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  • Writer's pictureRachel Paige

Plastic Hearts and Color Codes

Last week I talked about my writing notebooks. Specifically, the covers of my writing notebooks. This week, I'm going to talk about (and show you) what's inside. Everyone has their own way of organizing their writing and this is what works best for me. Feel free to take organization ideas or just enjoy the peak into my writing process. I know I love hearing about other people's.

I have one notebook for my two main projects because they exist in the same world. I have a tab for each novel, then a tab for the world itself, and a "happy words" tab. Along the top, I have four tabs for each novel: timeline/location, profiles, notes, and misc. scenes.

Timelines and locations: here I keep a timeline of the story, dates of significant plot events, and any information about the location, like characters' addresses. One novel has four narrators and this section is where I keep the list of who has what chapter. This is also where I have the color code key, simply because it's the first page. Each main character has a color and every page or fact about them is highlighted (this is what happens when I procrastinate homework).

Profiles: Each main character gets a two page profile that includes a section about their appearance, favorite things, background/family, personality, and "fun facts" from their interview, which I talked about here. I put things like their height, hair color, favorite color, siblings names and ages, grade, strengths, weaknesses, mannerisms, pet peeves, etc.

The "fun facts" are anything that doesn't fit elsewhere, but I felt was important or interesting. They aren't always fun. In Olivia's profile (pictured below) I have "collects snow globes" and "hates socks and shoes, even outside" as well as "has a lot of nightmares" and "feels overlooked in groups."

In this section, I also put a page about the parents or other second level characters. They get a few lines of their appearance and personality. Then there's a page of each family's timeline. This includes the years their parents met, when the kids were born, moving, and other significant events I have trouble keeping track of.

Notes: Also known as "I don't know where else to put this." There's always one page where I write random facts like Sam and Olivia's locker combination and Juliet's ringtone (again, color coded). It's stuff I know I won't remember if it comes up again and I'd rather not spend time looking. I also have pages of character-specific lists and charts (like the picture on the right). Basically, it's all the miscellaneous things I know that may or may not show up in the manuscript.

Misc. Scenes: That's just things I come up with in the middle of the night or other times I don't have my computer on. They usually don't make sense, hence why they're not pictured. The Chaos in G Major section also has a few pages on who knows what, because there's a lot of secrets and lies and I couldn't remember which characters knew the truth and how much of it.

School/Town: This is it's own section with a school tap and a maps tab. I have the school's daily schedule, each character's class schedule, a list of teachers, a district calendar, a map of the town, a map of the park where a lot of events take place, and a list of how far away main locations are from each other.

Pouches: These are at the back. There's one for each novel, one for information about both, and one for highlighters. It's where I keep maps of the houses, random drawings, and anything else that can't be hole punched.

But I don't just keep information in this notebook. I also keep words of encouragement (the "happy words" tab), drawings, and things that remind me why I keep writing. The sticky notes below are comments from my classmates, professor, family, and friends. These pages remind me that I'm not writing this for no reason and that other people do care.

I also have a few other things to encourage me to keep going. I have "finish it anyway" on the inside cover. Meaning even if I think it's terrible or no one will read it, I should finish anyway. I also have a little plastic heart. One of my professors gave one to each of us in her workshop class at the end of the semester to remind us that she believes in our stories.

These last few pictures are the most important part of this notebook. Yes, I use it to keep myself organized, but I also use it to keep myself going. It is vital to my writing process.


How do you keep your writing organized? Do you have any reminders to keep going?

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