I follow several groups on Google+, and occasionally I find a question, or comment that I have to respond to. Thad C asked a question about how useful his notes on index cards are, considering just how random they seem. He also wanted to know how he could turn those into a narrative, and it got me thinking.
In the end, I gave some insight into how I create, and use my own notes, as follows:
Nothing you write is ever useless. I have notebooks full of thoughts and ideas awaiting their place and time.
I use index cards, note pads, anything that I can record my thought to, and then store it for later reference. When I am looking for ideas for a character, short story, or even just an inspiring quote, I go back to those notebooks, and take a peek through those notes. Sometimes I’ll take a handful of those ideas, write them on a series of cards, throw them up in the air, and see where they land. It’s actually surprising how often I get the basis for a short story, or even inspiration for a plot thread that I can work into my novel outlines.
The best thing to do when you have a disparate collection of phrases, sentences, or thoughts, is to store them, review them often, and brainstorm. What might have started as a single thought can spark off a wild tale when handle right.
Never be afraid of experimenting, just to see where things go.
Never be afraid to change things, if something doesn’t seem right.
Even the best book outline is subject to the actions, and whims of your characters.