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How to Get the Most out of Your Writer’s Notebook

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How to Get the Most out of Your Writer’s Notebook

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Have you ever lost or forgotten a story idea? Maybe you wrote it on a sticky note or napkin at a restaurant and lost it before you had the chance to put it somewhere safer. Or you thought you’d remember the idea only to have it vanish from your brain before you could put it to good use.

Or have you had a thought about the perfect way to advance the plot or fix an issue in your current project? But you didn’t have anywhere to write it down.

Writer, this has happened to me time and time again. Until I started using a writer’s notebook. It started as a simple notebook where I’d write down all my writer thoughts. But the more full the notebook became, the harder it was to find those new story ideas or thoughts I had about how to improve a current one.

So, I came up with a system to keep my ideas organized, portable (no more losing story ideas on napkins or receipts) and easy to find. And I want to share that system with you!

Along with my notebook, I love my writing planners.

How to Get the Most out of Your Writer’s Notebook

Writer's Notebook www.thewritingpal.com

Keep it Organized

The most important thing you can do is keep your writer’s notebook organized. If you fill the notebook page by page, your ideas will be harder to find later. You won’t remember what page you wrote what idea on. To prevent yourself flipping through an entire notebook trying to find a particular idea, you need to find a way to organize similar ideas.  I’ve found it extremely helpful to group my ideas under similar categories.

I like to give myself at least 5 consecutive pages for each category. Even more if it is a category I know I will use frequently.

My favorite categories include:

  • Character Development
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Description
  • Metaphor

Keep it Accessible

I’ve found that smaller notebooks work best for me. I can keep it in my purse or diaper bag without it weighing me down. This increases the likelihood that I’ll bring it with me to the grocery store or the doctors office. The more often I have it with me, the more often I use it. You might decide that a classic composition notebook or medium sized notebook is the right size for you. Whatever notebook size you choose, make sure it is one you feel comfortable carrying around with you.

When you aren’t out and about, it’s important to keep it somewhere easy to find or reach. Keep it on your desk, or in a nearby bookshelf rather than a bookshelf across the room. At night, I even like to put mine on my nightstand. You never know when inspiration will strike. It’s important for you to have a designated spot for your writer’s notebook. You don’t want to have to ask yourself where you saw it last, so give it a special place or two where you’ll always put it.

Make it Meaningful

You will also be more likely to use your notebook if it inspires you. Buy one with a cover that you love, or create your own cover. Choose a color that inspires you, or pick a phrase that motivates and empowers you.

Decorate the inside covers with pictures of family or places you want to travel. Or add stickers or washi tape to give it a personal touch. You could also make a list of reasons you write or add some of your favorite motivational quotes to the inside covers. If too much decoration will distract you, keep the cover simple and the insides blank. Currently, mine is pretty simple, but I might add a picture or list of reasons why I write.

Pay attention to the way the notebook is bound too. I hate spiral bound because I am left-handed. I also like having the liberty of moving the pages around. I use discs because I like the look and they enable me to make my notebook the right size. But you can buy a notebook, use a three ring binder and loose leaf paper, or get your own set of binding discs.

The more personal your writer’s notebook is the more you will want to use it. You’ll also put it to better use and get more out of it if it sparks joy and creativity every time you write in it.

If you don’t have time to set up your notebook now, be sure to save this to Pinterest!

Other Uses

If you are taking a writing course online or at school, you can use the notebook to take notes. If you attend a writer’s conference you can use the notebook to gather information or take notes at classes you attend at the conference. You can also use it to take notes if you are reading a book about the craft of writing.

You can use the notebook to write down questions you have about writing.

The notebook can be used for specific projects or generic ideas.

Why You Shouldn’t Have a Writer’s Notebook

You might be wondering why I would even suggest not having one after I’ve spent all this time talking about how to get the most out of one. But, in some cases, a writer’s notebook might not be right for you.

Or, you at least need to be careful not to overuse it or abuse it. A writer’s notebook should NEVER keep you from actually writing. If you are perpetually stuck adding ideas to your notebook or thoughts to how you want your story to turn out, that you never sit down and actually write the story, then you shouldn’t use a writer’s notebook. Don’t let it become a tool that helps you procrastinate your real writing.

The purpose of the writer’s notebook is not to collect ideas and thoughts you’ll never use. There is no value in that. The value comes with what you do with the the thoughts you put in your writer’s notebook. Let your writer’s notebook be a powerful tool that enables you to turn your ideas into the stories they have the potential to become.

Want pre-made writer’s notebook templates? Be sure to check out my printable version of StoryNotes.

Want a StoryNotes mailed right to you? While supplies last (I have less than 10 left!) you can order a physical copy of StoryNotes. Check out my Etsy shop to see included categories and place your order. You’ll also get 10% off the printable StoryNotes.

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2019-08-10T16:09:04-07:00By |Writing Craft, Writing Resources|12 Comments

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12 Comments

  1. Melissa September 20, 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Do you use a spriral notebook or one where you can add paper to it?

    • Shelby September 20, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      Melissa, I use a spiral notebook. But one that could be added to is a genius idea!

  2. Alicia September 20, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Do you use single subject spirals or multi-subject? Do you use colored tabs to separate where each section is? How do you divide the sections?

    • Shelby September 21, 2017 at 4:06 am - Reply

      Alicia, I use a slightly larger than pocket sized spiral notebook. I have a table of contents in the beginning and each section gets 5 pages. I use color tabs to divide each section too.

  3. Anh September 21, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Awesome suggestions. I’ve always wanted to make a writers notebook but never knew what to put in it!
    Thanks!

    • Shelby September 21, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Anh, having designated categories really helps me actually use it. Best of luck setting up your writer’s notebook!

  4. Linda Strawn October 3, 2017 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Add a section on Body language. Knowing how people carry themselves and respond in certain situations helps with adding action beats to your story. You can only use he swallowed or she wrung her hands so many times.

    • Shelby October 3, 2017 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Linda, that is an excellent section to have! I never thought about recording body language, but it is such an important part of writing. It can be very hard to avoid cliche body language!

  5. Sandy Nork October 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    I include a timeline section with a calendar so I know when events in my book are happening.

    • Shelby October 3, 2017 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Sandy, I struggle with timeline. A section like that would help me so much!

  6. […] However, my absolute favorite resource is my writer’s notebook. I designed it myself. I’ll be selling them mid-June, fingers crossed, and it is the most helpful writing tool I own. I write down everything and anything I think might be a story idea or useful in a scene. It keeps me observing the world around me. It helps me always have something to write about. If you are interested in having your own writer’s notebook,  at the end of this post you can sign up to receive updates and information on the product launch: https://www.getwritingdone.com/2017/09/12/writers-notebook/ […]

  7. […] How to Set Up Your Writer’s Notebook  […]

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