I spent way too many hours in the early part of this week playing with a new-to-me program. It’s called Notion and is

billed as a place where you can store and keep track of all your notes, calendar, writing, etc. It even has a timeline feature, which I definitely want to play with some more.

The problem with these solve-it-all programs is that there is always something wrong with them. They are never just right. So far, I have not managed to find the Goldilocks of organizational systems—and I’ve tried a lot of them!

When I first started writing, I went with the paper solution. I have binders filled with notes. I printed out loads of worksheets which I filled in by hand. This system worked… and it worked well. I still use it on occasion and I recently ran into one serious problem with it—what if you don’t know where you wrote down an idea? Or even if you do know where you wrote it down, and you’re like me and far from so much of your work. (Yes, I wrote down my plans for my next series on paper in a notebook and it is sitting in my office in Kyiv. Not very helpful to me now when I’d have to risk my life to get there.)

I’ve also tried Scrivener—which many authors absolutely swear by. It’s a great and powerful program (a little like the Wizard of Oz – only he was great and powerful because he said so, not because he actually was). Scrivener really is great and powerful. Perhaps too powerful? People take weeks-long courses to learn how to use that program, buy books, and even then few use most of what it has to offer.

Other options for organization include digital notebooks like OneNote and Evernote where you can import Word documents, create your own lists and organize your files in any way you’d like.

Plottr is terrific for not only plotting your novel with its ingenious time line, but it has tabs for characters, places, and just ordinary notes.

And finally, there is the program I was fooling with earlier this week, Notion, with is similar to a digital notebook only it has templates you can use (although, of course, none for writers – and while I thought of putting a few together it really would have taken too much of time to make it look nice). But again, there were limitations to the program which were annoying little ticks. It ended up not being worth my time to figure it all out and how to work around these.

So, people, what do you use to organize your writing, character sheets, plotting, research notes and whatever else you use to write a novel?

I’m going back to my old way of a combination of my own worksheets (sometimes in physical form, sometimes digital), a plottr file, and a few Microsoft Word documents all kept together in a folder on my computer along with a physical notebook on the side where I can jot down notes (because I do really like writing long-hand sometimes).

If you’d come up with a great solution, please tell me about it!