Let’s Talk Process #2: The Notebook
Most writers have a notebook with them at all times. For some, they’re digital (Evernote, Stickies, Moleskin, etc) and for some, it’s an actual thing that has paper and covers and some sort of binding mechanism.
As you probably guessed, I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to such writing aspects as process and so, I doubt you’ll be surprised when I reveal I have a physical notebook that goes everywhere with me. I also have all of those apps. I even paid for Moleskin. I forget to use them and, as with my bulletin boards and index cards, I like to feel the paper crackling in my hands and scrabble around for a pen that works. A very specific pen. Though that’s another discussion for another day.
My sister-in-law did me the service, and the bank account the disservice, of introducing me to the Levenger company a few years ago.
The Victoria’s Secret Catalogue of the Writing World…
Now, before we go any further, if you like this style of notebook but don’t like the price tag (I’m a sucker for titanium rings and perfect paper, but that’s my deal) there are other options along these same lines (I know Target carried one of them for a while). I buy the Levenger bones and paper, then punch whatever else I need (stickies, tabs, dividers) to flesh the monster out.
The most attractive feature of the Circa system, and others like it, is the ring and punch mechanism: all of your materials can be punched to fit the rings and they can be moved around at any time, without tearing, stapling, fuzzy edges, or loose pages. I prefer metal rings to plastic ones because they have a slightly sharper, more pronounced lip, providing for a more secure set up. They also seem, somewhat paradoxically, less likely to tear the edges of the punched areas, which means less opportunity for that oh-so-important plot point to go jaunting down the sewer.
Covers are essential. They keep your work dry, safe, and contained. There are all sorts of fancy leather and cotton and etc choices, but I’m quite happy with the plain plastic. I can decorate them at will and without reservation the way I used to decorate brown paper bag book covers in elementary and middle school. The personal touch is important on those, “I suck, I’m never going to write anything good, why am I bothering, I hate writing, blah blah blah days.”
Next, choose your paper:
I’m a regular ruled kind of a girl, aesthetically and practically: I like the look of words all the way across the page and the lay out is more apt to stay neat. More words on a page also makes me feel as though I’ve been more productive at the end of a session (fake it until you make it). I do keep a few of the annotated ruled pages (highlighted margin down the left side for notes or doodles or whatnot) around for those “I’m going to scrawl a bunch of ideas and then notes on what they mean” moments. There are a variety of other options and a range of colors. I used to go multi (one for notes, one for drafts, one for outlines etc) but when I realized I needed a chart to find my own stuff, I decided it was time to streamline a bit and stick with a single hue. More ways to tailor the system to your needs and desires; a writer’s notebook is a functional thing, but it’s also something you fall in love with. Or hate. Or thinking about burning in a wicker man. Depending on the day.
Next: how to organize. I used to divide the notebook by “type” of writing: notes, WIP, WSTBIP (soon to be in progress), doodles, organization tools (stickies, tabs, etc). Leading to me forget I’d made a note or an adjustment or come up with something absolutely brilliant while I was feeding the kids or staring at the wall at work or watching Doctor Who. I would forge ahead on the computer, reach the all elusive “I’m done!” moment, then find the note, say lots of bad words, kick some things, curse some more, growl, do an extra rewrite or wonder, ad infinitum, whether or not the story would have been better had I made the change I thought of when I thought of it. Roads not taken, etc.
I’ve since modified and broken the notebook down by topic: Blog, Shaman Universe, Hell Division, etc. Which I can do. because I can move the pages around.
Everything pertaining to a given work is stored in that work’s section: current draft and/or hand edited version punched to fit on the rings, notes, photos, typewriter blatherings, and anything else I may need in a given moment to know where I am and where I intend to go next.
The beauty of this system is that it can work however the brain does. Your brain, specifically. Apps are limited by their programming, pre-assembled notebooks by their… assembly. This goes together any way you need, or want, it to. It can be changed at will. You can have a notebook for each project or one for all of them. Ruled pages, annotated pages, screen-play pages, calendar pages (I have a separate agenda, but there’s no reason yours can’t go right into the master monstrosity). You can even print photos (yes, you can still do that) of your bulletin boards and punch them to fit into the notebook so you always have them with you digitally and physically (redundancy, redundancy, redundancy).
This is how I do it, baby, and it works for me. I showed you mine. Show me yours.
<posted by Shiri>