Living documents for writers

This is something I do, and I wondered if anyone else does something similar. The electronic age makes this so easy. It evolved from a work habit at the paycheck job.

I keep living documents in my Pages (Think Word) program. I have one called Writing Lessons, I have others for Paranormal, Editing, and a new one called Cryptids.

Whenever I learn something, or it feels like I’m very close to learning something, I add it to a living document.

Remember these things are only for me, so they aren’t organized in any fashion you would recognize. If you decide to follow suit, you can use Roman numerals, alpha characters or whatever floats your boat.

Here’s an example from one of mine:

Writing Lessons

The Writing Monomyth:

1.) The ordinary world. Show what’s at stake, what might be lost. Think about Dorothy in Kansas.

It goes on through the entire sequence. I add a little reminder to each section that helps me remember, like I did with Dorothy.

After I work through all the steps, I add some notes. Many of these are added later as I pick up new information. They aren’t formal, they’re just notes for me. Here’s some examples at the end of the monomyth section:

Not every step is used in every story. The best stories are about death and rebirth, whether that death is literal or figurative. Westley died, got miracled, and lived happily with Princess Buttercup.

Note: The inciting incident and the call to adventure are usually the same time, but don’t have to be. The shark ate the blonde skinny dipper. Brody is called to the body on the beach later.

Consider using a “Herald” for the call to adventure. Brody (a different Brody) pulls Indy out of class. Someone wants to talk to you. Go to church-like auditorium and meet with Army Intelligence. It build tension and anticipation. It allows for a set piece too.

I get information all kinds of places. I frequent Zite magazine, I have RSS feeds, visit writing bulletin boards, and follow hundreds of blogs. I also own a bunch of instructional books, and my notes go in the living documents.

Earlier this week, I reblogged some good advice from Kristen Lamb’s blog. I added a few lines to my living document.

My living documents always get browsed while I’m at the planning phase. Maybe I need to ramp up the suspense in a story, there’s a category in my living document. If I need Voodoo paraphernalia, consult the Paranormal living document.

Today, Rochelle Deans posted some good advice on theme in our stories. I already knew some of this stuff, but the way she explains it appeals to me. I’m adding more notes when I finish up here. Here’s the link to Rochelle’s blog for you writers out there.

Some of my notes are in the miscellaneous category. They aren’t big enough for a separate category. One example:

Many good main characters are a mix of two helpers. Kirk is caught between McCoy’s have fun spirit and Spock’s logic. Luke is a mixture of Obi Wan & Han Solo.

I embellished, but didn’t write this stuff. Does anyone else do something like this?

My wife took the grandkids to some sort of Disney Princesses on Ice show. It’s right next door to the BSU game, and my son and his wife are at the game. I hope my wife found a parking place about 10:00 this morning. That left grandpa with time for a longer blog post.

(An aside: can you imagine the kind of story I could write using the name Disney Princesses on Ice? I’d need to order a lot of body bags.)


Filed under Writing

16 responses to “Living documents for writers

  1. I keep a running list of notes to self, but nothing as organized as you seem to have. Funny on the ice show. My granddaughter went to see that, but body bags didn’t occur to me. Maybe we could work together on a crime novel. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great idea! I keep my notes on Post-Its and pinned to my bulletin board right in front of where I write so I can always be mindful of what to do or not do. Thanks to you recently, I added to the notes. 🙂


  3. This is great, I tend to jot down any things I want to remember like that wherever I can find something to write on at the time, and invariably never find those scraps of paper ever again! You should turn all of yours into a book – writers love to read tips on writing as you know.


    • I like the iCloud setup for this. I can make a note on my phone if something strikes me. That note is available on my computer when I get home.

      I even use two gadgets sometimes at once. One for my living document; one for my manuscript.

      I’ll leave the how to books to someone with bigger chops. Stephen King gets to write a how to book. Maybe in another 20 years I’ll be qualified.


  4. I like this idea and I think I’ve used it but not tidily. Not in one place I can find! I need to do that 🙂


  5. Great idea, I’m more scattered but I don’t have a computer set up at home for writing yet. It will hopefully be hooked up and operational by Nov 1 though. (If I get the spare bedroom cleared out.)

    I have started sending myself notes and reminders via email though. It was one of those light bulb moments ~ email at my fingertips on my phone! No more lost notes or forgotten appointments!


  6. Lisa

    Yes, I do actually. But I still use a journal and a pen and draw little pictures and scribble too. LOL.


  7. I do the same, but I use Evernote as my running list. Love it! I can access it through my Android tablet app, my laptop, or just through the web. I like that I can classify the bits I collect into notebooks, tag them, search them, and mostly just plain keep track of them. It’s great because not only can I save Post-it note type information, but I can save web articles I run across with little effort.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s