Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Do You Organize Your Ideas?

When it comes to storage, my ideas go in one of three places:

1.) My Head
PhotoPretty obvious. I like to let new ideas stew for a bit before I decided if they’re worth writing. “A bit” can be anywhere from a couple days to a couple years while I add characters, think about possible plots, and compose playlists. It’s essential that my ideas have a very strong “feel” to them—something that keeps pulling me back.

2.) A notebook
College-ruled and spiral-bound, if you please. Ideas really come alive for me when I've pinned down the central relationship of the story. I usually think in terms of two main characters (even if one is really more of a supporting character) and the dynamic between them. Once I have a good idea of that (and assuming I still think it’s a story worth writing) I move the idea to its own notebook. Not much organization, but plenty of room to make notes and work things out. Nothing’s certain yet, but it’s a bit more permanent than when it was all in my head.

3.) Index Cards
For all the unrelated bits and pieces that don’t have a story yet. Titles, quotes, weird observations, and all other random snippets get noted down on index cards and stuffed into a shoe box on my shelf. Sometimes things resurface, sometimes they don’t, but it’s nice to know there’ll all in one place.

That’s my filing system for ideas, and as you can see, it’s not all that organized. I used to wish it was, but I've decided that I prefer it to be a little chaotic—when everything’s rigidly organized I don’t feel like a creative person anymore. On the other hand, I know a lot of great writers are MUCH more organized than I am…so what do you prefer? Do you like to let ideas stew in your head or keep them all written down in a notebook? What does your storage system look like? Drop me a note in the comments; I’d love to know!


  1. Hm, this is a really cool way to get into your head! As for myself, I tend to write ideas in a notebook (they're in my head, too, of course, but then they go away). I also put them on a do-list on my calendar, and I have a lot of files on the computer devoted to idea-holding, as well. But that is just me. This is a cool system; thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. You're welcome! Notebooks are great for just about anything, and I really admire anyone who can write their ideas down in a computer file--I've tried that a bunch of times, since it's so convenient, but it never really worked for me. I guess I'm doomed to think best on paper:)

  2. Wow, that is super cool because I just put everything in my head or in my computer, but obviously good old paper and ink are much cooler. Last night I just kept making up scenes and being too lazy to write them down. Fortunately I managed to cling on to them until this morning.

    I find it interesting that you build stories around relationships! I build stories around characters in settings, like, "what would X do in this place Y?", possibly because I don't write much romance. But that's a really interesting perspective :D

    1. I'm the laziest person on the planet, so my notebooks tend to fill up pretty slowly--I have the exact same problem of getting ideas late at night and not wanting to get up to write them down.
      I don't write much romance, either, so a lot of my stories are built around friendships--to me that's a much more interesting dynamic. Settings play a big part, too, since I can't get comfortable in a story if it doesn't have a strong sense of place.