When I start a new a new novel, I go to Office Depot or Office Max (whichever is having the best sale at the time) and I buy three things:
• 2-inch, D-ring binder with pockets
• Paper portfolio that’s 3-hole punched
• Notebook (spiral or non) that’s 3-hole punched
When I start working on a story, I write all my ideas, bits of dialogue, plot points, and random character thoughts in my notebook. I keep the notebook with me at all times. Concerts, business meetings, crop parties. Yes, I’ve even taken it to the bathroom with me—hey, I get some of my best ideas in there!
Anyway, I don’t write anything on any extraneous pieces of paper. Those things: post-its, receipts, deposit slips, and the like can get easily lost, and then there goes my brilliant idea. So, I write everything in one place. Now, you can get notebooks with dividers. So if you want to separate you ideas by subject, such as backstory, plot, subplot, you could. I’m organized, but I’m not that organized. That kind of fine tuning is counter intuitive to my creative process—which is best described as . . . free flowing (read messy).
I use the portfolio to keep track of any loose papers. Photos from magazines of people that represent my characters. Pamphlets, booklets, from research I’ve done on the topic. News articles of events that I might talk about in my story. Things people send me. It’s amazing how when I tell people what my story’s about, sometimes I get things from friends and colleagues on that topic. And because I forget my notebook sometimes and I’m forced to write on the backs of napkins and weird slips of paper, the portfolio gives me a place to put them. If my portfolio gets too fat, I use the pockets in the binder as overflow.
Finally, I printout a copy of my manuscript when it’s ready to edit. (Yes, I do old school edits on paper.) I three-hole punch it and work on the edits. It’s also nice to have my manuscript printed out for those times when I’m writing about a character with ties to a previous book. I can quickly flip to whatever section I need to review from the previous novel and get the information I need to make the new story that I’m working on consistent.
So, that’s how I keep it together.
What’s your technique?