Sunday, December 30, 2007

Creativity vs Organization

I'll cut right to the chase. I'm reaching out to authors, published and aspiring alike in the hopes of getting some tips on organizing my many many many many many many notes. Many.

I have them down on paper. I have them down on various floppy discs. I have notes on this website. I have a collage of pictures so I can get an idea of what a certain character looks like. I have print-outs from various websites about the history and geography of Ancient Greece and Persia. I have it all, and no way of organizing it.

I tried by buying various folders and putting the notes in them, but it's still overwhelming mixing and matching stuff. I put all of my chapters together to see how they fit, but they're all over the place (stupid transitions...).

I have so many questions. What I do with quickly jotted down ideas? How do I get myself to look over these ideas in the future so I don't forget about them? What if Historians don't agree on dates or facts (as I've mentioned more than once 480BCE is a transitional period so it's not quite Archaic but it's not quite Classical)?

Of course there's no right or wrong answer here, I'm simply overwhelmed by how much "stuff" I have now. Should I make a website with character profiles and geography? Should I collect floppy discs (or in the came of labtop a usb port thingy) and keep track of different stuff that way?

Any tips would be GREATLY appreciated.


Wynn Bexton said...

Any of us who are writing historical fiction have rheams of papers, photos, notes, files on our computers etc. I have more or less 'simplified' what I've got. I have a bio file (for anything I have on my characters real or fictional); another file for Persian history research notes; One for the Greek/Macedonian history pertaining to my novel and another just Greece.
I have a file on my docus. which is 'research notes' and have put anything I've downloaded in to that. Trouble is, need to go through it now and them as I forget what I've got. And if it's real important I print it out so I can see it in the hard-copy file.

I have my research pictures in my photo file under various headings. (on line).

You'll always end up with way more research than you actually need but don't toss it out. There could be another book there in the future.

Carla said...

I have the same problem of historians not agreeing on dates and facts :-) For those issues, I collect together the evidence from primary sources (if there is any), write down what each has to say about the point in question, then try to think of the simplest logical solution that accommodates the maximum amount of information. If I have to disregard a source completely as 'wrong' I think about that very carefully indeed; when there's not much evidence, I'm reluctant to discard any of it! Then I write down what solution I'm going with and why, and file it along with the evidence used. Some of these I've written up as blog/website pages, example here if you want to see if you can adapt the method for your own use. I find this very useful as it reminds me why I made a certain decision.
As for organising notes in general, I tend to rely on folders full of bits of paper, and their electronic equivalents. I find it helps if you can break up the story into episodes or aspects and group things that belong to each part together. E.g. if there's an important battle, I put everything relating to the battle in one folder, perhaps with a subfolder for weapons and another for tactics. Then when I get to writing the battle, I fish out that folder and go through its contents, which can be anything from books to scribbled notes jotted down on the back of shopping lists.
I also find that maps help, e.g. I can mark on them places in the story and know how long it would take to get from one to another.
But there really isn't a single satisfactory method of organising information, or if there is, I haven't found it yet :-)