My Project Binder

Copyright 2002 Terescia Harvey

See my reprint guidelines.

Writers have many different ways to organize all the paper that comes with writing a book. My way isn't better than anyone else's, I'm sure, but it works for me, so I thought I'd share it.

It's simple and inexpensive and an excellent way to keep everything that belongs with a certain project together in one place where you can find it when you need it.

The first thing I do is buy myself one of those big, fat 3" binders at Wal-Mart (or anywhere else that sells 'em cheap). Then I get a packet of tabbed dividers. I like the color coded kind that are kind of thick, because I reuse them when I finish a project. (In reality, I have several of these binders going at one time.)

I have several standard categories that I use the tabs for:

These categories are just starting points, so if you have needs for different categories, by all means create your own. I have a friend who did just that. Her binder has twice as many categories as mine. That's good, because she's making it work for her. She's not a slave to any method.

What do you put in these categories? Really, whatever you want. But here's what's in mine:


I have cut-outs from magazines showing how I see my characters. It gives me a visual cue about how my characters look. I usually use these more at the beginning than I do later on, because once I really get into the story, I know by heart how my characters look.

This is also where I keep my character charts.


In this section, I keep snippets of scenes that I've written down, sometimes scene outlines, and even phrases that I consider to be the beginnings of scenes that I've not yet explored.


Ah, the title says it all. Anything that I look up for my work-in-progress, I make sure and keep a copy of it in my project binder. I learned my lesson the hard way. I repeat: Keep a copy! You don't want to have to redo time-consuming research.


For anything that doesn't fit elsewhere. Yep, that's about it.


For my working synopsis.


No computer is fail-safe, let me tell you. So this section is for that paper copy you know you should have. Besides, I like to get away from the computer to do my editing sometimes. It's nice to be able to make changes that aren't permanent. I've found that I edit better when I do it twice. On paper I can go crazy cutting things, slashing through words, lines, even paragraphs, and then when I get to the computer I get a chance to rethink those changes.

Trust me on this, the delete key is way too easy to use. I mean, yes, you want to get rid of dead language, useless prose, and all that, but I have a tendency to rip through my stuff, leaving nothing behind but dialogue. For some reason, when I'm editing, I think everything else is worthless. Who knows? Maybe it is.

Finally, my project binder may be too big to lug around with me, but that isn't really why I have one. I use it as a tool to organize my work-in-progress. Maybe you'll find it helpful, maybe not, but I'd urge you to try it. I wouldn't do without mine.

© Terescia Harvey

Please do not copy, reprint, or redistribute this article in any way without permission. Thanks.

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