History That Never Was

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Keeping Track of Story Ideas

An overstuffed notebook

My friend Nate has a Field Notes notebook obsession. He is never without at least one of them, and often has several of them between his pockets and bag. More than a couple of times, he’s grabbed one, flipped it open, said, “no, it’s not in this one,” and had to go hunting for another notebook. We tease him about this, but he’s got a system for keeping track of his story ideas that works for him.

As for myself, on the other hand, I am not the most organized with my story ideas. Many of them wind up in an email folder that I call “*story ideas.” Assuming that I type up enough details, this can be a great way to track my individual story ideas. But some of them end up just being a snippet or an idea with no strong plot elements, and they ultimately sit in the folder until something more comes to me.

But I also have a notebook obsession, including stacks upon stacks of notebooks that may have nothing at all written in them, or may have things written on very random pages. (I rarely use a notebook from the beginning to the end in any sort of logical order. I work on one thing, and then when I think of something else, I flip it open to any random blank page.) Sometimes, when I’m looking for a blank page to write on, I’ll realize I had some neat idea that never made it into my email filing system. Sometimes, the idea is fully formed enough that I can still work with it, but more often than not, it’s something cryptic that makes no sense however many months or years down the line I find it.

How and where do you keep track of your story ideas? Do you have any suggestions that might help others keep their ideas more organized? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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