Writing Wednesdays: How I use Trello to help me write a novel

Trello is a great tool for staying organised - and I've figured out some of the best ways it helps me to write a novel.

I am always trying to stay organised when I start writing a new book. Hard as I try to make consistent notes or plot things out, I always struggle with it, and somehow lose track once I really get into the actual writing part of the novel.

Mostly, I'll end up making notes when I'm in the editing process, which, useful as it is, always makes me wish I'd been more 'on it' while I was actually working on the first draft originally.

Recently, though, I've discovered the advantages of using Trello to help me write. I did that for one of my most recent books - the Christmas book I wrote in a month, which I wrote about in this post.

What is Trello?

Trello is formed of boards, lists, and cards. You create a board - say it's called 'BOOK TITLE'. You can add lists within this, which go horizontally across the board, and can add cards within the lists (going down the page) which you can reorder as you like. You can also click on each card to both edit the text there, or add a description; if you add a description, you can literally write paragraph after paragraph without it cluttering up the board - it'll show as three grey lines on the card to indicate you've added something else to it. It sounds more complicated than it is - it's honestly such an intuitive tool and so easy to use. (Not to mention free - you guys know I love a free tool.)

So what do I actually do with Trello? How do I use it to help me write a book?

I've taken a look at my Trello boards for my previous/current WIPs and pinned down five key areas.

Character descriptions

What I do here is have a list for each of my main characters, and everything within that list will be comments about them. What they look like, what their key personality traits are, any notes about how they interact with things/people. If I write that they have a favourite film or that they're allergic to shrimp, I'll throw it onto the list. I tried to do this when I made notes before, but for various reasons, I failed, and Trello works better for me for this.

This area is where I've noticed I fall down a lot when I make notes at the start of writing. I'll have a pretty clear idea of my main characters and will try to flesh them out more in these initial notes - but once I start writing, they end up coming into their own and it's always slightly different. 

For instance, take my current WIP. One of the main characters, I'd said wore a lot of 'bright colours and bold patterns' - but the more I wrote her and more I got to know her, I realised that was just not in-keeping with her personality at all. So I just edited the card and fixed it up when I noticed it. The ease of chop and change, delete and add new makes it so easy to find the notes and follow where I've made changes.


This has been particularly important for me if everything is taking place over a very short timespan, and I need to keep track of which day we're on. Trello makes it SO easy to shuffle things around that it's a big help when it comes to timelines. I'll make a list that's just dedicated to this aspect of the book.

Plot points

For my current WIP, my agent asked me to write an outline. This is still the most impossible thing I've ever done, but I won't go into it here. What I did find, though, was that after I'd written this outline, happy as I was with it, I'd forget certain key things I'd called out - or maybe misremembered where I'd planned for them to happen in the story, and try to put them in the wrong place.

So what I ended up doing was making a list just for the plot, and splitting out the key events or conflicts into their own cards within that list. Anything else that cropped up while I was writing or any new ideas, I'd add in easily - and this is another reason why it's so useful to be able to drag the cards to where you want, and can re-order easily: if I was writing and realised something needed to come much earlier in the story, I'd just move it, and it's so easy to keep track in the Trello notes then - there's NO mess. (This was one of the biggest things I struggled with when trying to make notes as I went along in another programme/notebook.)


When I start a new book, I either have a title hit me before I even finish the first chapter, or I will finish the whole thing, edit it, and still be lost as to what to call it. This was the case for my Christmas book for sure, and brainstorming was really helpful to try and come up with an idea. I created a list for titles and just threw EVERYTHING I had onto it. I'd delete ones I decided I hated, or move my favourites to the top of the list. It was easy to do this on the go, too - if I was out shopping or with friends or at work and an idea hit, I could just add it on the app on my phone.

I also have a board for random notes and ideas, and if I ever find a phrase or come up with something I think would make a great book title, I'll throw it onto a list on that board. It's a great place to keep 'scraps' of ideas.

Side characters and subplots

After plot, this is my second biggest downfall when I try to maintain notes when I write a new book. I am forever losing track of what I called that guy, what that lady looked like (I know I described her hair, but how???). I'll end up scrolling back through the story looking for the description, which isn't ideal.

And in all honesty, this is not a habit I have changed since using Trello more to support my writing. But what I have done instead is made sure to add whatever it is I've just looked up to a card in Trello for the next time I need it. It's just helpful to be able to add as much content as I want as I go, without worrying about running out of space or losing it.

Similarly, with subplots, I'll throw a card onto the board whenever I realise there's something I need to bring out more and not forget about, or else will need to edit out. Usually with these, I'll just add a card with a brief description so I know what I'm talking about, and then go into the card and add all the 'blah' relating to the sub-plot (these are always hideously unorganised until I get to editing and remember I have to do something with them).

The main thing I've learnt to do with Trello, though…

...is keep it open permanently on my computer. That Trello tab with the board for my current WIP is ALWAYS open, and I keep the screen up just behind my Word document when I'm writing to remember me to actually use it. I've used it enough to recognise more about what works for me, but that visual reminder to make the most of it really helps.

Do you use Trello? What are some of your secrets to using it to organise your book? Or maybe you have another tool you use instead. I'd love to hear more, so share in the comments, or Tweet me @Reekles!


  1. Would you be willing to share your Trello template?

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