One of the very, very nice things about writing fiction is that you get to make stuff up. Need a building on the corner of Main and Fifth? Make one up. The tsar of Russia needs a love child to make your story work? Presto, give birth right from your forehead. Need a breathable atmosphere where the lifeforms are methane-based? BOOM! Congratulations, you have created a whole world, or maybe even an entire universe.
The problem comes in when you want to anchor things in reality, and decide that plain, Jane Earth rules would make a good basis for the rules of the world you are building. Unless you have an eidetic memory, you’ve got to take notes – and you’ve got to be able to find them.
The internet has made our jobs as writers and fact-checkers much easier, and there are dozens of systems out there for organizing your notes in the digital realm. However, some things are just not on the internet. Some things are still only contained in real books. And let’s face it, when you search something on the internet, how often do your read the ENTIRE thing? There can be some hidden gems in the entire thing, but if the searched page gives up the fact we thought we wanted easily, there’s less incentive to poke around in the rest of the book – especially if it’s one of those books that have random pages that aren’t digitized.
For me, it’s really easy to get caught up in a book, not just read the index and go straight to the point. And this can be a good thing when I find something I didn’t even realize I was looking for.
But without a highlight or memo function on treeware, how does one keep track of the gems? Traditional notes are one answer – keep ‘em in a notebook, or put ‘em straight into the computer.
Or, there’s my aunt’s answer, which is simple and elegant. Put a plain paper cover on the book, and then take notes (or even better notes and an outline). Then, when you are done with the book, you can either just file the cover, or type it into the computer to make it searchable.
Maybe I’m too easily astounded, but this simple trick really blew my mind with the possibilities. No more digging up my notebook from where ever I left it, or firing up the computer. The act of writing down my notes puts the facts deeper into my head, and it’s super-easy to review what I found in the book.
How about you? Have you found any stupidly simple tricks that make a huge difference in your writing life?