One thing I definitely struggle with when it comes to keeping my writing all in one place is writer’s notebook organization. Every novel is different, and I’m not a particularly organized person. That’s why I’m here to share that your writer’s notebook gets to look like whatever it needs to look like.
If you’re struggling with the idea of keeping an organized notebook, know that it doesn’t have to look like organization from the outside. My brain is kind of a messy place, and what works for me doesn’t always work for others.
So, piles of Post-Its are fair game, and just scribbling whatever I need to on whatever page is available also works.
But if you’re not convinced, I’m here to take some of the guesswork out of writer’s notebook organization, and even give you some ideas for how you can create your own system.
Writer’s Notebook Basics
I’ve been nattering on about keeping a writer’s notebooks for a minute now. I’ve got quiet a few posts, and if you’d like to check them out, here’s a list:
What Is a Writer’s Notebook? | This is a post about what a writer’s notebook is, and why you want to use one.
How to Start a Writer’s Notebook | If you’re struggling with supplies or ideas for your notebook, this post will help you get a handle on setting up a writer’s notebook.
So, What is a Writer’s Journal? | A writer’s journal is tangentially related to the notebook, but it’s used a bit differently.
Writer’s Notebook Ideas: Collections to Keep Your Novels on Track | If you’re the type to divide your notebook into different sections, here’s some ideas for what you might keep in those sections.
Tips for Organizing a Writer’s Notebook | There is no tried and true writer’s notebook template, but this post will give you some tips on how you might organize yours.
Hey Writers! Throw Away Your Old Notebooks. | If you find that you have too many old notebooks crowding your space, you can throw them away.
Hopefully, those writer’s notebook examples help you get an idea of how you’d like to use a notebook for your writing.
Writer’s Notebook Organization Tips
The best notebook for writers is the one that works for the writer as an individual. So, with that in mind, I hope these tips keep you feeling hopeful as you organize your creative writing notebook and make it work for you.
001: Function is crucial.
Don’t spend all your time looking at perfect notebooks on Pinterest and Instagram. Those people are not you.
And yes, I do love the look of a fancy bullet journal, but at the end of the day, I know it won’t work for my writing. I’m more of a paper goblin, and my writer’s notebook reflects that.
So let how you need to use your notebook dictate how it looks. It might not be Instagrammable, but most things in life aren’t.
002: Know how you work.
Don’t know how to plan a novel in a notebook? That’s okay. You don’t have to.
Instead, focus on the process you know works for you. Then, take that process, and think about how a notebook could enhance it.
You may find that you absolutely don’t need a notebook, and that’s cool. Or, you may decide the notebook would best be used for brain dumps or detail keeping. Or maybe just for word count tracking.
At the end of the day, it’s your writer’s notebook, so use it how you need to.
003: What writing stage are you in?
Depending on where you are in your writing process, you may need a notebook or you may not.
I love notebooks for pre-writing or for ideation. I also like them for keeping track of the first draft and keeping all the threads straight as I work through the story.
For editing? Not so much.
So if you want to integrate a writer’s notebook into your process, but can’t figure out how to make it work, it may be that you’re just at a stage in your process where it doesn’t make sense to use a notebook.
004: Are you an organizer or not?
Some people are natural organizers, and some are not.
My brain likes to break things down into smaller components most of the time, so sections and collections work for me. Though, admittedly, sometimes I just jot something down where there’s space, regardless of whether or not it makes sense to put it there.
Think about how you work in everyday life. If you’re an organizer, organizing your notebook is going to be easier. If your not, then it might not be intuitive for you.
There’s no harm in starting a messy notebook and letting your process evolve over time.
005: What worked for you in school?
You may not have used a notebook since high school. And if that’s the case, how did you make it work for you? Did you get one of those five-subject notebooks to accommodate all your classes? Did you keep a Trapper Keeper? What sort of supplies worked for you back then?
It may seem silly, but whatever kept you on track and organized then will probably work for you now.
006: Every writer and every book needs something different.
Even though I can create a fool-proof system every now and again, that doesn’t mean that I don’t change it.
I feel like every time I start a new book, I’m re-teaching myself to write a book. I’m not sure if it will ever go away, but it’s just the way it is.
And on that note, I’m not the same writer I’ve always been. So what worked for me back in the day doesn’t work now, and what’s working now probably won’t work five or ten years from now.
That’s just the way it goes.
How Do You Organize Your Writer’s Notebook?
Do you also have a chaos notebook? What works best for you as you draft your novel? Did you find that the supplies you used in school still work for you now?