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How to Organise Your Notes

Updated on May 17, 2016
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How to Organise Your Notes and Become a More Efficient Writer

As a writer you should always carry a notebook and pen or pencil with you everywhere you go, to jot down ideas that come up out of nowhere, snatches of overheard conversations that strike you, anecdotes or sources that you might need for a project you are working on, an editor's name and address that you find in a magazine while in a dentist's waiting room, and so on and so forth. But, what do you do with these unordered records, when you want to make use of them? Leaf through your notebook in the hope of finding what you need? I find that cumbersome. You too? Then read on, for I have a few solutions for you.

Do you use a notebook?

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Solution 1: Make your own 'all-in-one organiser'

  1. Get yourself a large ring binder, one or more packs of blank dividers, plenty of ruled or square-ruled refill paper, as well as some blank refill paper or clear plastic sheet protectors.
  2. Name the blank dividers as you think fit, e.g.: Ideas, Outlines, Characters, Inspiration, Sources, and so on.
  3. Put several sheets of the blank paper or the binder pocktes under Inspiration, and divide the ruled paper over the other sections.
  4. Use you organiser as follows:

    - (a) Ideas - write here any ideas for stories, articles, non-fiction book, scenes for your novel.

    - (b) Outlines - jot down ideas for beginning, middle and end of an article, story or book.

    - (c) Characters - for fiction and non-fiction writers alike: anything about your (fictional) characters you're planning to write about find its place in this section.

    - (d) Inspiration - use this section as a scrapbook. Stick here any odd thought you wrote down in your little notebook you always carry with you. (Well, you do, don't you?) Also any cuttings or pictures from magazines or newspapers that may inspire you should be glued on these blank pages, or put into the sheet protectors.

    - (e)Sources - write down where to find material or pictures you may want to use, or have used and may need again. These may be addresses or references to books, magazines, newspapers, websites. What you might also want to write down here are addresses of people people important to you: agents, publishers, editors, those who may or promised to help you with your research (e.g. has a tale to tell; is willing to lend you a book/magazine/picture)

Solution 2: Use index cards as organiser

Folding filing-folders. Boston Index Card Co., 113 Purchase Street. Boston, Mass.
Folding filing-folders. Boston Index Card Co., 113 Purchase Street. Boston, Mass. | Source

Use index cards as organiser

  1. Decide what size of index cards you'd prefer: 3x5, 4x6 or 5x8 in
  2. Buy a pack of your favoured sized cards and a box to keep them in
  3. Get dividers with plain tabs
  4. Name the plain dividers as you think fit
  5. Use the index cards the same way as described in solution 1

What is your favourite solution?

Ring binder

Ring binder

Submit a Comment

  • srsddn lm 4 years ago

    I think ring binder is more convenient and quicker.

  • RavenRunner 4 years ago

    Ring binders ftw!

  • writerkath 5 years ago

    I use a lot of ring binders.

  • yellowbrickroad 5 years ago

    I have notebooks all over the house. Each one begins with a purpose, but they usually get lost after I've written a few pages. I always have a couple of novels going at one time: the one that is due to my publisher in the too-near future, and the one I'm writing because I'm tired of the one I'm supposed to be writing. The only words that don't get lost are the ones I save to my laptop! I did, however, write a couple of novels partially by hand in hard bound notebooks by Chronicle Books, back when I was more organized. I wrote one of them in my Jeep at Ocean Beach in a little striped affair, which seemed to be the magic potion.

  • anonymous 5 years ago

    Big notebook to write everything in. No order, but also no lost notes.

Index cards

Submit a Comment

  • Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

    I guess I'm more the index card type but mine are more on pieces of paper that I leaf through. I keep them together but like the fact that they are loose.

  • anonymous 5 years ago

    I've used both these methods, but I tend to write notes on pieces of paper, scattered all around my work area.

  • Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

    The index cards are a habit I picked up many years ago when I was a student. They really help me organise myself

  • flycatcherrr 5 years ago

    I use both, but I prefer index cards because they're so portable.

Do you have a special way to organise your notes? Let us know here.

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    • profile image

      othellos 3 years ago

      Excellent lens on a topic that can help everyone.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 4 years ago

      Blessed I like index cards

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 5 years ago

      Regrettably, I need more practice on this! My husband is renovating a room to give me a "real" office, so hopefully I'll be more organized soon!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Yeah, I prefer writing my ideas down and being able to see my writing later when going through my notes. Guess it's a kinesthetic kind of thing for me. :)

    • LaurisB LM profile image

      LaurisB LM 5 years ago

      I still carry a small notebook in my purse for times when I'm out and about. But it seems like I end up with a bunch of little notebooks around and never know where to find things in them. Or I forget to go back to the thing that seemed so important at the time. It's probably all related to OCD, but I want to get into the habit of using my tablet or other electronic device instead.

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

      I've started writing a lot on blank index cards. I find the shape very convenient for lists and notes and I have a pack of 500 sitting on my desk.

    • Carashops profile image

      Cara 5 years ago

      I still use index cards. Easier to flip through and organise than software. Quicker too. A good lens.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Regardless of my more modern bits and pieces, knick-knacks and gadgetry, I still find myself filling out notes on a small pocket-sized pad and later popping them into my index card box. Sometimes I'm a little hesitant to admit it

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I've tried all manner of apps and spreadsheets and whatnot to try to organize my notes digitally, to avoid retyping later, but keep coming back to pen and paper (or index cards); there's something about the act of writing, physically writing things down, that seems to help with the whole process of organization and subsequent creative work.