the flow from one to the other. In addition I use a summary of events, and the closing emotional state of my viewpoint character in the previous chapter. It helps to maintain consistency and flow from one section to the next.

Note Books – Includes Insignias, hierarchies, ranks, character sheets (basic notes on descriptions, goals, fears, etc) on primary, secondary and incidental characters. Anything, basically, that needs referring to at some point. (Recently, I have discovered OneNote, which promises to be useful, but I am still learning how to use it, so I don’t really know enough about it to use it efficiently at the mo).

Excel Spreadsheets

Keeping Track - I use spreadsheets to keep track of how much writing I have done, and how much I still have to do. My basic table headings look like this:-

Chapter / Title / Pages / Date completed / Draft Number / Readability Scores / Words Done / Words left to Do

It means that I can see at a glance the places that I need to work on, bits I need to change, or to insert some information, without having to trawl my way through pages and pages of text, and the ever increasing words count (albeit sometimes a slow increase) helps to push me on a little more. (In my Word documents these bits and notes are italicised so I know where exactly they are).

In addition to these, I have tables on kill counts, death counts, fight scenes, torture scenes, dreamscapes, places the characters have moved through, revelations, abilities gained, and spells learnt, along with the chapter it happens in, causation, characters involved, and the concluding result.

Hyperlinks – A feature on excel that I have only recently discovered. Once it is set up it enables quick opening of files, it sort of works like a contents page – when clicked on it opens the required file, so there is no need to search through folders for an elusive chapter. The Hyperlink will take you straight to it.

Calendars – Months, dates, start point, key plot events, travelling times, relevant dates of e.g, a festival day, birthday, etc. Helps with multiple POVs, especially when a character splits from the main team or event, but then it calls for two calendars that I can compare events to, also helps with the chronology of everything.

Multiple Save Devices = Flash drives

My first laptop was stolen in a break in, I lost a few weeks worth of work, so now I keep everything saved on several flash drives. One as a WIP, another as a backup, and everything saved on yet another, just in case the first two get crushed or somehow melted, short-circuited, blown-up... anything, everything can happen at some point!

So, does anyone have anything to add?

How do you organise your workload?

Anyone use the apple-mac system, and how do you organise the above? – I only ask because I never have, hence I have no idea what is available on it.
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Most of the programs on Mac are pretty identical to the programs on Windows. In fact, there is Microsoft Word/Excel for Mac, so you can use the exact same program if you fancy.

I'm an odd one out, I think, in that I like to keep my novel in a single Word document. I don't know if this is the same for every version of Word, but on mine, if you use Header 1, a 'marker' will appear on the scrollbar that, if you hover over it, will say whatever is written in the Header 1 setting. So if you start each chapter with "Chapter X", you can easily find it without just scrolling down until you hit it. I also don't keep any sort of timetable for myself. I live a rather unstructured life; it'd have to be vague and like "one hour after I wake up" since I sometimes wake up at 3 AM.

As for notes, I do... mostly the same thing. Word document. Headers. I get a little artsy with the notes and start colour coordinating everything and choosing colour schemes that match my stories. I also have tumblr, which is a blogging website, where the brainstorming and inspiration all goes. Everything from a jamming song that makes me think of a character to a rambling attempt to formulate a creature's magical power go on there. Keeps the sleek and smooth stuff on Word, but also gives me easy access to it. I just tag my posts by the story, #paraselene and #soundworld. Works pretty well, and it lets me share my ideas with my friends and random people who inexplicably follow me. I've gotten some great feedback on the early stages stuff.

Caged Maiden

Article Team
Thanks for posting. I thought myself pretty organized, but you gave me some great ideas as to how to go to the next level. The only thing I'd add is another flash drive.... just in case. Might as well just have two of them. Put one in your fire safe!
Thanks for all the great suggestions.


Tired of keeping lots of separate and easily deleteable GenericOffice files? Why not use a program like Scrivener, or yWriter?

Hah, that was a bit too much of a plug.

Seriously though, I have Scrivener and it's pretty useful in both writing in a nice clean environment and organising notes and so on. I mean it is a program you have to pay for, but one way of getting a discount is NaNoWriMo, and all you have to do is write 50k words in a month. simple?

Well, maybe not. If you're loath to part with your hard earn cash, then there are a number for free versions of the same kind of program (the one I know of is yWriter). They do more or less the same thing as Scrivener, with the obvious stipulation that they cost less ;)

The Din

I use ywriter and have no complaints. Lets me save my work in various different file tipes, thus can email it to myself via hotmail and have a back up that is virtually impossible to lose. (Though I'm not saying I don't do the usb stick thing too.)


Most of my ideas are either in a notebook in real life or on my blog (a link in my siggy) so I can say, "hey, this is when I got this idea" out to the world and have it copy-written or told that someone did it already. Though I still think keeping that blog is a bad idea because of the copy-write thing and publishers thinking that world already have read this for free.

For outlines, I tend to have one for the whole book and chapters of that book. They are in folders that have related files for that book. I have a template for mu outlines with sections that I need, like: Setting, Characters (sub: Major, Minor, Other), and Other Things.

Most of my chapters are labeled by name or number, if I already know the order for the chapters, in that same folder of the related stuff for that book. They tend be .rtf's because I use FocusWriter to write them. Then at the end, put the chapters in order on one file.

