Edit Pass Live Stage 2: Collating Notes

So, I also want to talk a little bit about how I collated my notes, because that was a process that was a bit new to me. I don’t know if it’ll be helpful to other people, but it’s useful for me to document my learning process, so I’m just going to talk it through here anyway.

A big problem I’ve always had is getting my notes into a format where I can actually reference and process them quickly. Scrivener has done wonders with my research and worldbuilding information, with the ability to link between notes, and the ability to easily open and reference individual note files without needing heaps of new documents, heaps of scrolling, everything like that.

I did for a while experiment with a physical folder with section dividers for different topics. However, when I go into worldbuilding, I don’t often know exactly what the shape of things is going to be, so it was hard to get the right dividers, and also hard to remember or reference where individual topics were within those dividers, especially if I had to move things around, add things, or delete things. Scrivener has the advantage there – everything is easily titled and if I need to move or edit something, I just go ahead and do it.

Notes after I’ve written a story don’t quite work that well, however. It’s not like worldbuilding notes, where I have paragraphs or even pages on a particular topic. I’m referencing single lines or sentences. I also need them all in a way where I can use them as a checklist, as well as just easily remember a particular line if I need to.

So, what I did this time is I tried to keep them as a single A4 page or perhaps two pages, but divided them into lists.

I didn’t divide them like I usually would my other notes, though. My worldbuilding notes usually fall pretty neatly into Character, Setting and Plot, with Setting then divided into Places, History, and Rules (Rules being the category for magic system details or other ways that the world deviates from ‘the real world’, such as how the River works in The Ferryman’s Apprentice).

But that won’t really be a useful distinction when I’m talking about my writing notes here, and I’ve never really come up with another system for categorising the notes I need for the editing process. After all, this is one of the first times I’ve worked this systematically on a project this big. The Ferryman’s Apprentice is long, but it’s been broken into four sections, each of which are only really as long as a novella, so that makes a difference. For a lot of other things, I work with in-line notes primarily, which are easy to reference because they’re right there next to the thing you need to modify.

(Side note: I’ve just started to use Scrivener’s metadata panel for notes on individual scenes, which I’m very excited about because that’s just going to upgrade my entire life in so many ways).

But because this is such a large rewrite, and because it’s such a long project, I need to come up with a system to break down my storytelling notes, so they’re easy to reference when I need to and easy to read through.

That meant breaking the notes down into about three to five categories – I ended up going not with categories by topic, but by what part of the process I’ll need them in:

  • Pre-write, or anything I need to finish before starting on the rewrite. This is any further worldbuilding details I forgot in that task list, or any details of those characters I need to do extra work on
  • Notes to Self, or things I need to keep in mind while writing. This is anything that I’ll need to build up as an ongoing detail – a character interpretation that needs a lot of foreshadowing, or something pervasive about the setting that isn’t a huge part but needs to be mentioned
  • Timeline, or things I need to make sure I take into account for the pacing. For example, if I need an event to take place only after an argument between two characters, or I want to switch around two plot points to change the implication of things.
  • Events, or any individual thing that I need to fix in the story. That is, if a particular scene didn’t go the way I want it, I know I’ll need to fix it up before it goes in the final story.

This will be interesting, because I feel like a lot of these would be more useful if I wasn’t about to start a full rewrite – notes to self and Events, for example, would be way more helpful if I was about to edit a document and needed to know where I needed to strengthen or shuffle things around. But I think they’ll still be serviceable for the rewrite, to mark places where I went wrong in the original draft.

So that’s that – I just wanted to get that down in full. After the draft, I’ll let folks know whether it worked or not, and any changes I’ll make to those categories, if any.

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