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How the Writing Works: Note Taking

Hello, everyone! I hope you are doing well. Now, I’m sure some of you are out there thinking, I want to write a book or short story, but I don’t have the darndest clue on how to start. Well, I’m here to help. Part of note taking can depend on if you’re a pantser or a plotter. For those who don’t know or haven’t read my previous blog post, pantsers use their rough draft for an outline and write by the seats of their pants, while plotters outline most of their work before jotting down the first line.

Either way, plotter or pantser, you should have some manner of notes. It can be as detailed or generic as you wish. The internet is full of countless outlines to ensure you find the best manner to split up and organize your story to your liking. If you’d rather use a Word Document, or some note taking software, I recommend you create various documents for the different aspects of note taking. Creating a table of contents in your notes will help keep them organized. Or, you could merge them together for your own liking, but I recommend having them separated so you don’t have to spend so much time searching.

While I am more a pantser than a plotter, I still have a couple strict categories I use in my note taking: Characters, Setting, and Lore. Depending on the applicability, I’ll also have Magic, Language, Religion, and Species. Below, I will outline how I use each category to build my story. Remember, there is no one way to make notes. Use whatever way works best for you.


For character building, there are several documents you can download from Reedsy to help you craft your protagonist or antagonist’s background. However, due to how expansive the documents are, I recommend using them only for the most important characters. You can build up an expansive backstory all you want, but trust me, readers won’t care about the tragic history of a side character who appears for less than half a page never to be seen or heard from again.

For those who would rather use a word document, enjoy having both, or want to make a general character sheet for all their characters—major, minor, and tertiary—here is what I recommend.









If applicable, I also add sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity.

Most of the categories are self-explanatory, however, I imagine some people might be confused by goals, history, and plot. History involves the information you feel is important, such as relationships to friends, family, and other characters, where they were born, important memories, and what made them who they are. History is all about what happened to the character before the books starts and crafted them into the person they are today. It can be as long or simple as you like. Remember to have consistency. You don’t want to put in your story that your character was a farmer his entire life, then down the road say he lived on the streets of Amsterdam.

Goals refer to what the character wants and what drives them throughout the story. It differs from plot because the plot of story can involve many characters and can change a character’s goals. For me, goals are what the character wants at the beginning of the story, not necessarily in the middle or the end. The plot also outlines what the character will do across the story and how they will interact with other characters. Goals can change throughout the course of the novel and are often mixed into the plot.

I hope what I mentioned helps you with note taking. Remember, notes don’t need to be all-encompassing. They’re there to ensure you remember and structure your novel out with as few errors as possible. Notes are part of the writing experience, so don’t stress yourself out when creating them. They’re there to help you, not hinder you.

Anyway, I hope you found my latest blog post helpful. Thank you for reading and have a good day.

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