Okay, so anybody who’s been with me a while here at A Field of Paper Flowers has followed my attempts at breaking my pantser habits to become a plotter. I don’t like it. But it is continually proven to me that it’s a useful thing to do. It’s like those annual visits to the dentist…kinda painful but helpful too. I have reviewed a number of different tools, programs, and systems for plotting. I’ve liked some things about each of them, but nothing has really stuck with me. My favorite up to this point has been Text Block Writer, but I just really don’t like all the columns and not being able to open everything at once and it’s a pain to have to change the color of all the blocks every time I think of something different. I fell off the plotting wagon when I began this latest draft of HOC (which still needs a new title), so I haven’t been looking around for anything new to try.
Since I started considering bringing in a team of people instead of just Kensie and Mal, my brain has been cranking out a myriad of random ideas, most of which I’ve been discussing with Pot (as I usually discuss all my ideas with Pot). It used to be that I could just do a search for whatever we’d been talking about in Gmail and it would bring up all of our chats. Well, now that doesn’t work because there are literally thousands of conversations in the hopper and when I do a search, even for something specific, it brings up pages! There was this bit of a conversation we’d had about 3 weeks ago about the motivation for the bad guy that worked out to be terribly clever (a fluke but clever) and it took me days to find it. Clearly I needed to be doing something to organize this information! So last night, while fighting the Headache from Hell (which still has me in its clutches at present), I revisited Google Notebooks. It’s something I added to my Google Homepage (and yes this is going to start to sound like a Google advertisement because I really love their products and am very anti-Microsoft) forever ago as a place to snip and drop stuff like quotes I found interesting or whatever. But I never did anything with it or even really explored it’s capabilities. Last night I did. And I love it. You can create as many notebooks as you want, so I have one exclusively for HOC. You can add as many sections as you want, and I added one for Character Notes, Plot, Outline, and Questions. I’m sure I will think of others to add, but that got me started. There are browser extensions you can add to Firefox (and I’m sure IE) that allow you to just highlight and “Note” stuff that you come across as you read things online, or you can simply open the notebook and cut and paste or type stuff in as it occurs to you. This actually works out really well for me because I don’t normally have a very organized and consistent way of working on plot. Random stuff occurs to me in no particular order and this allows me to make a note of it and then drag and drop it into the appropriate section. And even better–you can export the whole notebook or sections of it into a document, so that I can outline here and then export it into a proper, well, outline. I’m all about the drag and drop functionality for this purpose because it’s faster than cutting and pasting when outlining in a Word document. You can expand or minimize the notes within Google Notebook depending on your preferences. You can also add labels (a huge favorite feature of Gmail for me) and comments. And like all Google interfaces, you can choose to share a notebook. I find this particularly useful (potentially so anyway) for crit partners, as you can share your notebook and let your partner see what you’re thinking about. So that’s the end of my shameless plug for Google Notebooks as a plotting tool. I need to get back to actual work.