Best notebook for writing a book...?

Posted by Amanda Fleet on

I'm always in the midst of one or more of: planning a book; writing a book; editing a book. If you're curious, you can check out what I write here.

As an author who has written nine books and published five (the sixth is due out in early spring 2021), you might have hoped that I'd have a good idea about which notebooks are the best for writing a book, wouldn't you? Well... yes and no. I know what works well for me, and the book I'm recommending will probably work well for almost all writers. I can't guarantee that it will work well for everyone though.

To be perfectly honest, probably any notebook could be used to plan and write a book. Well, maybe not pocket-sized ones, unless you're prepared to go through a lot of them! But whether you're at the 'planner' end of the spectrum (a writer who has everything sorted out to the last scene before they start writing) or at the 'pantser' end (the "let's just write it and see where it goes" kind of writer), a notebook with a bit of structure will be an enormous help.

Enter the Page One notebook. This is a notebook designed by writers, for writers and is an excellent starting point. The Page One notebook is designed specifically for writing a book. It's divided up into different sections, such as: characters, plot, ideas, setting, research etc. This is a huge strength and why I would recommend it regardless of where you sit on the planner-pantser spectrum (or even if you don't know!). To be honest, I wish I'd had it when I wrote my very first book. Then that book might not be the horrible mess it is and might have stood some chance of getting published one day! (As it is, it's the book where I hadn't yet realised I was more of a planner than a pantser, and it's a rambling mess of 150,000 words!)

Whether you're more likely to fill in each section methodically (planner end of the spectrum), or scribble in it as and when ideas come to you ('pantser' end of the spectrum), or whether you fill in some, let it grow a bit and then start pulling it into shape ('gardener' - somewhere in the middle of the spectrum) the fact that it's broken up into sections is great. Of course, you could decide to divide up any notebook you liked into pre-set sections if you wanted, but there's always something satisfying about a product that's done the work for you.

Let's have a look at a few of these sections in more detail:

Characters

The first section in the book is for character notes. Can I tell you from experience how important it can be to have an easily accessed list of characters and their main attributes etc.? Before I got this notebook, I kept notes on characters either on index cards in a box, or on character sheets I'd designed and printed off and kept in an A5 ring-binder. You may well remember that your main character has brown eyes and a small scar above her right eye. But what about that chap who made a first appearance on page 27 and doesn't return until page 200? Was he left-handed? Or was that the other guy who was in the same scene? And what did you say their wife was called? And did they have a son and a daughter? Or two sons? Having that information collected together in one place will save you hours of shuffling back and forward through notes or a manuscript. Trust me. I have most definitely been there, done that and bought that t-shirt!

Setting

This is one of the less structured sections of the notebook, with some lined pages, and some dot-grid pages. The dot-grid pages would be great for drawing maps or location plans, as well as for pasting in pictures. I tend to have a veritable scrapbook when I'm thinking about settings, with all sorts of pictures stuck in, and drawings of layouts - cities, towns, even just rooms.

Submissions

Once you've written your masterpiece, you may want to send it off to agents or competitions or publishers and there's a well-structured section at the back of the book to keep track of these.

Now, all that said, I do feel there are a couple of weaknesses to the notebook, although neither of them significant enough to stop me from thinking this is a brilliant notebook for planning a book. The main one is that I think there could be a little more structure to the 'plot' section. It's hard to plot a book out, get the pacing right, hit the 'beats', not have a soggy middle or a rushed ending. The 'plot' section in the book is essentially a series of lined pages. Even a couple of links to 'How to structure a novel' articles or worksheets might have made this section a little less daunting.

The other one is that there are only 36 pages for 'scenes' and in my current work in progress, there are over 50 scenes, but this is a minor issue with the notebook. The Page One book is aimed at getting you started on writing your book. If you need more scene-planning space, overflow into another book.

If you're interested, I did a fuller review of this notebook a while ago, which you can find here.

Page One notebooks come in black, red, blue and grey covers.


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