Recently on the Upstart Crow blog, Chris asked about inspiration, and how writers keep track of their ideas. Chris seems to have a series of making notes where ever he is, which would drive me crazy. I'm a bit of an organizational nerd, so I have to have a system, and I experiment from time to time with changing up my system for keeping track of my ideas. At the moment, this is how I keep track of my ideas.
1. The Daily Notebook. I have a notebook on my person virtually all the time. Not a variety of notebooks, one notebook. I keep it it my purse* and I write down everything in that notebook. Grocery lists, to do lists, story ideas, daily journaling, everything. Once it's full, it goes on a shelf in my office organized in chronological order and a new one goes in my purse.** Then, from time to time, I look through the notebooks to see if anything captures my fancy.
2. If an idea really sticks with me, I start making notes on it. These notes start in the Daily Notebook, just to get them out of my head. But once an idea seems to have taken root, once it's become more than a glimmer, once there are characters, or a plot line or a first line or something that suggests to me that I might have a viable book in the works, the idea goes to a specific Story Notebook. A Story Notebook is where I put all the stuff about the story that comes to me at all. If I think of something about a specific story during the day, it goes into the Daily Notebook and then transferred to the Story Notebook within the next couple of days. Right now, my Story Notebooks are just notebooks, but Lynn Viehl has an awesome (and sort of intimidating) system of her own for doing this that actually makes sense, but that I can't possibly begin to think about using at this early stage of my writing career.
3. Now comes the writing. I focus on two stories at a time, with little detours for new stuff if an idea really takes over my brain.*** Right now, for example, I'm working on the revision for The Book and breaking the first draft of what, in theory, will be the Next Book.**** I've been dabbling with a couple of other ideas, but those are the two that are the forefront of my mind at the moment.
4. After that? Who knows. That's as far as I've gotten in my writing career thus far. I'm sure there will be other things, next steps, revisions, et cetera. But for right now, that's how I keep track of my ideas.
* I have to say that one of the advantages of being a woman is the purse. I don't know how men keep track of all their stuff without a purse. Of course, some of the things that women need to keep track of is female-specific stuff (like lipstick), but still, a purse is really handy.
** Incidentally, my favorite notebooks at the moment are the Wire-O notebooks from Antioch company. They're a little expensive, but totally worth it, if you're into that sort of thing. Which I am.
*** I try to keep the detours to a minimum though, because new stuff always seems more fun and cool than the stuff I've been working on for months. It's like the difference between a new boyfriend and the guy you've been seeing for a while. The new guy always seems more fun and interesting and sexy, but that's just because you haven't uncovered all his neuroses and issues yet, and if you went with every good looking guy you saw, you'd never learn enough about one particular guy to ever fall in love.
**** The Next Book isn't the same book as the Totally New Project or the Totally Random Project or Electric Boogaloo. It's the Next Book.