Carding-a beginning to ordering woolly thoughts?

I haven’t been very into the idea of using index cards in the past for a few reasons.

  • Up until very recently, I had a small, grabby child in my house all the time.
  • I don’t like using up actual goods when I’ve usually got the computer up and running with me throughout the day and could just type stuff in.
  • And seeing as how I so often just make notebook files on the computer, I couldn’t see writing out by hand stuff I had already typed out, just to deal it out on a table and have it grabbed by child and stomped by kitten.

But lately I’ve been thinking about it differently.  My current story world has a LOT of different people coming and going.  And they tend to come and go the most when I’m not by my handy-dandy electronic notebook.  So I’ve been having some new thoughts about jotting down scenes and other story thoughts on index cards…

  • Cards are cheap—a pack of 100 is about 50¢.  So I can spare some to throw at DD .
  • Cards are recyclable.  I’m more than willing to go through some paper and muslin when I make patterns, I should be as willing to recycle goods in this endeavor.
  • Also because they’re cheap I can easily recycle them or put them in a discard file when I make changes.
  • Cards are small.  I can stick a pack in my purse easily.  I think I might sew myself a WIP Wallet to hold a pack of cards.  I can start writing out scene ideas and bits of wisdom when I’m out or when they come to me.
  • I can keep cards and pens in many places, like by my bed, in my purse, in the glove box, in the end table drawer, in the bathroom.   But have only one place to keep cards in use and filed cards so my ideas aren’t littering the house and car.
  • Cards don’t have to be in order or stay together—unlike a spiral memo book, I can move things around and take out what I don’t presently need.
  • More than just the WIP—I can write down any thought I have on the series and file it away when I get home.  I want to get a large file box (though I’ll probably start with a shoebox) with dividers for my WIPs.  (examples of file boxes: and–03512X-3-x-5-Card-File-12-Deep-Hedberg-Series–03512X)
  • Progress at a glance—whenever I want to see what I have for a story so far, I can pull all the cards for it and deal them out to take a look at the big picture.  This should help me see what points I need to set my brain to think on.
  • Spreading out the work—rather than saving up all the typing until I get ready to work on that story, I can also try entering my cards into a Haven file for TBW (Text Block Writer and Screenshot) if I want to play with manipulating things in there.  Then I can also formulate outlines for myself if I want to look at it that way or send my progress to you.  I can set a goal to file cards from my purse once a week and enter them into the computer before I file them.  A nice way of revisiting the new thoughts I’ve had during the week.
  • Saving lots of ideas may make them less precious.  If I get into a habit of writing down ideas and keeping them, maybe I’ll be more able to throw out stuff that doesn’t quite fit in.  And, if I have a file of ideas that didn’t fit, maybe I’ll be able to refresh my memory on them later and work them into something else.
  • I can try playing games with myself like seeing how many ideas I can come up with, or randomly putting ideas together and looking for connections.
  • I can also use them for goals.  I’m not always ready to sit down and write words, but I could­ set daily goals for scribbling down a certain number of cards which could be about scenes, character work, etc.

So I have a lot of scenes already in my head for the various stories I’m thinking about and the one I’m working on.  As I get back into the writing thing and get some of those out, I think I’ll set a daily goal of about 10 cards per day.


Filed under goals, ideas, writing

2 responses to “Carding-a beginning to ordering woolly thoughts?

  1. Dear Susan B.,

    Like you, I’ve been resistant to using index cards–seems like still another thing to keep track of–but then I attended an Anne Lamott talk, in which she said she uses index cards to jot down snippets of dialogue, titles, images, and notes for lines that may go into her current writing projects. I still wasn’t convinced this was a good idea, and I kept inserting my notes in my journals; but then recently I couldn’t remember which, of many, journals I used to record a reference. I spent way too much time going through journals, but eventually found it.

    Now? I still put most of what I want to remember in my journals, but I’m encouraging myself to use index cards. Bought a bright pink $1.00 accordion coupon file at Target to put them in. Nice an loud so it won’t get lost in my bag.

    Perhaps this method will work for the different novels you’re working on.

    Have fun!

    Faye Quam Heimerl – Letters From the Editor

    • Thanks, Faye! Having notes in a lot of different places is definitely a problem for me, especially as I get older. I’m enjoying the cards already as I feel free to go ahead take a moment to note down those ideas and bits of dialogue, even when I’m supposed to be working on something else, without trying to find the right document where I’ll be able to find it again. The coupon file is a great idea, thank you!

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