The Writers Circle: Idea Files

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Do you leverage ʺidea filesʺ for organizing your writing?  If yes, what does it entail?  Do you use handwritten notebooks, scrapbooks, or computer software?  How often do you re-visit your files?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.


5 thoughts on “The Writers Circle: Idea Files

  1. I initially wrote stories out in longhand first and also used writing software, but now I write directly on to my laptop, maybe with just a few scribbled reminders. The words just seem to flow easier this way!

  2. Except for the occasional jotting down of an idea that comes to me when I’m not in a place where I can start writing, I just start writing. I have no organized system. I’m a catch as catch can sort of person.

  3. I will write ideas on any scrap that flits my way, whether that is an open page on my computer or a receipt in my wallet or a clean paper towel. Sometimes it’s a note written while standing in the shower, the ink dripping down the paper as I drip all over the floor. It’s been in the margins of magazines and on take out menus and inside a match book.
    Once written, I will often remember my brilliant idea long enough to get it written on a real page on my computer in the New Ideas file, and sometimes it is jettisoned because it wasn’t all that good in the first place.
    When writing an identified story, that happens in a file all its own, complete with support files and research files and background files. I also love to find poetry or music that fits a story, even if I don’t use it in the story itself.
    Secrets of my trade, exposed here for all to peruse. Hope something proves useful to someone else.

  4. I know it’s a late response, but I just happened upon this post. I blame my OCD for the need to have everything organized, including my writing. If I’m out somewhere and an idea strikes, I’ll use anything I can to jot it down, whether it’s a napkin or a receipt, even my hand if nothing else. But when I am at home, I literally have a pile of 5x7ish notebooks that I keep next to me when I’m trying to write. Each one has their own category, ie: CHARACTERS (page 1 is my list of female names, page 2 male names, page 3+ is last names, pets, bars/clubs, etc. The next section contains fleshed out characters; name, appearance, history, etc that each have their own pages so I can add as I go. Then I have a section with bits and pieces of character traits or general back stories that I haven’t attached to a specific person yet) PLOTS (all my plot ideas, whether its full blown stories from start to finish, or a one line synopsis that popped into my head. Anything to do with a plot) RACE/SPECIES/ABILITY (this one is for my supernatural/fantasy stories. Each page has a single subject whether its a fairy, witch, vampire, etc and on them I list all the details I research about that particular being or ability so I can keep straight all the rules that I form for or about them). Then I have one notebook that is strictly for my writing. Sometimes I only end up with a paragraph, sometimes just a line, sometimes ten pages of written word. If a story takes off, I start a separate notebook just for that particular plot. I know, it seems a bit mechanical. But it’s the only way I can keep my sanity when it comes to my writing. I tried organizing it at, but it got to be too much. Everyone is different, but handwritten has always been much easier for me to keep up with, I guess. Although, being able to click on a tag and it pull up everything I’ve ever written with that particular subject is really nice. Honestly, if I knew someone who could help me create a writing program, I could probably make a killing designing it. I know there are some out there already, but this would be the best! lol. Of course, everyone always thinks their ideas are better than all others. 🙂

  5. I have handwritten journals going back to 1980 – my idea, for about a year now, is to go back to that very first journal and start rewriting, typing retyping. I have always had confidence (or lack thereof) issues and I am stumped – not good enough, just me, who cares – but I have really been through so much, survived so much – it’s like I’m a totally different person than – who? If I believe in myself I substantiate a reason for my existence. I’ve tried the big S word – first time at 16 with a bottle of aspirin – twice since – even failed at that! But I have a sure plan now from those experiences. But doing such a thing now – to people I love and who love and trust me – I can’t.

    So then I cannot be the terrible worthless creature I’ve created in my head. I am unemployed and have been denied unemployment because of my own inability to defend and speak up for myself. I have an appeal – an appeal with a dated trail that disproves their denial. Went to the library last Monday to print and copy, then wrote and hi-lighted the trail – put it in the mail – returned to me Saturday due to a missing .21 cents in postage and the condition it was in looked as if it had been to Africa and back.

    This place of business that axed me is an example of just how immoral corporate America has become, which is more an issue for an attorney, and I will wait the appeal out before I make that move. One instance, just one and this is a minor thing – they tell blonde jokes like they are back in the 80’s. Blonde moments. And that’s a mild use of their discrimination.

    But it’s given me a reason to write, and feel alive – an injustice has been done and they crossed the line I needed. I’ve always heard, and even seen, how evil thrives because nice people don’t want to upset the apple cart. But the apple cart’s going over anyway – for evil or good.

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