Tag Archives: index cards

Progress report: cards

When last I was here I talked about getting into the habit of using index cards– for quick notes, for organizing thoughts, and eventually for getting visual feel for a story.  Since I’ve got a lot of stuff in my head right now, I set a goal for 10 cards a day.

10 cards has been a good amount for me.  Not so many that I’m scribbling for hours, but enough so I feel like I’ve done something.  I now have 30 cards since Saturday.  A handful of them are from a different story that intrigues me, so it’s cool to be able to make some notes on that without jumping right into “sexy new book”.

Some of my cards are for scenes I can see and have a number of points jotted down.  Some are much more vague: need scene where X happens.  Some are plant cards that will probably be merged with another scene card later: need to plant idea Y that pays off later when…

I just started reading Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, so I will probably have some cards on character notes coming along this week.  I have a lot of character stuff written here and there and I don’t plan to copy that stuff to cards.  But I expect to have ideas about several characters in my world and it will be good to jot down notes someplace besides gmail to Kettle.

I’m really enjoying the craft books this year.  I just finished Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (part of the same Write Great Fiction series).  Kettle bought that one for me for Christmas (I sent her GMC which I also ended up buying for myself), having heard good things about a few books in the series.  To me it was good enough and different enough from other craft books I’ve read or glanced through that I’m intrigued enough to continue in the series.  I should start a page of some reviews of these…

Anyway, a last quick note on the subjects of cards and P&S: At the end of the book, Bell likened building writing skills to building chess skills.  He suggested an exercise in which you read through a book for the pleasure of reading it.  Then you pick it apart, taking copious, scene-by-scene notes on index cards, noting down things that worked for you and didn’t, etc.  You’ll learn by doing the exercise, have the cards for later review, lay out the scene cards to see the structure of the novels, etc.  His exercise has 10 steps which I’m not going to wholesale copy for you (because that’s not nice) but that’s the gist of it.  He suggests doing this for 6 books over a 12-week period.  Time-consuming yes, but learning often is, and I’m intrigued.  I will try it for at least one and see how it goes.

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Filed under books, craft books, ideas, progress update, tools, writing

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: http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/555704/Snap-N-Store-Index-Card-File/ and http://www.successimage.com/item–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