Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Reasons Why Writers Should Keep Story Notebooks

It's Fun Fictional Friday, folks!

1. Ideas do not follow your time schedule:

Writers' minds are in constant motion. So what happens when your next big story idea arrives while you're grocery shopping? Driving a golf cart on the greens? Or how about when a new plot twist idea arises when you're driving your kids to school? 

You guessed it. Keep a notebook. 

If your ideas are anything like mine, they don't wait until it's convenient for you. More than 90% of my ideas come when I'm not sitting by the computer. They can be impatient little boogers. Jumping around in front of my face, blocking my view, screaming, "Hey, lady!" Other times, they're explosive fireworks, bursting in a rainbow of colors before my eyes. If I don't write them down within a few minutes, they fizzle out and disappear.

2. Writers are creative people:

We need to have creative outlets even when we're not writing. Or at least I do. A story notebook can be as creative as you'd like.

I prefer to keep a notebook for each of my stories. 

As you can see above, I like Mead composition books (wide ruled) the best. If I'm feeling rather crafty, I may decorate the covers as well.

Author Jeff Abbott shares how he keeps novel notebooks. His choice of notebook is pricey, but using a simple 3-ring binder will do the trick. His opinion is 3-rings are bulky, but I like the idea. Scroll down on his post to see what he includes in his notebooks. Genius.

Here's a neat blog all about notebooks. The author of the blog, "Nifty" claims to be addicted to notebooks. I have to admit, I'm sort of obsessed with notebooks myself. 

When I see a blank notebook, my first thought is, story.

3. Writers need a place to collect their thoughts:

Trust me, our heads are not safe storage units.

What do I keep in my story notebooks? Well, I'm glad you asked.

  • Seedling story ideas
  • Plot notes
  • Character notes / analysis
  • Character name ideas
  • Setting notes
  • Sketches
  • Images (cut out or printed off computer)
  • Quotes or inspiring passages
  • Music play list (depending on genre. I normally don't have play lists for my PBs.)
  • Letters written to my characters
  • Scene ideas
  • Dialogue 
  • Plot diagrams
  • Newspaper or magazine articles
I carry my current WIP notebook everywhere I go. When an idea arises or if I hear a particular interesting piece of dialogue while eavesdropping, I can jot it down. 

Of course, there are times when I forget my notebook, and I grab anything available, including an envelope from the day's mail. Whenever the idea arises, it must be written down. Just don't forget to put the notes inside the notebook later.

4. Writers need mental bookmarks:

If you're a busy writer with tons of story ideas swirling around, notebooks are an excellent way to keep up with them. Each story notebook can act as a mental bookmark. If you need to put a particular project on hold, your notes / ideas will be waiting, bound or spiraled, when you return.

5. Because when you publish that book, you'll want to share your story notebook with your fans. They'll want to hear all about it.

Tell me writers, do you use story notebooks? If so, have a particular favorite kind? 

Happy writing, y'all~


  1. I love this post! I bought a new shiny notebook yesterday for a new WIP!

  2. Your notebooks look amazing! I could totally spend hours organizing and adding pictures and making my notebooks pretty... Looks like a good system for you!

  3. Great post.

    My version is post-it notes and pencils all over the house, then transferring the ideas into Word documents and cyber folders. ;)

  4. Oh so fun! I love the ideas and the creativity. How fun to visualize your story.

  5. I keep a notebook next to my book. Although, I have tons of little papers all over the house with words and sentences. I feel the need to get better organized.

  6. Hi Candilynn! Hope all is well with you, too!! I love this post, it's so true! I'm especially moved by the mental bookmarks comment, because I definitely need one of those...if not three! (I'm currently working out of three journals right now, I need to get my act in order!) Excellent tips, thanks for sharing :D

  7. Love the idea of this! My notes, playlists, etc. are all scattered in about 10 different places, so I may buy a notebook to keep it all together.

  8. Notebooks are great! I mainly use artist's sketchpads but now I've also started using beautifully bound blank books that fit in my purse. I just love how notebooks are the catchall for everything related to the story. Sometimes I even tape things I've found lying around at a particular breakthrough moment in story development--leaves, matchbooks, feathers ...
    I think you've just given me an idea for a blog post. I hope you don't mind!

  9. I loved this post. It's so true that writers need to carry a notepad everywhere, at all times. I have a chunky blue 5-star that fits in the pocket of my cargo shorts. Sometimes I write in it when I'm out to dinner with the family and my wife gets mad at me for ignoring everyone. Can't control the creative process, eh?

    Your notebooks are so much more organized and detailed than mine. I wish I had time to trick them out with pics and clippings like you do. Very creative!

  10. Good idea! I do keep loose files and I also tear out pix of models that look like my characters and hang them up in my studio. But an actual notebook sounds sensible.