Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Story Notebook

Here it is, guys - the composition notebook that is the birthplace of my new book. You'll see the cryptic title SISTERS, since I'm not sure what the real novel will end up being called just yet.

Every time I begin a new story, I purchase this exact kind of notebook and I start scribbling all my ideas in it. As the story grows, I use it for outlining the chapters and sections, for tracking my daily progress (number of words written, pages, time spent) and for making revision notes. It stays with me until the book is finally done, revised, accepted, and then the notebook joins the pile of the others that have come before it.

It's important, for me at least, to have this kind of ritual. It is one of the things that I do each time. And it's comforting to have the notebook with me wherever I'm writing. It's convenient to have it in my backpack so that I can write down any new idea that relates to the book. It's low-tech, requires no batteries, and it costs under three dollars, usually.

If you're a teen who wants to write, I'd suggest starting this habit of carrying a notebook with you. It doesn't have to be all for one novel or short story. You don't have to actually use it for the pages of the story if you don't want to. Just let it be the receptacle in which you collect your ideas and thoughts. It's not a journal, which for me means a notebook you use to record your life, this is the dreamcatcher for your writing life.

You don't have to share it. You don't have to be grammatically correct or spell anything right within its pages. It's only for you and the story.

I have some rules about my notebook. I cannot ever tear out a page from the book. I cannot use it to write down a shopping list. I cannot use it to write about real events or how I feel about them. I cannot abandon it for a new book - I use it until my novel is done.

The notebook is my ritual, but I know other writers and artists use other things. Do you have any ritual you use when starting a new story or project?

What is something you must have in place to begin your creative work?


Wherever You Go - Harcourt 11/11
The Clearing - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Never Cry Werewolf - HarperTeen


TinaFerraro said...

Gosh, I love this, Heather! I hear about authors having notebooks and collages and special ways to collect thoughts...but I am so attached to my keyboard, it's just a regular old word doc for me.

Karen (: said...

I love my notebooks! I just love collecting them. Then, some of them will have a certain look to them and I'll only write my lists in them or maybe just use them to jot ideas down that I want to use elsewhere. I can never have enough notebooks!

Andrea Mack said...

My notebooks are very important to me -- they are like a tangible record of my writing life. I love the ritual of it too.

Me said...

I'm a notebook girl (although I'm trying to break the habit for environmental reasons). They have to have really smooth paper and are usually spiral bound. I like the cover to have a design or a color that reflects the story. When a book is done (as in page-proofed done) I put the notebook along with other stuff life revisions and collages into a document box. Preserved for all time. :)

B. A. Binns said...

I use spiral notebooks, and feel slightly guilty buying up dozens at the back-to-school sales, but something about pen and paper sparks my creativity for that first draft. And while some people fear the empty page, I love opening up an untouched notebook and starting on a new story idea.

Heather Davis said...

Hmm... so the notebooks seem to be the majority here. Tina, I do move to the keyboard and start plugging things into a Word doc after while...

One of the bees does collages - maybe Steph? I have a bulletin board above my desk that I attach things to for inspiration, but the collage thing never worked for me...