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How do you stay organized?
Rachel Russell
Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012 12:22 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 27

Fantasy can be sprawling, complex, and inventive. Often it's set in a secondary world, filled with unique races, geography, religion, and more. That's when setting information starts to get almost overwhelming.

How do you prefer to keep all the details to your world organized? Do you have separate documents for each area of information? Do you just have notes randomly posted all over the place? Do you just hope to remember it all and manage consistency that way?

Me, I have a folder for my world. Within that folder I have sub-folders for all my documents for the setting. One I have labeled Characters, another Geography, Nations, etc. Within each sub-folder is a titled document pertaining to the subject. It helps keep me organized. If I'm looking for a specific detail to do with a race of people, I know exactly where to go to find it. 

I also get a bit obsessive about making it "pretty", but that's an entirely different subject.

So, what about y'all?
Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012 2:57 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

I have a story bible for my series work. This links to it: https://plus.google.com/115724768230571629148/posts/KuPu5oeHgVx

For shorter pieces or one book affairs, I tend to use a 90 pg 1 subject notebook, which includes everything I need. I tend to only put the extensive works in a more expensive writing journal.

I rarely use the computer to track important details and organize. This lets me shove it in my purse and go.

It also requires water or fire to destroy, rather than a computer malfunction.
Rachel Russell
Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012 3:53 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 27

Oh awesome. I have a very similar thing. Once I have a document fully fleshed out and completed I print it off. Trust me. I've had a laptop death very recently teach me not to keep everything stored on your hard drive with no backups available. 

I have one of those two inch thick industrial binders, and it's filled with dividers that are labeled for each category of setting development. Within each divider I'll have "chapters" included, and they're tabbed with those very same colorful tabs you've made use of in your book bible. Then I stick all my printed off stuff into page protectors and insert it into the proper chapter within the correct category. 

I think I might be an organizational freak. This also fell under the "pretty" bit I was talking about. I have the binder all decorated, and it's also stuffed with a few hand written papers that have maps and whatnot on them that I've drawn.
Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012 5:29 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

I have what I call project binders.  I blogged about it on my blog, but basically it's a binder with organizer/divider tabs labeled as needed.  The project binder I'm working out of right now is quickly growing obscene and occupies a 3" 3-ring binder with sections for the characters, plot, and calendars of the different stories I'm telling out of that world.

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 9:18 AM
Joined: 12/1/2011
Posts: 35

@Rachel - sorry that you had to suffer the crash of doom.  It has been my experience that most people do not start backing things up until it happens to them.  I am included in that category as well.  Now I have my work on my hard drive, plus on 2 flash drives that are exlusively back-ups which never leave home and 1 which stays with me.

As to organization - I am mostly a computer person.  I do use notebooks, but that is mostly for spontaneous ideas, outlining, or sketching out scenes.  Otherwise everything is typed and saved in the same way I back up the actual work.  I have files for characters, nations, provinces within the nations, and any research work.  I also have a narrative which chronicles the history of the world before the time of the story; it has a lot of holes, mostly because I haven't filled them in yet, but it covers everything I will need for now. 

Everything is printed and organized for faster reference, but having it all on the PC makes it easier for me to add things in the middle and still keep it organized in a way I like.  When I have to reprint I can usually limit it to a few pages.  And because I am a paranoid freak, those pages which are replaced are immediately shredded. 

Trust no one, Mr. Mulder. - The Well-Manicured Man

Angela Martello
Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 1:02 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394

Computer-exclusive folks,  I can't stress this enough: back up your hard drives. I have my works on my laptop, a flash drive, and my netbook, but I also back my laptop up onto an external hard drive that I store separately from my laptop or netbook. Here's why: I didn't have a technical failure, but a friend of mine had BOTH of her laptops stolen and she lost everything (documents, music, pictures, and so on).

With respect to how I stay organized (and I think the same is true for sci fi as it is in fantasy - lots of details!) - I had originally kept copious notes in notebooks, but when I started working exclusively on a laptop, I typed up everything so that it's readily available to me. This includes character notes, planet notes, country notes, race/species info, and so on. I try not to print out stuff (trying to reduce my consumption of paper), plus I just find searching through e-files a lot easier than paging through paper files.

