organizing writing and research

This picture is an example of how I organize my writing and research files:

In the top directory, you’ll see a folder titled ‘FAQs’ – that is absent in the rest of the directories. That’s because I don’t use that folder any more. While Evernote was still in beta, I started using it, and now that’s where my writing/research notes go. Tremendous help – it allows the notes to be sorted/organized/tagged, and I don’t have to worry about losing anything if my computer decides to go belly up.

The “in progress” folders house each story by chapter. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t write in order. I write totally out of order. I write by scene, not necessarily by chapter. If a scene comes to mind, I write it down, or at least take notes. Everything gets pieced together much, much later. Some scenes get dumped into the ‘unused’ folder while others get reworked, redrafted, and added in where they belong – and sometimes are moved elsewhere in the story. Each story gets its own ‘unused’ bin until I get far enough along that I don’t need it any more – then those unused pieces go into the main ‘unused scenes’ folder.

‘News’ folders hold my templates – such as the notes I send out to readers, the contracts I use for permission to use my friends’ stuff, etc – reviews and notes from my readers, and anything related. ‘Pictures’ hold just that. Pictures. I have floorplans I’ve drawn, mock-ups of the new high school in Harlan County, maps and directions, etc. For Eventide, for example, I have a folder that includes pictures of downtown Harlan and Corbin from the 1930s to the 1960s as well as pictures of what homes would have been furnished with back then, what people wore, etc.

And that really is pretty much how I work. I used to work like this:

Then I got a laptop, and it started looking more like this:

That purple binder is my Harlan County Bible. (what’s a series bible?) That’s where I keep all of my working notes, timelines, calendars, Harlan brochures, the L&N Railroad passenger train schedule / menu I found, physical maps, and all that other stuff that won’t scan into Evernote. (I’m not going to take the time to scan a 3 foot by 3 foot map of downtown Harlan, for example; that would be suicide and counterproductive aside.) One thing I don’t have in that book are all the notes, etc, etc, from when I first started writing Midnight. I kept nothing. I tossed it all out. I regret that! All I have of that are the bits and pieces I did manage to save somehow.

I went psychotic last month and took my entire Devon Family Tree and plugged it into FamilyTree Maker. That was a chore. But now I can easily see who’s who and where and how everyone is related to everyone else – without having to scroll / flip through thirty pages of screen / paper. This proved a much saner way of dealing with it.

And I think that’s it, really. Questions? Answers? Beer?