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So you are writing. Congratulate yourself. . .briefly. . .then get back to it. Writer’s write!

While writing you’ll be visited by the same voices we all hear from time to time:

I need to change that character. I’d better do it now before I get much further along.”

“What would be cool is if I did this neat thing with the sub-plot. I’m going to start working on that plot line next.”

“I need to make sure my book contains an appendix and resource section.”

“This would work perfect for that other writing project. I’d better work on that while the idea is still fresh.”

“I’m not happy with how things are progressing. I think I better start over.”

“My friend had a great suggestion. I need to make sure I apply that change before I forget.

Regardless of how valid any of the above statements may be, the common denominator between them is they all lead to areas of distraction from the core writing project. Thus it becomes key for the writer to learn organized note taking.

Remember the key to this part of the writing process is to get that first draft complete. Distractions and inspiration will always be there! Take note of it, then move on with the core project.

Some ways to organize your note taking:

  • Whether you choose to write it out longhand on sticky notes or use a word processor, decide on a file system method that will work best for you.

I personally use Excel, so I can sort the entries by keywords (see keywords below). Also by keeping it digital, I can simply open up my idea file during my writing process, note the idea, save the file, then get back to writing.

  • If writing longhand, write neat. It stinks when you are ready to work on the note, but you can’t read what you wrote.
  • Be thorough. Put enough details in your note/idea so you know exactly how you intended to use the note when you read it a year from now.
  • Use keywords and dates. Keywords help you more quickly identify one note from another. For example, in my Fiction Idea folder I label each idea with the following items:
    • Date of idea
    • Type: novel, short-story, poem, etc
    • Status: Used (project name), Need to use (project name), future project or most likely will not use
    • Topic: love, family, faith, action, high school, marriage, fight scene, etc
  • Backup your notes! Have a plan to keep a copy of your notes in case disaster strikes and you lose what you’ve already noted.
  • Other writers will add the note directly in their book with some sort of symbol or notation, so they know it is not part of the book per se, but a note.

Such as, “^^Edit this paragraph. I’m not happy with it^^”. The caret symbols become a searchable item, allowing you to quickly jump to that part of your document.

Exercise: Take notes, but keep writing!

Next post: Review Your Progress

Set the timer for 10-minutes and try this writing prompt.

Writing prompt #0017


Write about your note taking process during a class lecture in school. What worked for you? What didn’t? If you didn’t take notes why didn’t you? How has your process changed now that you may be an adult working in your area of profession?