How to Write a Book, Step 1: Index Cards

Staples 4  x 6  Line Ruled Assorted Color Index Cards, 100/Pack

Not too long ago, somebody asked me how to write a book — not just in theory, but in practice.

Here’s the first step I usually take: I buy two or three packs of index cards, and then I brainstorm. I write down every thought, idea, or point I’d like to include in the book. It doesn’t take long to go through 100 or 200 cards, because I only put one idea on each card. Sometimes it’s is just a word. Sometimes it’s a sentence. Sometimes it’s an entire paragraph that emerges fully formed, like Athena — and eventually that paragraph will find its way into the finished book.

As the ideas start coming, more ideas follow, and some of them have no obvious connection to each other. That’s okay, because index cards are easy to reorganize.

More importantly, I start to see patterns and themes develop, so I can categorize them. Later, I can sort the cards into sections and chapters, and use them to generate an outline.

8 thoughts on “How to Write a Book, Step 1: Index Cards

  1. Great tip! Do you like to then spread the cards out on your desktop, or do you pin them up onto a bulletin board? Or do you order them in a box as the patterns and themes develop? When I’m working on a story, I like to fan out all my materials across my desk. Casual viewers may think it’s a big mess, but it’s not! It’s my system.

    • I keep them in a little recipe file box, with dividers to sort them by subject. You know me. I can’t stand a mess on my desk! (Ha ha ha. No, if I were to spread them out on a desk, someone in this house would knock them onto the floor, throw them away in a panicked cleaning frenzy, or spill on them.)

  2. These days pretty much all my organization is done with index cards. They’re fantastic tools and perfect for writing a story, book or even an article!

  3. Pingback: How to Write a Book, Part 2: Outline « Shuffle

  4. Pingback: How to Write a Book, Part 3: Your Ideal Reader « Shuffle

  5. Pingback: How to Write a Book, Part 4: Market Research « Shuffle

  6. Pingback: Five Tools A Writer Must Have « bardicblogger

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s