Last time I talked a little about my process for keeping a writing notebook for ideas, and I mentioned that I eventually transfer these notes to notecards. I guess the majority of my writing training comes from high school term papers, because I reverted right to the notecard process and it felt very natural to me. I find that the majority of the work comes in the early stages, the idea stages, before the pen really hits the paper. I feel like if I have done my work right to that point the story will just flow out and it will be a free and creative experience for me. It usually works.
I’m a bit of a list maker and some might say a little OCD. I’m okay with that. It doesn’t get in the way – I’m not locking the door three times or washing my hands with a new bar of soap every time I touch anything. But everything on my desk is in it’s place and at a right angle. Sue me. Anyway, like I was saying, I make lists. I often color code these lists to help me keep from getting overwhelmed by them. If the system to stay organized gets unruly I find that I start to ignore it and stress starts to creep in because I don’t know what I should be doing next. I’m a big fan of the GTD way and it has helped with that stress a great deal. So the color code thing helps me identify parts of the story when I am writing and group things. In this way the story starts to come together for me like a puzzle and I am able to see it’s formation because of the color code. Now, it varies – I’ll make it to suit the story at hand, but I make sure that it will make sense to me as I continue along the process. I don’t want to be looking at my notes wondering what the green highlighted portions mean. So make your system the way that will work for you.
From these cards and the color code I can then start to construct an outline. I usually spread the cards out on a table and start moving them around, putting them in order. In this way the notecards work quite literally like puzzle pieces. I try and keep the notes on the cards as brief as possible so I can grasp the note at a glance. The only time I stray from this is when a really clear idea for a scene springs forth whole. I love it when inspiration strikes like that, but even then I might write out the scene elsewhere so as not to lose the idea, and keep the notecard brief.
Once the notecards are in order I usually use them as my main notes right to the side of the keyboard as I write. Usually this makes for a feeling in me of real calm and creative freedom, because I have the story at my finger tips, I know where the scene needs to go and I have to just let it unfold and capture it as it does.
…all this is making me feel very inspired and I want to go dig into my notebook for the new feature script I’m working on. I’ve got ideas flowing right now. I’m going to go capture them. You do the same.