Using Index Cards to Play With Author Brain, Gail Carriger Works on Waistcoats & Weaponry Finishing School Book

I love outlines, Gentle Reader, but sometimes, especially at the end of the series, I have so many threads to tie up and so many things I want to say in a book, that I find I need a way to organize my thoughts before I even start the outline stage.

When it’s disparate points of action, detail, story, description, and romance, I pull out the colored three-by-five cards. That way I can not only get everything in order, but I can also visualize in terms of time line, location, and scenes. This allows me to think flow. For example, not letting too much action go on without a pause for dialogue or romance.

Floor of my office, beneath the reading nook, all my cards set out

Yellow is for action, purple is for romance (or better said: intimacy of interpersonal relationships), blue is for everything else including questions that still need answering and may not get answered until I write that part. (Even I have a bit of a discovery writer nested deep within me.) The green card is the ultimate catastrophe AKA the climax of the book.

This isn’t the finished book by any means, things are still going to move around or be removed. I allow myself leeway even in the outline phase. But you can sort of see the distribution. How the action at the beginning leads to early romance, and romantic conflict. Each row is a scene break of some kind, either space or time, sometimes both, and some sections still clearly need filler.

The great thing about the index card approach is it allows me to move things around ahead of time and also to identify the flaws in connection and flow. If I know action has to move from point A to point B, how to get to point C after? I’ve already identified two key moments of motivation that need work. One of them upon which the crux of the entire adventure hinges.

These cards will stay on my floor for a while while I finish the edits on Waistcoats & Weaponry, and then while I mull over any additional details I don’t want to forget to include. As they sit there, and in the back of my head, I’ll inevitably remember some important detail I’ve forgotten.

I thought it might be fun for you all to see what the process looks like, for me, with a final book. (Of course, every one is different.) Here you can see, Gentle Reader, how I am trying to tie all the threads together for you, leaving you happy, although not so many threads that the characters don’t clearly go on to have exciting lives outside of the book.

Pace is very important to me. In my small way I try to engage the reader with very few lulls, although I do that with humor as well as nookie and action, these cards and the color patterns show me weak points and areas that need attention to keep the reader engaged before I start writing. Hopefully this means less rewriting out the other end.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1920sPArasolHats via FB

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Carte de Bal  1890s  Sotheby’s

Your Tisane of Smart . . .


Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
How to Use Mind Maps to Unleash Your Brain’s Creativity and PotentialBook News:
Another excerpt from CURTSIES & CONSPIRACIES at io9

Quote of the Day:

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gail Carriger

 Comments are closed


  1. Jess said:

    I also love the color coding you use! I am such an organizer of the tiny details in life and always wonder the methods of others. As always, thank you for sharing a glimpse into your world!

© 2023 Gail Carriger
Site built by Todd Jackson