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N is for Notes

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

Every book I write has a ton of notes to go with it, things I’ve written down to remind myself of certain details and so I don’t screw up continuity. Most writers do this I think, and there are many different methods of keeping notes. Some writers do it right on the manuscript, some keep notes electronically, and some use programs like Scrivener (which I hear is amazing, though I’ve never used it).

For me, I write everything down on paper. When I need to remember something, or do something later in the story, I scribble it down. My notes are completely disorganized and often sound like the ravings of a crazy person, but they make sense to me. I have a deep fear that I’ll die with all these bizarre notes that only made sense to me lying around and people will think I was a lunatic.

I usually make a list of notes during the first writing, then another list when I’m editing and rewriting. This is especially true when writing a series, when there’s so many balls to juggle and you don’t want to forget something. I have notes for future books in the series, lists of things that need to be resolved, details to pick up later. I scratch each one out as I wedge it into the story and it gives me a sense of satisfaction. It’s a bit of an old-style way of doing things I guess, but it’s how my brain best works.

How about you, do you keep notes for your stories? What methods do you use? Do your notes sound insane like mine?

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

25 thoughts on “N is for Notes Leave a comment

  1. I couldn’t have finished my first Russian historical, or written the second and third, without all my extensive chapter-by-chapter notes and outlines. I’m already starting to make notes for the fourth book, even though it won’t be nearly so epic in scope. As far as I’m concerned, one can’t write a saga without notes and a timeline. Even if a book is deliberately super-long, it at least needs to be kept in check by a chapter-by-chapter plan of what’s going to happen. I also have files listing all the character who appear, in order, as well as glossaries for foreign words, broken up by category (food, insults, family members, etc.), and historical references. Then there are the family trees, always helpful when working with an ensemble cast.

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    • Sounds like you’re really good at making notes! I agree, something like that sounds like it needs a lot of notes, a lot of things to keep track of. It sounds like a great deal of fun, really!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I don’t religiously make notes. Once in a while I jot down something on any paper/notebook I find. For the first ‘Amazon single’ short story I wrote, I used my hand scribbled notes and expanded them into a story. Just today I was writing something and realised that the habit of writing (not merely typing) is dying. I hope the next generation and the subsequent do not forget hand-writing altogether!

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  3. Thanks for visiting my blog – so happy to discover yours:-) YES, I do keep notes and yes, they are pretty chaotic…But I have a system in my mind and then it all works out in the end- at least:-)

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  4. I do keep notes. I’ve purchased a notebook that I bring with me everywhere, because I am ALWAYS getting ideas for new writings, be it a story I’m working on or a new r.a.n.t. If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. I also like to keep one by my night stand because I have a lot of dreams that at times find their ways into my stories. I also keep a pen stashed in the pages of the notebook, because what good is a notebook without something to write with? My friends think I’m crazy carrying it around all the time. “Why dude? You are not writing now.” Because, my friend. I’m always writing. Even when I’m not.

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    • Exactly! Writing is an ongoing process that we just might be doing in our heads at all hours of the day. I have one next to my bed too. And of course, a pen!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I use Scrivener AND notes. I’ve always been a pen and paper kind of person and I think that may never change. I also have the same fear that people will find my notes when I die and think I’m insane.
    Scrivener is great and I do throw in some notes in there too, but I make them in my notebooks (yes, many) first. I like being able to just flip to the page I know something is in.
    You know, I read somewhere that writing on the computer and writing by hand require completely different parts of the brain. I guess I need all those parts working together to make a story.

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    • Scrivener intimidates me, as I said below. Maybe I need to do a free trial or something and see what it’s like? It may or may not work with my writing methods, but I guess I won’t know unless I try, right? That’s very interesting, that it takes different parts of your brain. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to retain things when you write them down.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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      • Megan, it really isn’t intimidating at all. I tried it for free in November, took one free online course on how to use it, and off I went. I don’t regret buying it. I do all my fiction and poetry writing in there. It is much better for longer work than Word, especially since it allows moving things around.
        I recommend trying it out.

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  6. I want to try Scrivener, but I’ve heard the learning curb is steep. I use Word, which so many writers tell me is ghastly, but I’m quite in love with it for some odd reason. Old habits die hard? And my notes? I list out random facts per character on an Excel spreadsheet. Then I keep a list of notes or important “things” to refer back to throughout the novel on Excel too.

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  7. A local writer’s group I’m a part of just posted an article about Scrivener. Interested in the program for sure, but like you, I’m old school. I’m a slightly obsessive note taker. I touched base on that briefly in today’s “Notebooks” post, and will go into further detail tomorrow with “Outlining.”

    Jotting down notes for my novels in some electronic medium (whether that be OneNote, Word, a note app on my phone, etc.) just doesn’t seem as effective for me. There is something about PHYSICALLY writing things down that makes the notes, the ideas, the planning, seem more organic and real. In college, I would take notes from lectures like a crazy person, often having to go through and rewrite things because I was writing so fast my handwriting got crazy sloppy. I retain information that way, by writing it down. The process just works for me, regardless what I’m taking notes for.

    I’m right there with you with regards to the “old-style” way of note taking!! 🙂

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    • I feel the same way, virtually taking notes just doesn’t cut it for me. I have to write it down myself, on paper. I agree it helps you retain things better, because you have to think about what you’re writing and it takes longer. Plus I just love paper still, I guess. Ah, us old-time writers! LOL

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I treated myself to Scrivener after NaNoWriMo in 2014 but I haven’t really got to grips with it properly yet, so I keep returning to good old Word. I will get there though, because I can definitely see the value in having everything in one place. In the meantime, I create a ‘May Not Be Needed’ Word document that I dump random thoughts into, and just delete them out when I’ve incorporated them. Not that I have much experience yet, but it is interesting to see how much (or little) is left in that document when I think the story is finished!

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