Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Writer's Journal

When I started plotting my Italian Duet novel, I decided I needed to keep everything in one place - no more looking for random pieces of old envelopes with notes scribbled on them, no more trying to find that sheet of paper where I wrote down a book I needed to get at the library, and no more disorganization.

I went to Barnes & Noble and picked out a big, fat spiral journal. Lots and lots of crisp, white pages waiting for me to fill them up. And the cover of it even featured an illustration of Venice. Perfect for my Italian story.

And off to work I went. I found pictures of my characters (what I thought looked like my characters, anyway), printed off the photos, and then pasted them into my journal. I filled the notebook with all my random thoughts and plot ideas, character sketches and brainstorming notes. If I happened to be without the notebook for whatever reason and wrote something down on a piece of paper, I made sure I taped it into my notebook to keep everything in one spot.

I carried the notebook with me everywhere - no matter where I went. It went to work with me and sat on my desk in case I needed to jot down something. It went with me on lunch breaks. It stayed on my nightstand for journaling before bedtime or waking up with an idea I needed to write down.

Even though I've put the Italian Duet novel series on hold for awhile, I still have the journal and it will be waiting for me when I pick up the threads of the story again.

But now, I have a journal for my WW2 story. I found it at a local craft store, on sale, and fell in love with the cover because of its vintage-feel. And with it, I've done the same thing - put down my aimless thoughts and ideas, wrote reminder notes to myself for things not to forget when I write the story, put lots of my research notes into it, and any research books I need to be on the look out for.

My writer's notebook is one of the best things I've done for my writing. Anything and everything can go into this journal, and anything and everything does. And I've found two immense benefits in having a journal for my novels: one, all my stuff is in one spot and two, it keeps my head in the story.
If you want to try this idea, there are two rules that you should follow for the ultimate success: each novel should have its own journal, and...(this is a big one) it should go with you everywhere.

You see, I made the mistake of not taking my journal with me for a few days and then I forgot it altogether. Big mistake. I was writing stuff on sticky notes and other pieces of paper, misplacing them, and getting frustrated by my failure to put them in my notebook.

No more. I took my journal with me to work today, tucked it into my purse, and promptly put it beside me on my desk, reminding me that it was there and that I didn't need to use my stack of sticky notes to write down thoughts or ideas.

If you find yourself disorganized and wishing you could put everything in one spot, you might want to try this method. Buy a journal and let yourself have fun with it. Or you could really get creative and buy a binder and put separate folders in it to organize everything. For me, that's a bit too big as I like to be able to put my journal in my purse. I'm much more likely to carry it with me if it's smaller.

And hey, it's a great excuse to go and pick out a journal. There are so many neat ones out there. Find one that fits your novel's theme and maybe buy a nice pen that you use only in your journal. Make it special. Make it yours.


  1. That's such a cool idea! I've never been one to stick with any sort of journal, but this seems doable. I love the idea. :)

  2. I do something very similar. A 5-subject spiral notebook with pockets. A couple of sections set aside for research, a couple for chapter notes, ideas, thoughts, etc., for the WIP. The last section is for book promotion stuff for the book that's most recently published. I like everything in just one notebook--makes life easier.

  3. I'm a notebook junkie. I have one by computer for to dos. (which is silly, since I keep it beside my computer, I could just as easily to it ON my computer.) I have a notebook for my ongoing web stuff. Things to do for my blog, etc. Then I have a writing one where I jot notes about whichever book I'm working on.

    yep, a big old notebook junkie.

  4. I have never been able to make this work. I have smaller Moleskine notebooks that I keep in my purse, a beautiful leatherbound journal that Scott gave me, lots of plain spiral notebooks and I have notes in all of them! I don't know why I can't get my $%!& together on this!

  5. Anissa - Hope it works for you!

    Christine - The 5-subject notebook idea sounds good, too, especially the pockets. (You can hide chocolate in there - just don't leave it in the sun!)

    Kacey - I love to look at journals - there are so many cool ones out there.

    Lisa - It's sort of like a habit you have to develop. That's what I found out. I had to train myself to use just the one notebook, even if that meant running upstairs from my office to get the journal off my couch. And this morning, I forgot it (of course). I still need more training! ;-)

  6. I've tried that, but I always need something so big, it won't fit in my purse. And I'm terrified of losing it!

    I do binders and stuff on my computer instead.

    But I LOVE journals *g*.

    Come to think of it, Sean did give me one that might work, though it's really big. Hmmmmm.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Tess - Get a bigger purse! ;-)

  8. Garrrr, I love journals and notebooks. I've never been any good at keeping up with them, though.

    Actually, hubby got me a great Nightmare Before Christmas journal, and I'm trying to think of something with a darker theme to go with it.

  9. Wordvixen - They can be addictive, can't they? Whenever I see a journal on sale, I want to buy it, just because. :-)

  10. I have that very journal on the top! I must say - I love the idea here. What I always struggle with is that lots of things pop into my head that I want to write down, so I tend to have journals for a time period that have lots of story ideas, observations, measurements for draperies, etc, along with stuff for my novel. I still don't have the perfect system. I'd love for my whole novel to be in one journal like this and have the journal stay pure, but then I don't know where to put the other stuff!

  11. Robin - Y'know, my journal doesn't really stay "pure", either. Sometimes there are oddities in there that have nothing to do with the novel. But really, I think that's ok. We're writers, after all, and oddities are our specialities. :-)

  12. I had a bigger purse, but developed back and shoulder problems from carrying it, so had to downsize. I now carry a cute little notebook in my smaller one, a gift from Sean. Not a novel notebook, but I can jot down story ideas or snips of dialogue that come to me when I'm out.


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