Alexander Hollins
Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 2:23 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

I... don't, really.  I'm starting too though!  and when I keep notes and files online, I'm using Google documents. I back up locally, but that way I can get to the docs from any computer, and its backed up by Google!

Mike Cooley
Posted: Friday, June 8, 2012 3:45 PM
Joined: 6/8/2012
Posts: 3

I use Scrivener to help me stay organized. I love it. Before that I had loose papers everywhere. Now everything is together in one program where I can search and organize and keep my maps, diagrams, and character sheets too.

Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 5:35 PM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

Originally I had notebooks (pre-computer for me) with lists, charts, timelines, maps, sketches, everything.   Then I went away from that fantasy world for...um...20-something years.  I put the notebooks and the master map away carefully.  In some safe place.  Carefully. 

Finally came back to the same fantasy world to write more stories.   Walked over the shelves where I was certain I'd filed the notebooks.  Not there.  The master map, which was sure I'd left on the drafting table under a plexiglas shield?  Not there either.  

At that point I had five books written in the original group (two prequels, some 4-500 years before the first books published--and three of them.)  All LONG books.  Full of stuff.  I'm surprised everyone in the country didn't wake up at my anguished cries when I realized it was all gone.  Only the books themselves remained (and as you know, there's a lot more in the background material than shows in the books.)

Moreover, with deadlines set on the new contracts, I did not have time to write another big fat book and pore through all of the previous ones to check consistency.  I don't have (and I regret it!) Staff.  Fact-checkers.  Any of that.

So...now I have computer files.   Once I got a computer, I set up a file system I liked.  Each project gets a folder.  (All the novel folders are in Novels, which is in Data as opposed to Pictures.)  Everything to do with that book goes in that folder, and that folder is backed up regularly onto a collection of thumb drives, the external hard drives, and some parts of it are uploaded to the project website.  I use the "Names" file the most often; it grows with every related book, and keeps me from forgetting who the cook is in this duke's town house as opposed to the country estate, and the name of the town you go through between Westbells and Piery (Blackhedge or Thornhedge?)  It also has notes on the monetary system, reminds me Astil retired two books ago, gives the names of children who may not ever be mentioned in the book but might be needed later, etc.  There's a new master map, with multiple paper copies (because it's not completed yet) and digital copies of it as it is now. 

But no one, looking a my place, would call it organized..

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2012 11:17 PM
I keep a "books" folder and a "writing" folder in my main "documents" on my laptop. "Books" is where I keep the folders for my various different projects. "Writing" is where I keep the folders for my published/unpublished clips, worksheets, and various research. In each book's folder, I have subfolders for "news", "pictures", "in progress", "unused" and "research".

I used to keep subfolders called FAQs for various this and that, but last year I got a copy of Office 2010 and started fiddling around with OneNote. I like what it can do, and it works with my ADHD brain. I have three notebooks there - Mari, Blogging, and Writing.

Mari is, obviously, my personal notebook and is broken down into tasks (current), goals (year), meetings (plans, cons, events, etc), about (finance, passwords, etc), address book, and "to sort" (where stuff gets dumped if I don't know where to put it right away).

Blogging: overall health, on writing, Apex blogs, memories, being Pagan, miscellaneous, and I keep a "diary" of sorts there, as well. Of course the "diary" stuff is never made public. >

Writing is a bit more complex and is divided into six tabs: adult notes, adult series, ya notes, ya series, brainstorming, and writing advice. The notes tabs are divided up differently because I need different things from each; same with the series tabs. Like in the adult series tab, I have a subpage dedicated to the fourteen year cicada broods in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Oh and Family Tree Maker! I was working on my own family tree at one point and got went completely psychotic and took the time to put my adult series' family tree into the program as well. It's made it so much easier to keep up with who's who and where who's from and when who's was born and so on. It's also helped me find duplicate (and sometimes triplicate) names; oy.


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