Wondering how to start a writer’s notebook? Trying to figure out how you’re going to keep everything organized for NaNoWriMo? Are you a writer who has too damn much going on to get anything organized in your mind? Let’s chat.

How to Start a Writer's Notebook | Looking for ways to start a writer's notebook? Check out these tips!

Original photo by Bookblock 

I’m talking about how to start a writer’s notebook for a number of reasons today. One, because I come to you every week with a new blog post, and two, because I think we don’t talk enough about ways you can brain dump the fiction so you can finish your WIP.

There are a lot of reasons that you might want to keep a writer’s notebook. Maybe you need a place to keep some notes about all the writing you’ve done, or about ideas you want to incorporate later in the draft.

There are a lot of reasons that you might want to keep a writer's notebook. Maybe you need a place to keep some notes about all the writing you've done, or about ideas you want to incorporate later in the draft. Click To Tweet

It’s a good place to do some outlining or character sketching, and it’s a great way to just get stuff out of your head so you can focus on what you need to do. And if you’re the type that likes to keep track of aesthetics, then you can do some vision boarding.

Sure, you could do all these things digitally. But I know, for me, that it feels too scattered. I don’t like to have aesthetic/mood boards in Pinterest, and then my notes saved in a Google Doc, and then having my word count tracked in a spreadsheet.

I like having things all in one place. It’s hard for me to work otherwise.

So, in the interest in helping out all my fellow paper-loving writers, I’m going to be sharing how to start a writer’s notebook. May it save your sanity and give you a place to put your ideas so you don’t lose them all jumbled in your head!

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And if you want to know how unprepared I am for NaNoWriMo, just watch this video.

How to Start a Writer’s Notebook

001: Get yourself a notebook that works for you.

I assume this is the top-level advice that you come here for.

The key here is to find a notebook that you don’t mind carrying around. So, if it’s too big or weird shaped or the coil snags on your bag, you aren’t going to keep using it because it doesn’t work for you.

I know I need a notebook that lays flat, and my size is around an A5. I hate big clunkers or anything that’s coil-bound. I need a nice stitched binding. It’s just smoother and easy to tote.

If you’re an old school Marisa Mohi blog reader, then you’ll remember that I have an A5 traveler’s notebook. Last year, I used it for planning, and now I use it to tote around a bevy of A5 notebooks.

I’ve got a notebook for fiction, a notebook for blog posts, and a notebook for the personal essays that I’ll be publishing next year!

(If you want to get more information about that, make sure you’re following me on social media, because I’ll be posting more about it when that time comes around.)

002: Figure out what you need to know.

All writers are different. So, each writer needs to know different things going into a project. I need to know major plot points and character names. But maybe the setting and world building is more important to you.

So, it’s important to make sure you structure your notebook in a way that accommodates all the things that you’ll need to know when it comes time to actually draft the novel.

I’m a big fan of outlining, and I know that not everyone is. But even so, it may be worth your while to just keep a notebook of ideas that jump into your brain while you’re thinking about this novel. They can serve as inspiration for the story, and as the basis for some of the edits you make when you’re getting the story into shape.

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003: Make yourself some spreads.

Okay. So. Hi. I’m a bullet journaler, and I think this system could work for more than we give it credit for.

While I think it’s easy enough to just outline your story or keep notes on specific pages, when it comes to tracking your progress, bujo spreads are key.

In the past, I’ve put sprint trackers in my notebook, as well as visual trackers to show how far along I am. I also like the idea of having a calendar spread that shows how many words I’ve written and on which days. It’s a lot to track, but it helps me make progress.

I also like to use washi tape to mark the edges of pages so I can see which section they belong to. For example, all the pre-writing and outlining stuff will have a certain color of washi tape on the edge of the pages, and then all the writing tracking pages will have another color, and the pages where I record how my sessions went, and any changes I made to character names or plot arcs would be another color.

This may be too much for some, but it definitely keeps me focused on what I’m working on.

004: Paste in your inspiration.

Sure, Pinterest is great for mood boards, but I use Pinterest as a way to generate search traffic on my blog, and don’t want to put a bunch of writing inspo there.

(I know this is something that few writers think about, so you may ignore this one all together.)

I like the look of collages, and I like being able to paste in images. So, I do this in writerly notebooks. I find inspiration pictures in magazines and on Pinterest. Then, I print them off and paste them into a notebook.

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And when you’re done, you have something really cool to look at.

005: Don’t overthink it.

This isn’t the work you need to be doing. Writing is.

So if the idea of starting this notebook is overwhelming, or if it keeps you too occupied to actually write, then don’t do it.

But if you know you need it to keep working, do it.

006: See what other writers are doing.

There are tons of writers who will be sharing their process throughout the month of November because of NaNoWriMo, and I think you should totally take advantage of that. What works for someone else isn’t necessarily going to be the one-size fits all thing that you need.

But you can definitely take bits and pieces.

For me, I don’t always like the methods that others use when it comes to outlining. But I know I can take bits and pieces from someone else’s process and use it.

And there are always new things to learn!

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007: Embrace the mess.

This notebook won’t be cute.

It won’t be organized.

And if I’m being real, it’s not going to make sense to anyone but you.

But that’s the glory of all this! It doesn’t have to work for anyone but you. So do with that notebook what you will.

This notebook won't be cute. It won't be organized. And if I'm being real, it's not going to make sense to anyone but you. Click To Tweet

Do you use a writer’s notebook?

How do you organize your writing process? What helps you stay on track? Are you a Pinterest mood board maker?

2 Responses

  1. I have promised myself I would not buy another notebook until my current journal and spending tracker were at least halfway used before buying another one. And yet, I feel like I *need* another notebook because I am someone who loves having a different notebook for different purposes. Decisions, decisions. I need a writer’s notebook don’t I? A pretty little Leuchtturm to add to my collection? I do have a gift card for Barnes and Noble after all.

    1. Oooh! Then do it! And Michael’s has some Leuchtturm-style notebooks. The dimensions aren’t exactly the same, but they’re very similar, and they’re priced between $5 and $10. Those are my go-to when I don’t have a B&N gift card to buy a fancy notebook with.

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