I’ve already used my Writer’s Toolkit segment to talk about the advantages of keeping a journal and a pocket notebook. Now to complete the trio of handy note-taking tools, today’s topic covers a utility that every prolific writer (especially novelists) should have under their belt: index cards.

Index cards

Oxford Ruled Index Cards

There probably isn’t much else I can add about the usefulness of index cards that hasn’t already been covered by the journal and the pocket notebook, so instead I’ll briefly cover the advantages they have over both of these. Like the aforementioned items, index cards are great for taking notes, and while they aren’t quite as convenient to carry around as a pocket-size book, they do have a significant feature that makes up for that: separability.

Notebooks are useful for keeping track of ideas as they come to you; the challenge is sorting through those ideas later. Cutting up pages and sticking pieces together doesn’t seem like a very productive way to go about it (unless you’re into scrapbooking, in which case it may actually be fun). A good alternative, therefore, is to scan through the highlights and note those on separate cards. You can categorize your ideas by topic and sort through them anytime to find the most relevant ones for your current project. Essentially, notebooks are for taking with you to jot down ideas on the go, while index cards are for organizing those ideas in your private workspace. How convenient is that?

While every writer can benefit from using index cards this way, novelists get the most use out of them with an additional purpose. If you’ve ever owned a cork board, you may already be familiar with the concept of pinning notes and pictures in an orderly fashion (if you’re like me, though, they’re probably all pinned haphazardly with no discernible pattern whatsoever). In a similar manner, writers planning out a novel can pin index cards to keep track of character profiles, settings and important plot points, so as to get a clear vision of the story as a whole. For writers who are total scatterbrains, this is an excellent habit to pick up!


Advantages of Using Index Cards

  • Easy to sort ideas
  • Categorize topics for quick reference
  • Keep track of important plot details
  • Visualize novel storyline

Index cards are a great option for many writers, but almost a necessity for novelists. Whether you like to set aside the occasional note for future reference or lay out the entire detailed storyline of an upcoming novel, index cards are a useful tool to help you keep your creativity in order!

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