Writing novels is a long process. Writing SFF novels can be even longer, especially if your world and cast is a large one, with endless amounts of information to keep track of. But if you have a laptop, the Internet, and some extra patience plus a bit of time, you can set up a whole wiki-brain-dump-directory-thing for your book that's as systematic as you want, and completely free. (While I wish we were actually sponsored by Notion, we are not). This blog post will take you through how I use Notion to keep track of the worldbuilding and pacing in my fantasy novel, Huntsman, as well as how I set it up (and how you can too!), before it grew to what it is today.
Quick infodump about Notion: it's a workspace tool accessible by browser or app. It allows you to create notes and databases in neat, easy-to-access pages, and create your own systems to organize them. It works on browser using a computer just fine, without any downloads required. This is how I use it for organizing my fantasy novel. Random note: I trust the Internet'll not completely plagiarize my book outlines! Hopefully!
We'll start at the directory, where everything branches from:
I call mine a brain dump. Feel free to give it a more elegant name.
This is where all the links begin. Under the smaller heading is a list of embed important general pages that deal with the entirety of the book. If I were more systematic, this would have way more pages linked; alas, I am not. What works, works.
What probably goes in here:
Your outline (overarching, then split into sections of chapter-by-chapter, if that's your thing), your character sheets page, your locations page, any playlist links or moodboard collection pages. Plus or minus, of course, anything that you think should or shouldn't go in there (or throw whatever you're too lazy to create a whole page for in a section underneath, like I did). Assemble it however you want!
How you can set this up:
Begin with a regular empty page in Notion. This should be at the bottom of your sidebar
Name your directory as you please in the title space, and begin creating your pages under the heading by typing a forward slash (/) and "page" after it (/page) to find the option of creating a new one. Hit enter on your keyboard, and name the page that pops up from there. Start customizing it to be whatever you want. Once your done with that page, go back to the directory and continue setting it up.
That's how I use Notion for the novel in general. On to the worldbuilding aspects:
Pretty self explanatory. Creating a specific space for your location pages can help immensely. I use the location pages to keep track of how places look, smell, their climates, and how each character feels about them, as well as the history of the place. They're immensely helpful for continuity and possibly even foreshadowing or dropping easter eggs.
This can be set up much in the same way as the directory page before.
Now for pacing, which is the heaviest system in terms of work needed to set up:
Behold, the spreadsheet that collects my hundreds of hours of work. Here's a breakdown of what's happening in it.
What goes in here (a lot):
Check boxes because ticking them after drafting a chapter feels great.
The name of the chapter, or chapter number, to make it easier to keep track.
The chapter's objective/plot beat. This is particularly helpful for revising, because it helps you keep track of what each chapter is doing to serve the plot. While I used the hero's journey beat sheet for this, other beats can probably be swapped in just as easily.
The chapter length, particularly for anyone revising that wants an eye on their word count. Notion has a feature at the bottom of a Number column that has the table calculate the sum of the numbers in that column.
A column for small memos towards Future You on what you might want to change or remember. (Trust me, this column helps a ton with continuity. Little things you decide on the fly like the name of a country, or a person, or the last time a certain bit of worldbuilding pops up) can easily be dumped here for later.
A column (or several) for subplots and arcs happening alongside the main one (particularly helpful for ensemble-cast stories), and the characters included. In doing this, you can also check if a subplot is taking too much screen time, and if it lines up with the rise and fall of the main plot (if you want it to). To view the number of chapters featuring a specific character, click the dropdown button on the top left of the table to set a new view, and filter accordingly.
And then go ahead and check if a certain character has enough, or even too much, screen time in your story:
(filtered to only show chapters including the tag of Death on them)
How you can set this up:
Create a new page and use the Class Notes template. Change the pre-set options to suit your story, and go wild with what you need.
A reminder that this took months to set up completely, and is still growing and changing every day, for me. These spreads are what I've found work best for me when revising this book in this draft. What may work for me may not work at all for you at the moment, or ever. What I've set up may not be what you need at all.
Either way, I do think it's worth giving a try, to organize your book's directory/wiki/whatever you want to call it on Notion, especially for revisions in large-scale books.
If you do set this up, let me know how it goes! I'd love to know if it's helped, and how you've customized it to work for you.
is a fantasy writer and self-dubbed professional daydreamer. Her work has appeared in Unpublished Magazine and Paper Crane Journal, among others. She is also a staff writer at Outlander Magazine.