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How to organize your writing notes and observations

As writers, we train ourselves to be observant. We eavesdrop on conversations, notice our surroundings, and observe those around us. We become detectives for our art. We constantly make notes and file things away for later.

I try to always carry a small notebook or my iPhone with me for those times when I want to record something. My husband does too, but his notes usually consist of phone numbers or emails of business contacts he needs to call back. Once, when he couldn’t find a scrap of paper to write on, he grabbed a marker and the closest smooth surface he could find—which happened to be a spaghetti squash on our kitchen counter! (At least he didn’t write on the cupboard door, right?)

So, how do we organize our scraps of paper and spaghetti squash messages?

I’m a notebook junkie, but when I’m working on a big project, I like to keep everything organized in Scrivener—writing software specifically created for organizing and structuring first drafts.

I’ve tried using Microsoft Word and other programs, but Scrivener allows me to look at all my files at once. I can choose from several different views. I can view scene cards or the page I’m working on. And on the left is the “binder” where I can view all my files:


For my current project, my binder has the following files in it: chapters written, main characters, secondary characters, creatures, research (with about 10 subfolders for different topics), editing notes, objects and symbols, scene notes, scene list, setting with five subfolders for different settings in the novel, and ideas and brainstorming. In all I have about 50 different files. When I had all these files in Word, I was constantly searching for information. Now, with one click, what I need pops up in front of me–like magic.

Scrivener is available for both Mac and PC. In my next post, I’ll share tips for getting the most out of this amazing software.

What methods do you use to corral your notes and files?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linking back today on my re-blog feature

    March 12, 2014

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  1. Capturing Your Snippets of Genius… | Mandy Eve Barnett's Official Blog
  2. Words on a page

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