Sunday, April 01, 2007

Organizing Ideas

That title might sound trivial, but organizing ideas is a critical part of my manga workflow. ...And, despite its importance, I have to admit, I still don’t have a great solution for it.

A mangaka needs to keep track of millions of ideas. They range from story concepts, plot structures, character developments, images of scenery, philosophical notions, business strategies, etc., etc.... Anything that comes to mind that you don’t want to forget is an idea worth jotting down. I certainly can’t trust everything to my memory, so writing things down is essential for making any progress.

All this information needs to be organized so that it’s easy to read and find. Computers are great for organizing vast amounts of information, but word processors are too bulky for the task, and having thousands of randomly placed files is not my idea of being organized. The software suited for this task seems to be the “nonlinear text editor.” The benefit of these is that each file contains hierarchically organized text files (similar to how your files are organized in the computer’s operating system), except that you can access any section by simply clicking on its name in the browser (e.g., Alepin). This is a lot simpler than double clicking files, and avoids the tedium of reorganizing windows and closing them.

Even if you have a nonlinear editor, as the amount of information grows, the organization within each file can get messy. So a certain amount of self-imposed organization is in order. The problem is that this self-imposed organization has to be flexible enough to suit the various uses (e.g., how I file away a story plot may be very different from how I organize information on a character’s development and profile), while not being too difficult to format.

Over the past decade, I’ve tried many nonlinear editors, and went as far as installing MySQL to set up a MediaWiki server. But nothing has really clicked with me yet, so I’m still looking for that ideal process. I’m currently using OmniOutliner, but am seriously considering just making my own nonlinear editing program so I can customize it to fit my needs and personal style.

If you know of any good solutions, please let me know!


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