Several years ago, I heard a story about a writer who kept his notes about his novel in a brown paper bag in his office. Every time he had a random thought about the book—a snippet of dialogue or a song lyric, he’d jot it down and toss it in the bag. You know where this is going, right? Yeah, the novelist almost lost the whole bag when his wife mistook it for trash and set it out with the garbage. The story has a happy ending: the novelist rescued the bag and, with it, his precious ideas.
I told that story in my book, Write-A-Thon, as a cautionary tale: find a better place to store your precious ideas! For years, I have kept a project binder or a story bible to hold everything I have needed for my books. Inside, I plan characters, create plots, keep clippings of setting ideas, and jot down scene notes. I’ve gathered some examples of my project binders to show you.
Here is my project binder for Write-A-Thon. The chart on the cover records the table of contents and tracks current iterations of chapters (many chapters debuted as articles in my Write Now! Weekly Writing tip).
The inside of the project binder contains pocket page dividers for collecting research and random ideas.
A few years ago when I wrote a series of children’s books, I started with this simple story bible: a spiral notebook.
Inside, I kept notes on each of the characters and what I thought might happen in the story.
This year, I am planning on working on a mystery novel. I’ll get a spiral sketch pad like this one so that I can draw family trees and mind map scene ideas.
Get started on your story bible this week. Don’t forget, if you’re not a paper and pen kind of person, you can always create a story bible on your computer. Use a Tumblr account or a Pinterest board to collect visual images for your story.
Your turn: What tools have you used to gather your story ideas?