Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Ultimate Writing Resource

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti /
In terms of readily available resources, writer's have never had it better, both online and off. There are online courses, e-books, inspiring blogs, critique groups, forums, not to mention all the amazing software available. Offline there are hundreds of fantastic books on the craft, writing retreats, courses and workshops, conventions and local writing groups. But, what is the one resource that all writer's should be using?

The picture was a bit of a giveaway, but incase you still haven't guessed, it's the humble writer's notebook.

As writer's we often have flashes of inspiration, or hear/see something interesting that we want to remember, but unless we write them down straight away they are very often lost. By keeping a notebook, whether paper or electronic, you can make sure that these snippets are kept. Your notebook then becomes your own personalised resource for inspiration. I have lost count of the amount of times I have flicked through an old notebook and found something that has sparked a new short story, or provided the motivation or backstory for one of my characters.

I will be covering the various uses of the writer's notebook in more detail in a future post, but for now here is a short list of just some of the information you could store in yours.

  • flashes of inspiration or 'ah-ha' moments
  • character sketches
  • brainstorming sessions
  • planning
  • lists
    • titles
    • character or place names
    • characteristics/idiosyncrasies you notice in people
    • tasks to be done
  • writing exercises
  • free-writing
  • dreams
  • quotes

Every writer is unique and there will be as many different styles of notebook keeping as there are writer's who keep them. The important thing is to find a method that works for you and capture what you will find most useful.

The act of writing an idea down will help you to remember it for longer, but not indefinitely, so don't just write the information down and then do nothing with it. I find it useful to go through my notebook once a week and transfer some of it into corresponding folders on my computer. For example, I have folders for story ideas, article ideas and character sketches, as well as a specific folder for anything related to my current WIP. I also keep a separate paper notebook for quotes. This way when I am looking for something in particular it is a lot easier to find. Not everything that a write in my notebook will make it into a special folder and for this reason, whenever I am feeling a little blocked, I will flick through an old notebook until I find something that inspires me and will then do a quick free-writing session. Sometimes this leads to a new short story, or uncovers something that I can use in my WIP, or it simply gets the creative juices flowing again.

How you use your notebook is entirely up to you but I do think that it is important to keep one, just so long as that isn't the only writing you do.

As a follow up to this post I have decided to add an extra posting day to the schedule to start a new series of Weekly Inspiration posts. These posts will be on a Friday and provide an inside view into my own writer's notebook. There will be examples of things that I have written in my notebook as well as links to articles or blog posts that have inspired me in some way that week. I hope you will come back and take a look.

Do you keep a notebook? If so, what information do you capture and how do you use it? Maybe you disagree with this post and think that they are a simply another method of procrastination. Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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