For goodness’ sakes, keep the notes you take while writing a novel

I tend to take notes on the backs of envelopes, grocery store receipts, and random pieces of paper. While working on a book, those notes pile up on my desk. Years later, I have no clue where they are.

Sometimes the notes go into a file folder. Sometimes I type them into a DOC file. File folders get lost. DOC files disappear when hard drives crash. What’s left after that? The memory that you used to know something, but now you don’t.

Case in point: a friend is reading an old novel of mine that has a lot of Blackfeet language phrases in it. I used to know what they meant. Now I don’t. So, when she asks, I can only say, “Figure out those phrases in the context of the scenes where I use them because I’ve got nothing for you.”


And now I’m thinking of writing a novel related to the one she’s reading. Or, seeing that there aren’t any notes in the house, maybe I won’t. 

A better filing system would save a lot of anguish. Not to mention time in terms of how long it will take to re-research stuff I already researched.  I guess when a book is done, I don’t think I’m going back that way again. So, stuff disappears. 

What I need is a crack staff (as opposed to a staff on crack) to tidy up the mess on my desk each time I finish a book. Then I might have a clue (as opposed to not having a clue).

My advice is to keep the notes you take (in an organized fashion) whenever you write a novel.


Since it hasn’t been that long, I still know how to find the notes I took while writing “Fate’s Arrows.”


4 thoughts on “For goodness’ sakes, keep the notes you take while writing a novel

  1. This hits home! I realized this morning that I’d mislaid an important piece of research (somewhere in the computer, maybe on paper printout, who knows?) and was rescued by the kind friend who provided the primary source material in the first place and easily retrieved her copy for me. If we can’t be organized, it sure helps to know someone who is.

    I rarely comment on posts, but I do enjoy reading yours! Are we almost neighbors now? My husband and I recently moved from Durham, NC, to Watkinsville, GA.


    1. You’re not too far away. We’re in Rome. Losing research is really aggravating Thank goodness, for that friend who helped you. Yes, it’s definitely nice to know people who are organized. Goodness knows, I’m not.

  2. This is the exact reason why I’m planning on starting a writing journal. I mean, I do record down my ideas in my normal journals, but those are spread across so many notebooks and they might as well be unwritten until I discover them through re-reading.

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