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May 30, 2018

I generally don’t write things down. If I do, they tend to be on yellow stickies that eventually age and fall off the top cabinet bottom rim where I stick then on my computer desk. Then, they end up in a pile of other stuff and can get temporarily lost in the shuffle until I find them again, then go, “Hey, wasn’t I supposed to use that in Chapter…”

Are you, on the other hand, an obsessive note taker, an outliner? Something in-between?

I’m sure I’ve discussed this before in one form or ‘tuther, but true to my usual inspiration for articles, this one snuck up on me just now. I was shuffling through a couple of papers on the top of my computer tower and ran across a yellow sticky with several lines on it from my work in progress (WIP). Did I have a “Hey, wasn’t I supposed to…” moment?

No, as a matter of fact, my memory’s still good enough that I’d already thought of what I wanted to remind myself of, plus being a seat-of-the-pants writer, I’m so linear in my thinking, that besides knowing A and B, and knowing the middle is a complete surprise and adventure, it still forms and develops with inspirations and ideas that linger in the back of my mind. That occurs even if I write them down. In this case, the note that fell down, has two things that already occurred, one thing that’s going to occur within the next two chapters, and one that’ll occur later in the book and I’ve been developing in the back of my mind for months.

You know what? I forgot all about the note! It’s so old, it lost it’s sticky value and fell off the rim of the cabinet, gathered dust, got picked up and stuck at the bottom of the pile of stuff on the computer tower, unread until now!

I wrote that note over a year ago. Go figure.


One of my writing influences and heroes back in the day, was and still is, to some extent, Clive Cussler. I distinctly remember reading something about his writing habits decades ago when I first started this, though I never specifically followed it.

Clive kept, or maybe still keeps a file full of notes. When he gets ideas for a story, he writes down the ideas and files them away. As he’s writing, he can randomly pull these ideas from the file and use them, at will. For some people, this is a great idea, having a file with random ideas, maybe categorized by subject matter at your disposal.

While I pondered that idea, I never followed through. It’s like all those books on writing I bought and never read. I had to follow my own path.


You may just be bursting with ideas, but cannot remember them from one minute to the next. Or, you get so many, you lose sight of them or mix them up and they lose impact.

What to do?

Write them down.

Maybe, the Cussler method is for you, or some variation.

Maybe your WIP requires notes, especially if you’re bursting with ideas and your brain is working faster than your fingers and writing ability can keep up.

The question is, how are you going to take these notes, then organize them so you can make sense of them later? What if you slap them all down in a huge file, only to not see the forest through the trees?

You finish your story, then look through your notes and find a bunch of great ideas you missed?

On the other hand, if you spend too much time taking notes from all these inspirations you want to incorporate in your story, are you now spending way too much time on the notes rather than on the actual manuscript?


Folks, I’m writing an entire novel with maybe two or three yellow stickies.

If you’re going to write a novel of ideas just to write your novel, something isn’t adding up.

You need to keep your notes manageable and organized and not let the ideas overwhelm your actual writing.

Whatever route you choose to take, make it work for you, not the other way around.

Happy writing!

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