Friday, July 13, 2012

Note Solutions

The best piece of advice I can give to any writer is to write everything down. Every idea, every character, every snippet of conversation, every plot. Every single idea you have. You think you will remember them, but you won't and while most of them are crap, those rare gems will slip away if you don't record them.

With that in mind here are some programs and ideas for keeping all those little notes organized and archived.

Notepad -

Notepad is an old, old program that comes with every PC. It has no features,  no bells, no whistles. But it will get the job done. Creating a chain of folders on you computer filled with notepads will not be pretty, but it will be functional. A great place to start for new writers who just need a simple solution for keeping track of their notes.

Simple folder organization and a few of these notes can go a long way. For example: Projects > Fantasy Story > Characters. With notepads in the final folder, one for each character listing the information you have for them.

Notepad's greatest strengths are that most people already have it, it's free and most importantly, it's quick. A notepad will open instantly, unlike word or a web browser. Proof that you don't need a fancy, expensive program to get the job done.

WikidPad -

WikidPad is an awesome little program. Free to download and easy to use, it was one of the first programs I started using to organize all my notes. Makes it easy to link projects and organize your notes. One weakness, and a strength, is that pages are global across the program, so a if you have two character names across two projects it will show you that. Though it can be annoying to have each project's Character or Setting page to need a  project tag so they don't over lap.

OneNote -

Unfortunately, OneNote by Microsoft is not free. However if you could find an "alternative method" for acquiring the program, I would highly recommend it. OneNote is an amazing program once you dive into it. The formatting options, ease of picture embedding and simplicity of the program is unrivaled. Being able to have a notebook for each project, sections for characters and settings with their own pages and sub pages is fantastic. The ease with which you can jump around your projects really helps and the always on functionality means it's snap to pull up. A friend turned me onto this program and I'm glad I took the time to migrate over.

What I Do -

Personally, I've cobbled together a solution that works for me. This is by no way "the" way to do it. I include it here only as an example for others who may not know where to start. This is a solution still in progress that I'm constantly experimenting with.

I start by writing down every idea I get, no matter how small or stupid it may seem at the time. When on the go I use the notes function on my phone. When at my desk or in bed I have a small notebook and pen always ready to go. As an insomniac I do my best thinking and get my best ideas when lying awake at night trying to fall asleep. Having a notebook on the nightstand ready to go is invaluable.

Next I have an actual notebook, standard college rule variety you can get at any store. I write out plot lines in it, flesh out ideas, outline scripts and episodes and do most of my brainstorming work in it.

Last is my archive on the computer, currently in OneNote. This holds all the information of my projects. A wiki level of detail for each project. Every character, every plot line, every setting, written out and put down in a program I can easily access while writing in case I need some obscure bit of information about a character or race, scene by scene notes for scripts, and a host of other information.

In addition to this I have a scattering of notepad documents with random notes on them. I regularly archive the notes from my actual paper notebook and the notepad documents into the archive, to make sure everything is preserved and organized for when I need it.

Closing -

So there are some solutions and ideas for your note taking. If you have an ideas you want to share or programs you love to use please do so in the comments below. I'm always on the look out for new solutions and would love to hear them.

And remember, back up that data!

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