When you’re writing a book, it can take everything you have to stay on track. And these writer’s notebook ideas are great for being organized, getting clear on the plot, and staying on top of the edits you’ll be making.
Firstly, start with this post about what is a writer’s notebook if you’re unfamiliar with the concept.
But if you want the quick and dirty, a writer’s notebook is basically there to help you stay organized and keep your brain from overflowing. I use mine in conjunction with my ideas journal, and my hobonichi weeks for planning. And all three of those together keep me mostly sane.
Setting Up a Writer’s Notebook
When it comes to setting up a writer’s notebook, you need to focus on what will work for you. Sure, there are tons of beautiful writer’s bullet journal images on the internet, but if they don’t help you write, it’s not worth your time.
There is no writer’s notebook template, but check out this post on how to start a writer’s notebook, or this post on organizing a writer’s notebook. Both will help you think about what you might want to consider when getting started.
And if you need to keep a lot of stuff together, consider getting a writer’s notebook cover. A traveler’s notebook can do wonders for keeping a bunch of bits and pieces all in one place.
But when it comes to what you keep in a writer’s notebook, what should you think about adding? Check out these writer’s notebook ideas to help you write your novel.
Writer’s Notebook Ideas
These writer’s notebook ideas are great for keeping your organized and productive. Check out these collections that I swear by.
001: Random Notes
No matter how hard you try not to, not everything you want to note will be categorizable. In fact, I always have a list of random notes that make me seem like a crazy person.
Whether I need a reminder to research a specific thing, pick up a certain book, or stretch out the scene between the two main characters, keeping a random notes section in your writer’s notebook is a good way to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. However, be very clear with your notes. Because you’re going to come back to the list of random notes, and you’re going to wonder why you thought it was important to “check on lion illustrations” or “recipe for chili?”
It happens to the best of us. And by best of us, I mean me.
002: Important Scenes
I tend to write in order, but my brain gets ideas out of order. To keep all the ideas in one place, I’ll write down ideas I’ve had for scenes in an important scenes collection in my notebook. I write down as much as I know and try to get the overall vibe across. Naturally, this will change when I’m actually writing it, but having a scene idea before I get to writing is always helpful.
003: Dialogue Ideas
I am either really good at sleeping, or I’m really good at laying in bed for hours just thinking up witty quips. I have outlined literal TED Talks in my head. And when I’m doing that, I’ll try to get the main points of the dialogue or speeches in my writer’s notebook. I do this so I have some fodder to play with when I’m writing. I shared in the post about why I read and write romance that I loved the connection between two characters and I love witty banter. So, having a pool of quips to pull from is always good.
004: Mind Maps
My brain is a mess on a good day. That generally means my writing process is also a mess.
But a good mind map can keep me from feeling like a total chaos monster. Being able to get stuff out of my head and see how it’s all related to each other is great. So seeing how characters know each other, or how certain events lead to other events can make the story feel more real, and it helps me feel in control of the work I’m doing.
I play it fast and loose with the word research here. Sometimes you’re going to need to delve deep into science and how things work to make your plot work. And other times, you just need to have a general idea of the sort of spell components a witch in Spain might have access to in the 1600s. Sure, you’re still finding information, but research is being generous.
006: Word Count Tracking
My husband gets mad when I talk about word count. He says the only people who care about word count are smug asshole writers who want to feel superior to each other.
He is correct.
That’s why I like to keep a word count tracker. It helps me see how much I’ve done, and it also helps me see which days I did more than others. It may sound silly, but knowing how much I’ve done is the only way to really quantify where I am. And the process of writing can feel like a lot of work with not a lot to show for it. So it’s important for me to be able to see what I’ve done.
007: Plot Outlining
This usually happens after some mind mapping or scene idea writing. I like to write down the general plot I have before I really get the story beats set. Doing this makes it easy for me to see which of my scene ideas are the strongest, and which ones need work. It also helps me see where the story might sag a little, and where I might have to do a little extra work.
Mostly, my deadlines are my own. But having them makes it a lot easier for me to focus on what I’m doing. If there’s no pressure, there’s no drive. At least, for me. So setting deadlines helps me put my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard. Sure, I don’t hit them all the time, but having them helps me make forward progress.
I can’t listen to music when I write. Or, rather, I can’t listen to music with lyrics when I write. I need stuff that just becomes part of the background. And I love stuff that is designed to help me focus. But I do like to create playlists that encapsulate the vibe of the book I’m working on. I can listen to them when I’m going for a walk or working out, or just daydreaming and getting in the headspace to write.
010: Rewards List
Hello. I’m a weirdo who has to trick her brain into working. I do that mostly by giving myself treats.
So, when I hit milestones in my writing process, I like to have a list of rewards I’m going to give myself. They’re usually things like a new book or a trip to the coffee shop. It’s nothing too special. But when you reward yourself regularly, it becomes easier to stick to the writing, and you get to celebrate your progress along the way.
011: Inspiration and Mood Boards
I love the idea of mood boards. I don’t do them often, but having them could be a great way to stay inspired. And who doesn’t love to paste images into a notebook collage-style?
012: Edits and Changes
I always have a list of things I know I need to change when I’m done writing. I try to note where in the document the change will need to go. It’s always something like “changed so-and-so’s name to such-and-such on page 117, need to change all previous mentions.” Or it might be that I need to go back and scrub a mention of something that I revealed too early.
These notes are always the most fun to read because you really get to to see the chaos in action.
My main characters are always super clean in my head. The supporting characters? Not so much. So keeping some information about what these characters look like is usually enough for me to keep them consistent.
What Writer’s Notebook Ideas for Collections Do You Swear By?
Do you keep random notes in your writer’s notebook? How do you outline the plot? Do you like to make playlists too? Give me all your writer’s notebook ideas!