Index cards

index cardsI wrote my first novel, Malaise in 2007. It was a flying by the seat of my pants book as I never charted out the chapters or even the scenes. I finished the first draft in 45 days, writing sequentially chapter after chapter. I had ideas for a second novel, Mainline, but they never materialized until 2010. I had the idea for the plot, but it was difficult to put things together. I don’t know if I read it or heard it somewhere, but the solution was index cards. I started with the plot points (things that change the direction of the story, about every one-third in the pages of the novel) and every time I had an idea for a scene, a character, a thought about the book, I would write it down on an index card. By the time I was ready to write I had over 50 cards, some like:
• Nanny is an opera singer
• Scene with baby and brother doing heroin
• Baby’s death by falling down the stairs
In 2010-2011, I took the character cards and put them in a pile and then took the scene card and started to piece together a novel. I transferred this down on an Excel spreadsheet in logical order. Foolishly I wrote chapters out of order so when I got to the second draft I had issues with continuity; some chapters never got written in the first draft. I wound up dropping chapters and moving others around. The point being I could focus on one chapter, write 1000 words for it on my lunch break, and then move on to another chapter.
Maybe they can help you organize my thoughts, as they did me.