Saturday, October 24, 2009

Managing a Large Project 2

AFter considering large projects the other day, I started thinking about the different methods I've used over the years for myself. I've tried a few - some worked better than others. I suspect that everyone has to find a method that works for them. But here are some you might find useful:

* File cards - write each scene on a card and pin it to a board. You could summarise the main action of the scene (as a reminder, if nothing else) but also the purpose of the scene. You'll soon see if another scene is doing it better, or whether a scene has no real purpose at all. I've tried this with sticky notes on a large sheet of paper on the wall and ended up with a pile of paper on the floor on a hot day (as Sheryl G. mentioned). This method is handy if you are playing with chronology and want to run scenes out of sequence, or have a subplot interwoven.

* Loose-leaf binder - separate your bits into categories. Characters, settings, subplots, etc. This becomes like a bible and is handy to stop your character having red hair on page 27 and blonde hair on page 143. This method is handy if you are good at keeping the whole storyline in your head but have trouble with the smaller details.

* Notebook - I've started keeping a new notebook for each novel project. This might not be enough for a large project with many subplots and viewpoint characters and time shifts, but for an average novel it can be very handy to keep everything in one place. For another project which has several components, I'm keeping a separate notebook for each one (e.g. research notes).

* Computer software - I don't use this method but I know a few people who do. There are several different software programs that keep track of characters, plotlines, subplots, settings etc. There are also some programs that are designed to help you out of plotting dead ends, or provide you with new ideas and possibilities. I also know one person who uses spreadsheets as a way of keeping track of this stuff.

* Colour-coded folders - a different way of organising material and notes. Blue for characters, red for research, etc. This can be good if you're the kind of person who collects things such as photocopies, research notes, pictures of your characters, etc, or you like to make random notes on bits of paper and sort them later.

* The whole wall - if you have a few spare walls, you can cover them in large sheets of paper and write everything up where you can see it. This can be good for creating a visual storyline (along the top of the paper, perhaps) and adding everything underneath that relates to each part of the story. Rather than sticky notes, glue your bits of paper on so they don't get lost. If you change your mind, just glue something else over the top. I like diagramming so this would work for me - if I had any spare walls!

Have you got any methods that work for you? Are you organised like this? Or do you wish you were? Or would you rather just write and see what comes out, and fix it all later.


Kristi Holl said...

The only method that works for me consistently is the loose leaf 3-ring binder with those colored tab dividers. Easy to add things and subtract things, and gives me a section for everything. I've tried other methods with limited success. And even though I spent good money for software once--and the program was actually very good--I just couldn't get the hang of it. I need to see things on PAPER.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a fantasy novel recently, and used the file card method, pinning them up on a big cork board where I could also put the map and character profiles. I love colour coding too. I have a more complex project I'd love to tackle soon and will have to be more organised for that - I'd love to have a go at some of the software available as my research and notes are nearly purely digital these days.