Writer’s Notebook – Planning Novels

AREA OF FOCUS – Planning and Using a Writer’s Notebook

When I wrote my first novel, Autumn, in November of 2013, I had no idea what I was doing. Aside from having a word count goal because of NaNoWriMo, I had no instruction on how I should begin to plan or write a novel. I did not plan or even organize my first two novels. Instead of plotting out a novel,  I wrote off the top of my head as I moved from chapter to chapter chronologically, never really knowing where I was going in the plot next. Although my stories were decent, they were never as fully fleshed out as I would like them to be, something I did not really understand until I began taking actual writing courses. By the time I reached the actual writing courses, such as Creative Writing, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction, I had already fallen into a pattern of plotting mentally. At this point, I’d written four or five novels and I’d already decided what was working for me.

By the time I reached the actual writing courses, such as Creative Writing, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction, I had already fallen into a pattern of plotting mentally. At this point, I’d written four or five novels and I’d already decided what was working for me. I’d established a few bad habits in my writing, namely my lack of any real novel planning. I struggled to use the writing notebooks required in our writing courses because I was unaccustomed to putting my thoughts unformed onto a page. I knew this was a problem and it was something that I planned to change.

The issue I ran into was that when I finally realized my writing habits needed to change I was already half way through a fairly intricate five book series. I didn’t want to start planning and taking notes halfway through a series, especially since I was fairly sure at this point that I wanted to revise this series anyway. I told myself that I would begin using a notebook as soon as I started with a new book series. I also made the decision that whenever I rewrote Astridia (something that will hopefully take place once I graduate) I will use a writer’s notebook.

The issue I ran into was that when I finally realized my writing habits needed to change I was already half way through a fairly intricate five book series. I didn’t want to start planning and taking notes halfway through a series, especially since I was fairly sure at this point that I wanted to revise this series anyway. I told myself that I would begin using a notebook as soon as I started with a new book series. I also made the decision that whenever I rewrite Astridia (something that will hopefully take place once I graduate) I will use a writer’s notebook.

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my first real writer’s notebook

The first time I ever used a writer’s notebook successfully was with my novel series, Not Enough. It took some trial and error but I eventually discovered that I needed a notebook that was (1) very durable and (2) nice enough that I didn’t mind looking at it all the time. I take my writer’s notebook with me everywhere. It goes where I go. I found out pretty quickly that the seventy-five cent composition notebooks would not hold up to such constant use. I was terrified of losing pages so I spent eight dollars at Target and bought my first ever official writer’s notebook.

 

I kept track of everything from character names to actual plot structures. I found out that I really enjoy organization, especially when things are color coated. I grew comfortable with allowing myself to make a mess before making a story.
Looking back, I have no idea how I was able to write as many novels as I did without really planning.

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novel plotting for the                      not enough series

 

Below are some pictures from the planning of the following two novels, Not Enough Soul and Not Enough Heart.  In the sections themselves you will be able to see whee I have implemented these notes into the actual writing and how the written planning has shaped the story itself. There are moments in the plotting where I did not do exactly as the notes predicted. I highlighted the sections of plot notes that actually were in included and left the sections that I did not end up writing plain. You can see an example of this happening in the picture to the right.

 

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a large section of notebook pages fell out – time for a new notebook

 

 

 

This first writer’s notebook only lasted 57 front and back pages before it began to fall apart. I was terrified that I would lose important notes so I had to stop taking the notebook everywhere which definitely changed how I was writing. I’d gone from never planning anything to being dependant on my notebook for correct information. I have no idea how I survived without it.

 

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the new notebook

 

 
Luckily, I had enough time to finished the first novel in the series and get a new writer’s notebook before the thing completely fell to pieces. This time I was a high spender and put down a massive thirteen dollars for a hardback journal.

 

IMG_5499I used the notebook to track descriptions and notes on where I’d said things. For instance, in this picture, I drew the auditorium/music hall I described in the section from the novel,  Not Enough Heart.  Being able to visually sketch out a description, even if it was badly done, made the picture itself stick in my mind and made the details that more real to me.

In general, learning to use a writer’s notebook has redefined my writing. I am able to have a fuller understanding of my characters and of my plot. Although I have yet to write a world building story while a writer’s notebook I know that the experience will be altogether different from what I experienced while writing Astridia.

 

 

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