Adventures in Note Carding

As some of you may know, I’ve been planning my Camp NaNo project. I’ve written this story four times before, twice as a screenplay and twice as a novel, and I think I’ve finally learned what I’m doing. I’m taking the planning process more seriously this time, and I’ve decided to try a new way of planning. I’ve always heard other people talk about note cards, but I’ve never really used them myself. I didn’t think I was a note card person. I didn’t want to waste all those note cards when I could just write the same information on a piece of paper. I’m happy to say, though, that I’ve finally figured out what the thrill is.

1. Create Note Cards.
This was easy if time-consuming. As I was reading through the original drafts, I created a note card for every scene or part of a scene that I wanted to keep. If I wasn’t sure I was going to keep the scene exactly as it was, I broke it into smaller parts. I also created note cards for scenes I wanted to include, even if I didn’t know where I wanted to put them yet.

2. General Sorting.
I divided all my note cards into three piles: beginning, middle, and end. This was particularly easy for this novel, as it’s basically split into three parts: before they go to New York, while they’re at New York, and after they leave.

3. Outline Main Events and Sort Cards.
The middle part of this novel takes place over six days. I jotted down a quick list of what was happening each day, what the main event was. Then I created a second, slightly longer outline, where I wrote down all the main scenes I knew I had to include. Then I took the note cards that corresponded to each of those scenes, and I spread them out on the table, keeping each day separate. I also sorted the before trip/after trip cards, which was the easiest part, as I already know what will happen there.

4. Sort the Rest of the Cards.
Once I had the major events down, I went back and put the rest of the cards in order. This took a bit more work, as a lot of these events were smaller, and they could theoretically have gone several places. I had to really stop and think about what was happening each day and try to find the most logical place for them. I took frequent breaks to discuss the plot with my boyfriend, and he offered suggestions. Eventually, I found a place for each card, and I created new cards for the scenes I came up with while I was moving things around.

5. Sort Cards by Chapters.
After I put the cards in order by place in the book (before, days 1-6, after), I split each section into chapters. This might change later, but for now I’m happy with what I have. As of right now, I have 23 chapter, 4 before they see their family, 16 while they’re in New York, and 3 after they leave.

I’m excited about my note card collection. Normally I just have a brief outline, and I generally end up forgetting scenes that I wanted to add until after I write the novel, and then it’s hard for me to go back and add it in later. This way, I can actually make sure everything has a place, so when I create the outline, I’ll have a better reminder of everything. It’s still too early to say for sure, but I’m fairly confident that I’ve found a new way to plan.

Next step – creating an outline! (Which I was supposed to do yesterday.)

What about you? Do you use note cards to plan? If not, what do you use?

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Posted on June 13, 2014, in Degeneration, Planning, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I haven’t done note cards for writing novels yet, but I do think they are a great idea!

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