A small and obvious but useful writing idea

I’ve been working on revising and fine-tuning Novel # 2, even while starting to query agents about it. But one thing that I’ve found challenging about revision is retaining the whole shape and structure of the book in my mind. It’s hard when thinking about a 300-page work to grasp the ebb and flow of the entire thing, or even sometimes to remember what happens after what. This particular book goes back and forth between two different periods in time, which makes it even more challenging.

This week I tried something new — putting chapters on Post-It notes! — and loved it. Here’s a photo of what I did:

Novel revision by Post-It note / Photo by Ilana DeBare


Each pink Post-It note is a chapter taking place in 1985-6. Each blue Post-It note is a chapter taking place in 2008-09.

This is hardly new. Writers and doctoral students have been doing this with index cards, Post-Its and other pieces of paper for ages. I think there’s even software that allows you to do something similar.

But it was new to me, and very useful. It makes it easy to visualize the work as a whole. It makes it easy to move chapters around. Plus there’s a very visceral, hands-on, arts-and-crafts sense to it. It’s like making a clay ashtray or a beaded bracelet. My book becomes an actual object I can shape and sculpt.

So much of writing is in your head or on a screen — but here I get to play with pretty colored paper bits, picking them up and moving them around. It’s like the craft shed in summer camp! It probably brings a whole new set of brain cells into the mix.

No earth-shattering observations here. Just a useful idea — where writing craft may actually benefit from  a touch of arts-and-crafts.

Tags: , , ,

4 Responses to “A small and obvious but useful writing idea”

  1. Donald Davis Says:

    For those with weaker arts and crafts skills than Ilana (like me), the same trick can be managed in powerpoint by using the Slide Sorter view.

  2. rachel Says:

    Great approach. I assume the diet Snapple also aided you in your work?!

    Good luck with the re-working…

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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

%d bloggers like this: