Loose leaf or bound?

I would like to know what methods others use to outline or coordinate their novel plans? For example; is it better to use loose leaf pages / index cards so you can move stuff around, have a bound journal so everything can be held together and read like a typical book, how does the system you use work for world building etc.??
I am in the process of pre-writing a first draft and haven’t really found a good way to layout the details. Any tips or thoughts you have are welcome! Thanks in advance too.


I’m a big fanfiction writer, so a lot of the stuff I write has some worldbuilding already layered into it, but I also like to participate in quarterly contests online that result in a lot of fandom-blind reader traffic. For those stories, I have to make sure I have just enough worldbuilding for people unfamiliar with the world to understand it, but not enough so they feel overwhelmed–so, a lot like original fiction.

I like to use loose-leaf, college ruled notebook paper, folded in half from top to bottom with each scene number circled out to the side. I find it’s the easiest way for me to write and review my outlines. I don’t have to read all the way across the page, and once I’ve written all the way down one half of one side of the page, I really feel like I’ve gotten somewhere. Plus, the scene numbers help me navigate the outline quickly.

I have two three-ring binders–one for stories in progress, and one for completed stories. Everything’s labeled and in chronological order, that way, if I want to go back to some of my notes, I can find them again easily.

I tried using a journal once… Pardon the pun, but it just felt too binding. The freedom of loose-leaf seems to suit me better.


@dtill359 Thanks for your reply!! I really like that you split the page in half and outline the stories that way, I am going to try that for my first draft since most of my scene details are fairly short & simple, it should help to keep the flow moving better. Also, I am glad you mentioned numbering each scene, I number everything so it’s easier to reference. I would definitely advise others to do the same!!

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I don’t have a tried and true method to suggest yet but I am giving Zim Desktop Wiki a try for organizing my worldbuilding and writing. Eventually, I hope to use Scrivener when their Windows version 3 comes out of beta release.

Zim Wiki is written in Python and is local to your computer instead of in the cloud. Your ‘pages’ are saved as text files in a hierarchical folder structure on your computer and uses simple markdown for formatting. Later, if you wish, you can even export all or some of your ‘pages’ as a website, even including particular style sheets to affect how it looks.

There are many wiki options online but Zim Wiki ticked a lot of boxes for me. I especially like that it crosslinks pages, meaning that if you link a character to a group or scene, etc, a link is created on that page back to your character’s page. This saves you from having to duplicate a page under several different places in your hierarchy.


Another alternative I have considered in the past and may use for the actual novel planning and writing is yWriter. It is free and has versions for Windows, iOS and Android. MacOS version is in beta.

K.M. Weiland used to use it regularly at one point and I think she covers the advantages it offers in this tutorial video:


That sounds like a great source for writing, especially since the hyperlinks will reduce the need for flipping back and forth or losing track of where everything is. Thank you for replying!! :smiley:

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Thanks for sharing this. I haven’t found a perfect method yet to organize my notes and writing and I’m always looking to try something new to see if that’s going to work for me.

I’m currently in a loose leaf mood but I do tend to lose pages from time to time since I take them out and move them around to use or reorganize. I like moving parts around so despite the fact that I have piles of notebooks, I usually start with those and end up putting notes online or on looseleaf.

I also want to say, although several of my writer friends use Scrivener, I found it to be a little unwieldy for me. The interface didn’t really make sense to me. Maybe the yWriter program will work!


What looks most promising to me about yWriter is how you can keep track of so many details about your scenes: characters and items present, location, point of view character, whether it is a scene or sequel (action or reaction) scene, what time it starts and ends if you are keeping a timeline for continuity and reality (too many hours in a day accounted for?) and more. These are all things that it is hard to keep tabs on otherwise when you are managing/organizing something like 30-50 scenes. You can even rate tension and humor level intended for the scene to balance pacing.

The last time I peeked at it, I believe yWriter 6 was just coming out. I’m curious to see what features have been added to yWriter 7.

I sort of just get ideas and layer them together. One concept after another like building blocks.

Example- What if two teenagers fall in love? Ok. What else? What if they fall in love, but aren’t allowed to be in love? Ok. Interesting. But why? Maybe their parents or families dislike each other. Ok. But that has been done before. So what if they’re actually clones and clones aren’t allowed to marry anyone they like. They’re set up to fall in love with a certain person, but these two are flawed and actually like someone else.

Hope this helps :slight_smile:

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I have the same issue. What I’m doing now is starting with an “event” list in Word. I tag event titles in Heading 1 so I can use the Navigation pane/Headings to see a list in the Navigation view. I also tend to order the list into chunks that generally show where the event happens (when I know). So I sort of order the events as a I go, and keep ordering as I understand more.

I discovered a program for writing called Plottr. Now I take my rough and usually incomplete event list and put the events in Plottr, and build the story in Plottr from that beginning. The website is getplottr.com. It has a free trial (and also a great Facebook group). They also have YouTube videos.

The main advantages of Plottr are you can enter all your notes and characters and place descriptions, set your story structure according to what you like or you can create your own, and then you will have a timeline and an outline view. I love being able to use any structure “template” I like or making my own, but the main thing I like is being able to see a timeline. It’s worth going to the website and looking at the demos to get a sense of how it works. It is easy to use, inexpensive, and flexible. The company is also responsive to writer ideas (from Facebook discussions and also you can add your suggestions at their website) and they keep adding features.