Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do You Use a Writer's Notebook?

"Victory is won not in miles, but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more." - Louis L’Amour

That quote is exactly how I've felt about JumpStartWriMo.  I knew my spirits were flagging and I needed something to get me going.  I was holding my ground, but needed a little more.  Finding other people in the same predicament and going through this JumpStartWriMo with them has been such a rejuvenating experience.  I appreciate everyone who has made goals with me, sprinted with me, commented on my blog, and in general just been such a great writing support and community.  Don't forget on Saturday we're going to post how we did with our goals!

I was looking at my writer's notebook today because I've been carrying it around with me for the last three weeks and it's looking fairly beat up.  I have my idea pages, dialogue pages, chapter pages, research pages, and character pages.  The longer this month has gone on, the more paper I've filled up with my ramblings.  But guess what?   This manuscript is in the final stages and the next book is outlined.  I feel so great being able to say that.

And then I wondered how you guys did your writer's notebook.  

For me, I have snatches of dialogue come to me in the oddest places and so I can write it down on my dialogue page.  I have reader feedback coming in where a character needs more description and I can jot that down in my character pages.  I also loosely organize my chapter pages where I can give a summary of what's happening in that chapter and what needs to happen.  It's a nice guide when I'm drafting and revising.

It's also a nice reminder for me that I have done the work.  When I look at that fat beat-up book I know that  I've come a long way from the first draft of the book and that I'm putting forth my best work.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction to look at it because it's an accomplishment.  It might sound silly to some, but my writing notebooks mean a lot to me.

Do you have a writer's notebook?  How do you organize yours?  


Melanie Goldmund said...

I don't think I've ever heard of a writer's notebook before. I do have some files on my computer for story ideas, but that's about it. If I need to make notes on the story that I'm writing, I just put them in at the beginning or end of the story file.

Last night I was setting my alarm to wake up at five a.m. for the writing sprint when I suddenly realized that the main character in my story just comes in, does a little stuff, and goes out again. There's no tension, no conflict, no real problem to be solved. She's almost solely an observer. I tossed and turned all night, trying to think of how to improve the situation, but by four thirty, I was a wreck. I still don't know how to fix it, and that's completely sapped my writing motivation. It's so hard for me to think of an idea in the first place, and then when I do get one, it still doesn't work! Sometimes I just hate my life.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Melanie, I hope you don't think I'm presumptuous, but I want to make this suggestion to you.

Take your idea and do a what if game before you throw it out. For example, I once was sitting in church and thought of what I would do if terrorists suddenly stormed the chapel. What would I do? Where would I hide? Would someone in the congregation have a concealed weapon?

That idea morphed into what if terrorists took us hostage while we were on vacation in France at the Arc de Triomphe and somebody got tossed off of it.

And then I read an article about how concerned the government was about the security of water tanks the U.S. military was using while in Iraq and I read a lot about a certain company that was in charge of it.

Then the characters just came to me and my book, Dangerous Connections was born. (Although I liked the original title I picked for it better, but it is what it is.)

So my point is, maybe if you take the germ of an idea you had, combine it or make it a larger scale idea, the characters will come, and the story will be born. It sounds a little like you're having false labor. (ha! My kids don't think I'm funny. Sorry.)

Anyway, I hope that helps a bit. Let us know how it's going.

Jon Spell said...

I have a notebook dedicated to writing, but it mostly just has writing exercises in it. (And a smaller version in the car, in case something comes to me and I just have to write it down.)

I use a piece of software to track all of my WIP ideas, character bios, scraps of conversations, background events - Writer's Cafe. It just organizes things nicely. Also, it has a card game on it (40 Thieves) that I have never been able to beat. And it has a great little journaling tool that I've used from time to time.

I'm using Word to put my actual work down in a manuscript format. It's useful for word count and a general idea of page count and making little comments (Ex: research metal jewelry making, did they use molds?)

Jon Spell said...

Melanie, is there another, more exciting way this same information could be passed to your MC?

Could you up the tension by having someone else observe your MC, someone malicious?

(Or have your MC go home and wrestle with inner demons in her bed, preventing her from sleeping. Eye for an eye.)

Julie, regarding your terrorist thoughts, you might enjoy this web comic:

(I have totally done that myself.)

Melanie Goldmund said...

Julie, that's exactly the hard part for me. I ask myself, "What if ..." and all too often the answer is a mere "Uh ..." But I'll try! Thanks for the tip. :-) And I'm sorry about threadnapping your comments.

Jon, I'll also consider your questions and see what I can get out of them. Thanks! :-)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Melanie, never apologize for threadnapping. Those are always the very best conversations! I learn a lot from you guys. :)

Jon, I seriously about fell off my chair laughing at that comic. I have SO done that! Haha!!

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

Melanie, I just lost my best "what if" partner. I'm not the greatest but I'd be willing to brinstorm with you. Not only would we hopefully get some amazing ideas for you but I'm allways more creative when I am helping someone else. do you facebook? I'm on there, you can send me a message. or my email is my name no spaces at gmail.

Julie, I have a 6X9 book for each of my worlds. I call them my series bibles. I have character pictures, setting pictures, scene ideas any notes or emails that I have discussed story details in. My Emergence/Latent bible is almost falling apart it's so full. I carry it everywhere. It is the most valuable tool I have in my writing. I could go on and on about my series bibles but I'll spare you my insanity. :)

Melanie Conklin said...

I actually just shared pages from my sketchbook tonight--I design and write, so I'm still very much married to paper when it comes to creating.

Years later, I really enjoy looking back through old sketchbooks. I encourage everyone I know to put things down on paper.

It's also wonderful to crank work out on the screen, but sharing a notebook or sketchbook with friends or children is unbeatable. It captures the soul of creativity.

Melanie Goldmund said...

Michelle, thanks for the offer, but let me get back to you on that. We're going to be travelling soon and I've suddenly switched from "writing" to "vacation" mode. :-)

Jordan McCollum said...

My "notebooks" are almost all electronic. I save websites and articles and paragraphs that inspire me or that I'm using for research with Evernote. If I'm struck by a great idea, I'll make a memo in my phone. (I've maxed out the length limit on more than one note!)

Every once in a while, if I get an outline of a really important conversation coming up in the book, with the perfect logical flow, I'll dash down the lines on paper.