On the other hand, I'm really not a huge fan of chaos. I like to straighten things - to clear off desks, and put pens back in holders, and file papers in assigned folders. I like the feeling of getting books properly arranged on shelves. I like to hustle clutter out of my room, because having it cluttered increases stress. (Jenny remarked on this phenomenon a few days ago, so I don't think it's peculiar to me.)
And this extends to my writing as well: if I can't keep myself organized, I get a most unpleasant and overwhelming sensation of panic. I suppose that isn't an unreasonable feeling for a writer to have. Here we are setting out to write a book that could be anywhere from 60,000 to 200,000 words long, with characters we're just beginning to know, plot twists we can't yet envision, an ending that seems incredibly distant, and more chapters than can be easily kept track of. We may not start out with a map, but I know that for myself, if I don't at least have a few mile markers I will soon be hopelessly lost.
Some of us tackle this issue through outlines with varying degrees of detail. For me, this has been different with every novel, but I find I don't like ones that are in-depth; they're helpful enough to follow during NaNo, when I'm rushing along much too quickly to keep track of critical points, but they leave no room for character and plot development in my own mind. Besides, my chapters never end up following the arrangement I set up for them before I begin writing. Still, this overarching outline can be useful as reference material as long as I don't follow it too closely.
The outline, however, is a pretty well-known means of organization. Here are a few of the other things I do to try to keep my head above water as I dog-paddle through my novels.
corkboard and sticky notes
This is a new thing for me, and I stole the idea from Jenny. It's a simple way of keeping tabs, not on large plot points, but on little things that are just as necessary. Usually these are one-word reminders, just enough to spark my memory; they have to be fairly short to fit on the heart-shaped sticky notes. Sometimes I'll add a quote I want to use, or a snatch of dialogue I want to remember. Anyone else looking at the notes for Tempus Regina would be able to make neither heads nor tails of them. "Greek fire," says one; "abort," declares another; "smoke and mirrors," "sacrifice," blue stones," "Plato," and "The Great Exhibition," remark several others.
Here I've also begun keeping track of edits I know I'll have to make, so I don't forget them. I write these on different note cards to differentiate.
I have a notebook for writing, but I also have a small, fat, spiral-bound notebook for a variety of Useful Things. I write down blog post ideas, song titles, edits, and schedules here. I keep track of agents queried and not queried. I also scribble lists of books to find and notes on necessary research, like the phosphorescent qualities of zinc sulfide. My notebook itself is not very organized, given my tendency to use up every spare bit of page until a single leaf has three separate lists crammed together. But since I can navigate it well enough, and needful schedules, lists, and research are in one spot, it works very well.
Unless I'm doing NaNo, I write each chapter of my novel in a separate Word document. When it's finished, I copy it, add it to the main manuscript file, and then save both. Writing from beginning to end in a single document is, for some reason, overwhelming to me. Besides, finishing a chapter is much for satisfying this way.
The downside of this method is that it means I'm frequently faced with a blank page. Every time I finish one chapter and begin another, I have an empty sheet of virtual paper - no words or snatches of sentences to spur me on. And most of you know, I hate beginnings. What I do to start myself off is to jot down quick notes in my writing notebook (not the Useful Things book) as a general outline of how the chapter will go. I break it down into parts, rarely detailed, but enough to show me about how long the chapter will be and how many scenes it will contain. It gives me a prompt and a starting place, and as I finish each section I can check it off. (I love checking things off.) This has been one of the most helpful flotation devices I've found for myself.
what methods do you have for keeping yourself organized?