I just love index cards!  They are incredibly useful. At under $5 for 500 in a variety of sizes and colors, ruled and un-ruled, and a host of accessories, they really are cheap and cheerful.

Their uses are expansive.  I keep coming up with new ideas.  Though it may be old school, I have found them helpful in keeping track of my most important contacts. They can be color coded for business associates, colleagues, hot prospects, whatever you need.  They are easy to retrieve and more accessible for jotting notes than a spreadsheet.

But this post is about writing.  Most recently, I have used index cards to help make sense of scenes in my novel. The next plot point is coming up soon, but I wasn’t exactly sure what had to happen to get there. The order was unclear and the build up missing. There are quite a lot of scenes that I imagine might need to take place before the big swing in the action.

I began by labeling each card with a short, BOLD TITLE for the scene. Next, I put the characters involved and listed the points I want them to cover, the things I want to happen between them. There’s plenty of room to say whether I want this to be narrative or a full blown scene. I can note any other characters that play a role, a distraction, conflict, added tension or anything else that occurs to me along the way.  Whether I’m waiting in line or sitting at my desk, I can have these little cards nearby.

When I have filled out all the information I need, I can spread them across a surface and have a wide perspective of the action.  Seeing how it all builds, what scenes might be repetitive or need some punching up or moving around.  I have found, in the past, that I sometimes need to change the order to make them flow better.  This view of the action helps to see all these things.

If it’s all in the right place, I can begin to number the cards in the proper order. This way, when I sit down to finally write it, I have a precise guide, making the writing a whole lot easier!

This method can certainly be used in other kinds of writing.  If you’re writing a paper to prove a point, you can create cards for each of your arguments and see if they flow logically.  Each card can offer highlights of the points you want to make.  When writing procedures, the cards can hold each step along the way, making sure it all makes sense.

The first life lesson here is in seeing things from a broader perspective.  Too many scenes, (or anything) bouncing around in your head, even listed on a piece of paper can’t compare to the visual you can create with these cards.  Perspective improves your vision.  Being able to see the Big Picture you can make calls that you can’t from a single slice.

The second lesson  is about taking things in small steps. The gathering of the information into manageable bits that are easier to digest.  Chores, ideas, feelings are handled much better in small packages.  Organized and collected.  This helps the artist brain whenever it’s tossing things this way and that.  For big dreams and ideas, you can use 5 x 8 cards to whittle them down to human size.