The steps below help me to keep on track when writing a novel. Through trial and error, I've come up with these ideas to stay organized.

Get idea. Get excited about idea. Start outlining, mental planning--whatever you do to get going. I always just dive into the writing.

Open a second document on your computer. I name mine [NAME OF BOOK] NOTES.DOC. Keep it open whenever you're working on this manuscript. In it note each new character's name and description as you write about him or her, and any descriptions and names of specific places. If you’re in flow and would rather wait until the end of the chapter to put this info down, that's fine, but it will take your longer to find it again to copy and paste.

After the list of names, do what I call a "post outline." Make a table, have columns for Chapter #, Day of the week, time of day, location, and what happens. Fill the columns in after you finish every chapter. You will bless yourself later for this when you are revising, writing your query letter and your synopsis. And it will keep you on track for daily happenings.

Into this second document, copy and paste or type in research notes and other items as they come up. To keep good track of your research and to make it easier to go back to it, include the links to the material if you found it on-line.

Have a small notebook or notepad handy for maps and house plans. I use a small legal pad with a cover. Covers are available at office supply stores and have a pocket for loose papers. They come in many different colors, so I bought lots of them to use for various projects. Keep this notepad with you at all times to jot down sudden inspirations or questions about the work in progress. Later you can transcribe anything needed into your computer notes document or right into your work in progress and then cross off that jotting.

Revise. Now, that needs a whole other article. Coming up!

As always, I welcome comments and suggestions for fine-tuning this list.

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