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I have been planning a murder mystery novel for a couple months and just need to get a few more specific details planned and then I’m ready to write.

But I was laying in bed one night just scrolling through YouTube Shorts when I just get an amazing idea (sort of). I decided that I should write the idea down before I forget it. But then I realized that I needed more of a plot to write down, so I started thinking about it and what I came up with made the idea even more amazing.

But the problem is writing the idea down. Let me be more specific, I am perfectly fine writing the idea down in my ideas spot in my notes app. But usually when that happens I end up forgetting about it and never look at it until the next one comes around.

I use the app Milanote for my planning, but I can’t get the upgrade so every time I have a new plot to plan I have to delete the other plot the was being planned there which I can’t do for the novel I’m working on for obvious reasons. But the only way I’ll remember the other plot is if I start planning it but I need my storage for my current work.

I’m desperate to not forget this idea it’s currently two in the morning and I am working hard not to forget the idea. Any feedback on what I should do to preserve the idea would be greatly appreciate

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    Is there any reason you can't jot this down in another app, or just a Microsoft Word/Google Docs document?
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 25, 2023 at 9:10
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    Sounds like you need a different note-taking app Jul 25, 2023 at 13:34
  • How can you "forget" to look at your notes at the time for which you took them?!?
    – Ben
    Jul 26, 2023 at 15:27

5 Answers 5

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There are a couple of ways of bringing to mind a plot idea. Here are the ones I use.

  1. Write it down

As another person already stated, there's nothing wrong with the paper-and-pencil method. If anything, it's better than putting the idea on your phone because you have to devote more effort into writing with a pencil than typing. This only serves to engrain it further into your memory.

I have a pencil and a stack of index cards by my bed so that if I get an idea for a story (plot, character name, etc.), I can write it down. I still have the cards from several years ago--very effective.

  1. Use another app

I've never heard of Milanote, so I can't give advice about saving things on it. What I do use, though, is an app called Notepad. When you get an idea, simply open a new page and type your idea down. As far as I can tell, no upgrades are needed. In the event that that or another app you use to record stuff fills up, the next morning just go and transfer it to a computer or paper.

  1. Put something out of place.

This sounds ridiculous, but it actually works. If you have something you want to remember (so long as it's not overly complicated), put something by your bed that's out of place. The next morning, when you wake up and see that item, your brain is triggered to recall the thought train connected with it. I use this trick all the time, even with something as simple as a blank index card. Works every time.

I do advice, though, that each morning, record/transfer your idea to something more permanent (a computer document, an excel spreadsheet, a notebook). That way, you are less likely to lose anything.

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    Put something out of place. This sounds ridiculous, but it actually works. 100% This is called a mnemonic, icydk. Like tying a string around your finger.
    – kmunky
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:35
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In my experience I think you're putting a bit too much thought into the apps and upgrades. Take a deep breath, grab a pen or pencil and jot down the idea. I can't begin to tell you how many new plot ideas I have written down on scraps of paper all over my office. Never let an idea slip away because even one that doesn't work out may end up being a great part of another story, or even the story you are currently working on. I have noticed that people get too carried away with technology and seem to try to buy or upgrade their way into better or more efficient writing. It just doesn't work that way, at least not for me and I'm not speaking ill of anyone that works differently. Sometimes a fresh outlook helps though.

You don't need notifications or anything like that. If you forget about the idea then that might mean it just wasn't that important, or possibly it just isn't the time to work on it. That doesn't mean there aren't ideas that are too good to let sit on the back burner. This is the burden of being a writer. There will be times you just have to jump out of bed and get to writing. Missing appointments and showing up late to work like a drunken sailor off leave because you've been smashing the keys all night is a sacrifice we all make as writers.

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    Never let an idea slip away This can't possibly be stressed enough for writers.
    – kmunky
    Aug 3, 2023 at 0:37
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You need both a better system of taking notes and a different practice of what you do with the notes you take.

First, you need an easy way to take notes and one place to collect them. I use both a paper notebook (that I always carry with me) and a plain text file (that I use when I'm already at the computer). All my ideas go into one of these places.

Second, you need to use your notes. Whenever I begin working on a new project, I go through all my notes to find anything that might be relevant to that project. I transfer all those notes into a new plain text file for that project and delete them from the general note taking file or strike them out in the notebook (so I don't have to consider them again, now that they have been applied). Now I use those notes during whatever I do when I plan and write a project.

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Stephen King was in the middle of writing a book when he got an idea for another book.

He told his wife, Tabitha about the idea, he often bounces ideas off her, and she thought it was great. She told him he should write it down.

He said, "No, if I forget it then it wasn't good enough." He finished his book, sent it off, and then began the new book. He hadn't forgotten it.

If you are really afraid of forgetting it, write it up in Word, with all the details you are worried about forgetting. Then come back to it.

Hopefully you can write at least that well. If that wasn't enough to recall the plot, and be excited about it, then take King's advice -- It wasn't that great after all.

Your other alternative?

Make a backup of your directory with this application. Make sure you know where it keeps its data files. Just zip it all up, so you can restore it. Make sure you include any hidden files.

Then use the program to start over with your new plot. Do all the work you want. When you are done, zip it up and store it, too.

Then restore the previous directory and your data files, and restart your previous project where you left off.

I don't know your system but there must be some way to back up your work, somehow or another if your work can survive a power outage, it is on the disk.

Figure that out.

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My phone saved me this drama, in part. I often think of new details or ideas or eureka moments during my daily routine, especially while driving, where taking notes is not a viable option. I just grab my phone, make a quick recording, and move on with my day. I begin every writing session reviewing my notes to myself. Additional upshot is that I find half of my notions seemed a lot better in the moment than they do upon reflection, so it helps to weed out mediocre ideas as well. (Downside is that I also find my own speaking voice annoying and marvel how anybody listens to me talk. Good thing I'm a writer and not a public speaker.)

For storage, use cloud. That way if you ever slip on ice and fling your iPad farther than a pro quarterback while flailing for balance, you don't lose your work. Not that I've done that more than once, mind you, but let's just say experience has taught me that cloud storage is cheaper and less painful than new iPads.

Finally, the simple truth is that if your writing tool inhibits your writing for any reason, even due to budget, then it's the wrong tool. Writing is hard enough without fighting your toolkit to do it. If you plan to write for a living, expect to switch up your routine over time. Likely multiple times. Sounds like this is one of them. Never sacrifice your work. Adapt your routine to suit.

So ditch Milanote posthaste. It's not working for you. A free app with less features would likely serve you better. You'll find new ways of working, and can focus your energy on your work, rather than fighting inadequate tools.

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