Monday, December 5, 2011

Creating an Idea Notebook

Creating an ideas/inspiration notebook has been on my to-do list for (seriously) over a year now. I finally did it over the weekend, and it took me about 10 minutes. Here's how you can make one too.

Start with a 3-ring binder. I like the kind with the clear pockets on front so I can label them, but that's just me.

For now I only need 3 dividers, story ideas, articles, and characters.

In my story ideas section, I keep all those little scraps of paper with various levels of ideas. 

Some are scenes that have popped into my head, but don't yet have a full story. Some are introspection about things that happened to me in high school. Others are ... something else. One note card says, "Maddie always going to bed at 7."

I have only a vague idea of what that is referring to, and I have no clue how it would fit into a story, but there it is. Waiting to inspire me when I'm feeling dry.

The articles section is where I store any articles that I think could prompt a plot line. One is on an inside-job bank robbery these Kansas City area 20-somethings tried to pull off. When I read the article, I thought "Surely a character of mine would have been dumb enough to date one of these guys." But I don't know who yet, so I've saved the article for the right time.

The last divider is for pictures relating to characters. 

Sometimes the pictures are faces that I would like apply to a character. Other times it might be an outfit or a room. You could also keep lists of names in this section, but I have a file folder for that.

What took the longest was taping my pile of idea note cards onto pieces of paper, but otherwise this thing was a snap to make. Hopefully when I'm suffering from writers block, something in here will jump start my creativity.

Do you have a system for keeping track of your story ideas?


  1. I have a digital version of this. Inside my Documents folder is a WIPs folder. Within that is an IDEAS folder. And within that are tons of documents that consist of three line snippets to three page ramblings on basic ideas or more complex I-will-write-this-someday stuff. Complete with links to images or images themselves oftentimes too, yes. =) I like the idea of a physical folder, but with space being at a premium in my office . . .

  2. Haha. Actually, I'm starting one of these, too! The magazine pictures is an idea that I hadn't thought of, though, so I can't wait to start on that, because I love looking at people and describing them (no, I'm not trying to stalk anybody :D).

  3. Upon viewing my computer filing 'system' for the first time, any normal human being would say, "NO." However, I DO keep a system (beyond mortal comprehension) that allows me to file and remember all of my brilliance. ;)

  4. I need to create an actual one not a mental one.

  5. i thought i was weird for keeping all those magazine clippings for my stories! i have a blog that's designed like this, with ideas on one page, and pictures on the others. thanks for the idea!

  6. I love this idea! So far I just keep all my ideas in different folders in my filing cabinet -- one for plot, one for characters, and one for I'm-not-really-sure-what-this-but-I'm-keeping-it. I try to keep hard copies of all my ideas, but most of them are on post-it notes. Now I want to try this over Christmas break.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures, by the way! The visual aid was a big help.

  7. I write down all my characters name on the inside of one of my notebooks so that I wont forget them, but I've been thinking I need do more than that to keep everything straight lately. Very cool suggestion. I think it will solve my dilemma nicely. :)

  8. Yes, I have an "idea book" for each one of the novels I plan to write, or that I have vague ideas for currently. It's really helpful to have all of my info and snippets together in one place, and it makes it really easy to grab my binder and run out the door to head to Barnes & Noble to talk over story stuff with writer friends if need be. I also have files on the computer, but I really like the tangibility of using a three ring binder and being able to flip back and forth through the pages of "my process."

  9. Haha. Luthian, your comment made me laugh!!!

  10. I certainly do! I have a simple, spiral-bound notebook (I've gone through two or since fall of 2010) that I use to keep track of...everything involving writing. I list and figure out basic ideas, characters...what I often do is sit down and tell myself, "I'm going to figure out this story right now," then ask myself a ton of questions (and give options for the answers) of my stories. It really helps keep things strait in my head. And sometimes, I just write random scenes.

    In fact, last year, I had a notebook full of random scenes from a certain major story project of mine... it was sort of a relief to sit down and write the scene that was in my head now, instead of waiting for it to come along chronologically in the actual book(s).

  11. Great idea!! I have an extremely complicated system... First off, on my flash drive I keep a folder of "story ideas", which holds empty word documents that have random titles that indicate the general idea of the story.

    On top of that, I keep a spiral notebook and a three ring binder. The binder doesn't have paper in it, but instead holds the spiral notebook, in which I write all sentences and paragraphs and even scenes that come to me when I can't get to a computer. Besides that, when I'm plotting each chapter I have colored 3x5 cards that I use to write down the basic events of each chapter, and I hold them together with paper clips. I always carry blue 3x5 cards in my purse in case I have an idea.

    I really really like your idea of pictures - that would really help me with the descriptive/visual/imagery area of my stories! Thanks so much for the great post! :D

  12. Hey, that is so cool! I'm totally going to make my own.

  13. I'm beginning to process of making a binder full of stuff for a big fantasy book series that I want to write, and there are so many untied ends that I need to fix. And I just want it for the characters bios to, that would help me a lot. Even if it's useless pooh that I'll never use or mention in the book lol. :D