I put one together with each project. It's old school, unlike Scrivener, but I prefer something I can hold on to. I buy a simple 1" three-ring binder, and dividers. I take notes on a spiral notebook, the kind with the tear out sheets, and then sort those notes within the three-ring binder. It keeps me organized, even when my thoughts are all over the place. No idea can escape the notebook trap.
Here are some samples of divider tabs:
- Characters--this is where character worksheets, character quirks, and character notes belong. If I forget what eye color my main character has, this is what I refer to. The name, age, and physical description of each character goes here, and keeps confusion to a minimum.
- Plot/Scene Ideas--when these ideas pop into my head, I jot them down. I may never use them, but at least I've recorded them for future use. As I'm plotting, I pluck my favorite ideas out and expand on them.
- Plotting Notes--each time I plot a new project, I refer to James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure. Inevitably I end up taking notes, and this is where I keep those scribbles. These are free-form notes, but I want to keep them in a safe place for future reference.
- Clues--ah, this is a biggie for me. With each story, as I plant clues, I keep a running list in this section. Same with story threads. As I near the end of the first draft, or as I work through the second draft, I make sure to refer to this list, so that clues and story threads don't get lost in the shuffle.
- Research--notes from books, or printouts from web sites, go here. Easy peasy.
- Sample Lines--if an opening line comes to me, I'll jot it down here. Same with my sample log lines. It's helpful to see the sample openings or log lines morph from one version to another, tightening up along the way.
- Agents--before I signed with my agent, I kept a section in my notebook for a list of agents. As I heard about agents that might be interested in my type of book, I jotted down their name, agency, and web site. When it was time to query my manuscript, this narrowed down my research phase.
So that's my notebook. What do you think? Not organized enough? Way too organized? Too low tech? Can you share a nugget or your process with us? It's fun to compare, or to borrow/steal ideas!