Index cards: They're Not Just for Reports Anymore

As promised, here is my post about a tool I've been using to help me with Flora. But first, a little backstory. ;)

Months ago I read a blog by someone (I'm sorry, but I can't remember whose it was, I've read way too many since then) who used index cards to organize their story line. At the time, I was new (still am, but not as new), and thought outlines and other such "organized" forms of writing weren't meant for me. I was an outlaw in the writing world, skipping around, jotting things down completely out of order and having to figure out where they went and what they meant later.

I was stupid.

Talk about making myself work more than necessary, and I mean a lot.

I'm a little over a year into this whole hobby/profession/insanity and I've learned that the more you organize, the better off you'll be. So I tried outlining.

Outlines are good for some, but they are *so* not for me. I was constantly erasing things, trying to fit in more info, it was a mess.

So a few weeks ago I came across some old index cards my kids used for reports, and remembered seeing the blog about index cards. Talk about perfect!

Color coding is a great way to keep things categorized. As I've mentioned before, there are almost two completely different story lines in Flora. Keeping track of such completely separate ideas is hard, not to mention distracting. I'm writing about the MC at her home, then I'm writing about the school, then I think of something a person would say in the other story line, then I'm back to the MC again at home, then, oh yeah, there has to be something by the creek but before the beach... Can we say confusing? It was so much easier to write when everything was laid out on the cards.

Now, obviously, they aren't big enough to hold much information (they're more of a visual tool to help me keep track of what's happening in order as I'm switching back and forth), but they definitely hold more details than an outline would (my version of one, at least).

Here's a picture of what they look like, along with my one of many owl-dorable notebooks that I had to include just for fun. =)

DSC_1460.jpg picture by munchi5gal

They weren't curled up on the corners until five minutes before I went to take the picture (they were still in one stack), when I knocked them into a sink full of water. I panicked, screamed a bit, Lovemuffin yelled from two rooms down to see what was going on, and I got them under a fan in time for them to survive, thank goodness. And it's still a good visual, even in the state they're in, don't you think? See how things switch back and forth?

I'm loving these things. Who knew something so small could simplify the whole process like that? The MC's main life is blue, and the other part, the one she slowly gets more into as the story goes on, is pink. I have them numbered, so when I jot something down in my journal I can refer to the number when I start to write, and I always know where I'm at and what's going to happen next.

So how about you? What's one of your favorite writing tools?


Joanne said...

The index cards are a great idea. I think that the more organized we are while in the writing process, the more our story will benefit from the structure. The organization helps guide the plot, our thoughts, and the movement within the story to where it's got to be. I keep a journal for each writing project, keeping track of details, characterization, plot, thoughts and ideas that come up along the way.

Roz Morris aka @Roz_Morris . Blog: Nail Your Novel said...

Hi Jessica - I use index cards (was that my post you saw? ;) although I dare say I'm not the only user of small stationery) I love to find ways to examine and play with the structure of my story, not to mention keep track of how various threads will come together. I would be totally lost without them. I also have multiple files on each project, with developments, characters, events not yet slotted in but resonant and useful.
Great post - I'm tweeting this!

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Joanne, You're right. The organization makes a big difference. The notebook in the picture is actually the one I use for each character breakdown including pictures, the setting (and my terrible drawings), and whatnot.

Roz, I'm not sure whose it was, but they posted a picture similar to mine showing what their cards looked like!

Anita said...

No novels for me, but the index cards are a great tool for everything. I keep blank ones in a couple locations, so when I have a thought or see something on TV, like the name of a book, or when I have to make up the zillionth password for some online access, I grab a card and write it down. Then I put it in one of those plastic holders that the kids use in school.

Not much organization within the box, but a least I'm not hunting down little scraps of paper or junk mail envelopes containing my notes.

Glad it's helpful for you, too. :)