EDIT: I also have a three-inch binder full of what I have written and printed out from my files. I have main sections, sub sections, and sub-sub sections for some. My main sections are based on history of Torzukarr (and other things dealing with just the world itself), a Torzukarr novel section, a Torzukarr short-story section, a non-Torzukarr novel section, a non-Torzukarr short story section, and blank paper section. Then my sub-sections are my stories and novels for those sections that have them. And Sub-Sub sections are for outline in one, chapters in another, so forth. This binder is my back-up and where I have my marked up copies when I edit with a pen.

Note on these sections: my main and sub-sub sections are just normal dividers that you get from the store and my sub sections are file folders ripped in half (on the fold line) and hole punched. One whole (front and back) is a sub section. And I do have a table of contains for the sections.
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I use Scrivener for my novel so I can move scenes around if needed. JC is right – it’s a fantastic program. I’ve tried a dozen and it’s the one I always keep coming back to.

I have a word document with headings and an index at the front – so it updates and allows me to easily jump to where I want to be - for my notes, so I have sections for each character, location, series breakdown/book breakdown, food, technology and so on.

I have a small ‘paperblanks’ notebook in my bag where I can jot ideas and such down. I love it more than my moleskines.

And that’s it, I think, other than a private wordpress journal where I post things I’m having trouble with and so on, for certain friends to read and comment back on.


Is there is a free clone of Scrivener that can be used on Linux?

Not free if you want exactly Scrivener. but not only does it have a mac version I bet you could run it in Wine or something of the sort.

Alternatively (if yWriter isn't any good) there may well be a similar products for Linux (perhaps open source?) that I've never heard of. You'd have to google it.

EDIT: I can test this theory at some point if I can get Mint running... if!
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I have recently discovered graphs on my spreadsheet, thanks to Nanowrimo. I've started using them to track my daily productivity against my own set goals. Huge motivation boost to see that bar raising every 100 words or so.

Also, the whole manuscript is now on one file... not sure if this is safer though, Recently lost a couple of chapters when a wonky USB connection ended up corrupting a couple of files during saving. But was only two. It is easier though to navigate through especially by using the document map, and level 1, 2, or 3 headings. Zooms straight through to where I want to be.
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I am not that organized... my WIP is all one file and two or three secondary files for the background, world, characters etc... perhaps I should be more organized, thanks for all the wonderful ideas. I do keep a couple backups of all my stories and stuff on a couple different forms of external media, an SD card and a flash drive. :p
When I wrote my travel guide, it was all scattered notes and drafts. Ug. By the time I had a single draft compiled it was too late to use anything else besides Word. I know a lot of writers that swear by Scrivener. I have downloaded the trial and will buy it. I got to chapter three of my fantasy novel and I knew I'd have to use something to keep track of everything. I went through the tutorial and I like it a lot.

For writing short stories and shorter novellas, I write in a single file in Word and they are short enough to keep track of everything in my head for the most part, maybe a note or two. I do have an Excel spreadsheet for tracking drafts as they move from WIP to my beta reader (my wife), to rewrites, to her edit and then back to my desk for final edits and formatting. Nothing complicated, just enough to remind me what I'm working on and where it's at.

Other than the travel guide at 40k words or so, about 19,000 is my longest work. I do however, have a WIP that will go nicely into Scrivener. A serial with 15 characters. I'll need something help me keep track of all that.
I use Google Docs almost religiously, and for longer works, like novels, I keep separate chapters under a novel's folder. I've used yWriter as well, and I like it, but Google Docs make it easy for me to write wherever I am, as long as I have internet. yWriter requires that I have the local folder on that system; there may be a way to sync that information, but I've not taken those steps.

I keep track of my chapters and scenes on GDocs with a spreadsheet, so I can track word count.

I just purchased Scrivener thanks to NaNoWriMo, so I'll be trying that shortly. I believe I saw somewhere that there was a secondary app that worked with Scrivener and it also allowed you to sync up with Google.

Something else that I've found useful for worldbuilding is Wikidpad. It's basically a homegrown wiki, and you can update that with characters, history, background and timelines that can all be interconnected. A pretty sweet program.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I use OneNote and I'm pretty happy with it. I've got a top-tab-thing for "Worldbuilding," with pages for things like "Culture" and "Warfare," then a "Characters" tab, with the associated pages, and an "Outline" tab with notes about where the story is going and anything that needs to happen. It seems pretty efficient to me.

Recently I've taken a look at Scrivener, and I like the corkboard feature. It lets you organize little summaries of your notes like index cards. But I'm not really impressed with anything else about the program. And even with corkboard, you don't get the flexibility I would want with how you move the cards. They line up left to right, top to bottom - you may as well use PowerPoint (organizing slides the same way, with a notes page for each slide), which I've heard of others doing.

I've got Word 2000 and it does all I need. I keep all the writing in a single file, no files for separate chapters, and if the work is really long or complex, I create a second for important bits and pieces, names, bios, plot points, maps etc.

The one thing I am becoming more and more convinced of as I ready the endless threads on people who have run into trouble uploading to kindle or whatever, is that I am not updating or moving to a new program. Stick with what works.

Cheers, Greg.