For the month of July, I’ve been diving into writing into writing my latest novel. So far, I’m about 65,000 words in, and I think I’ll be able to finish by the end of the month. I call it Julyowrimo, for those of you who participate in Nanowrimo / Camp Nanowrimo :D
On a side note, for those of you who don’t participate in Nano or don’t know what it is, here’s my master list of info and why you should be a part of it!
But let’s get real.
Writing a novel is hard.
And it gets even harder when you’re not quite sure when you’re getting caught up in the details. You know how it is. If the scar is on the right or left side of the face, if a certain event happened yesterday or the day before, if you incorporated a certain flashback yet or not.
Writers have different ways of taking track of all this, and some of them keep it straight in their head–
–but I can’t do that. So here’s how I’ve been keeping track of everything in my most recent stories!
1. SET UP A CALENDAR TO KEEP TRACK OF DATES
I love Google Calendar. It keeps my life in order. But no matter what kind of screen you’re looking at, the space to put events is pretty limited. Not only that, but you can barely describe what your event is. That’s why I decided to create my own! There are a few different parts to this calendar.
The first is the table, which is a customized timezone for your novel.
By using a table, you can easily input and customize a calendar that’ll work for you. This calendar is set to December 2016 for an example story that I put together for this post, but my other story takes place in June and July 2025. By having the dates plugged in, I don’t have to flip back and forth between 2025 and 2016 every time I write.
The second is the comments, which provides ease of access to what happened when.
The main purpose of this calendar is to use comments. As you can see, when I click on the day Tuesday, December 13th, the comment on the side pops up. This will be true no matter how many comments you have, and it makes it easy to flip between the comments you make. If you want to have multiple comments for each day, then you can simply reply to yourself.
The third is the comment setup, which gives you an easy system to read your notes.
On the note, the caption is:
Story starts with Bob, Joe, and Will meeting at the airport. They’re three friends who grew up in NYC and left for school (1).
All my notes follow the same format. I provide a little bit of information that’s important for me to remember later, and I reference the page where I state that information. For another example, if Goldilocks met two of the bears on page 5, the comment would look like this:
Goldilocks met the two younger bears in the kitchen (5).
2. TAKE NOTES AS YOU GO
This part follows the same format as the calendar. The people and world-building notes all have page reference numbers where I state information about them. Of course, you don’t have to reference for all of your information. If it’s something you just want to keep in mind, you can leave parenthesis to fill out later () or you can leave it blank, like I did with the family information.
There are three main families in this example story, the Ones, the Twos, and the Threes (who aren’t shown). I provide a little bit of information about all the siblings that I know exist and their respective ages, even though those exact facts may never show up in the story explicitly.
3. USE GOOGLE’S OUTLINE FEATURE
One of Google Docs’ major features that I’ve come to really love is the outline feature. To turn this on, you can go to Tools > Document Outline. It’s important to use distinctive font styles to mark where your headings are. That can mean anything from making all your titles bigger to bolding all of them. Google’s Outline algorithm will do a pretty decent job of predicting where you’re trying to indicate is the title.
This can also be super useful for quickly loading large documents such as novels. By using the outline, I can switch from chapter to chapter without too much trouble.
Before outline, I complained about how slow the loading was on my online docs. Because Docs is constantly saving, it can be a pain when it comes to large files, but I’ve fallen in love with Docs again since Outline came into play. To learn more about Outline, you can check out Google’s article on it.
I know this note-taking system can be hard to get used to, so you can access the example doc I got screenshots from here. Feel free to poke around and download the file onto your own Drive if you’re interested in using it.
If nothing else, this taking-notes-as-you system is great for checking back later when you go through revisions. It shows you the way the world should be, and you can snap everything together instead of searching for the other instances in your novel and trying to compare them by memory.
Hope this was useful for you! If you have questions, tweet me @thesilverwords!