Writer's Notebook

by Nita

Question: I want to create a writer's notebook to jot down all my stuff in my head. All the research I have done on this says to just to basically use a page a day with no rhyme or reason. I need to be more organized than that. I was wondering if you have any advice for me. I have started what I hope to be my Notebook. I have it in a 3 ring binder that has plastic dividers with a folder for holding loose or small items. I have tabs labeled Plots, characters, notes, names, places, settings or places, descriptive words and other grammar...

I will jot notes through the day on sheets of loose leaf paper and transfer it to my notebook. What do you think? Am I going overboard?

Thank you.

Answer: You have to create a system that works for you. If this notebook design you're implementing does it, then go for it. Of course, you'll only know after you've been working it for a while.

One thing I do like about your approach is that it seems to balance the need for organization of the whole with the unstructured component of the individual pages. It's always helpful to separate the times we work in the creative/open mode from those in which we work in the critical/closed mode.

I also think you are wise to want to apply some sense of organization to your creative output. A page a day with no plan or context can result in a lot of pages that are not useful. That's okay if you are brainstorming or trawling for ideas. However, not many people can write a novel randomly. Or, to put it another way, few novels can be skinless jellyfish. They need spines and bones to give some structure to the protoplasm. Once you find an idea that grabs you, you need to start defining some shape for it. With a little structure in place, your creativity can then add more flesh to the bones. Again, you have to discover the right balance for yourself.

I am also curious whether this book is for one project or for all your writing ideas (because, if it's for everything, I can see it eventually becoming unwieldy). You might want each big project (for instance, a novel) to have its own separate binder. You might have another binder for ideas for shorter works or ideas you are not yet ready to develop.

Best of luck with this project.

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Research Notes and Random Writing
by: Sparrow in the Grass

I think Nita and I may be kindred spirits, and I surely found this response very helpful.

I do have what I call a 'scribble book' that I grab whenever the mood strikes me. I write anything that strikes my fancy whether related to my current work or not: snippets of narrative and dialogue, ideas on some character's back story, or some character's arc. I work out timelines or paste in some magazine photo or other with a note as to which work it pertains to, is any. I do not impose any order at all, other than noting when I've finished using that material and can discard it.

My fetish for organization is satisfied in my several files in Word, incorporating all the above material plus my detailed research. I have one called 'Characters', including any trivial detail about each that I have used in the draft to date and notations on others that are set in stone, though not yet in the manuscript. A huge similar file simply called 'research' contains factual sleuthing done on the locales, homes, hobbies, professions etc. Another just called 'Beautiful' includes exquisite descriptions of nature, architecture, bodies, faces, emotions et cetera that I've some across that I can draw on for inspiration when required.

For many people, this may sound like a lot of time and energy wasted but, for me, I write better when I know I'm not losing or wasting the things that I have worked so hard to find.

Good luck, Nita, with your system and with your writing.

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