My writing notebooks (part 1)

Posted by Amanda Fleet on

People (who evidently don't know me!) often assume that I just write straight into Word when I'm writing my novels. Actually, I barely use Word at all! I write and edit in Scrivener, but that happens a long time after any initial ideas for a book - often months, sometimes years down the line. Long before I actually start writing anything that could conceivably be considered part of a scene or anything, I capture ideas and do a shed-load of noodling around, thinking about characters, settings, plot... None of this is done on the computer! All of my planning is done in notebooks.

I've been writing seriously for well over a decade now, so I have a lot of notebooks that I've used for novel-writing. To cover all of them in one blog-post would leave you all wanting less (a lot less!) so I'll break it up into a couple of posts... Today's post is on the kinds of books I use for capturing ideas. I'll do another post on the notebooks I use once a book idea has got enough going for it that it will actually get written!

stack of notebooksI am never without a notebook. Never. Whether I'm at my desk, out and about, or in bed, there's a notebook to hand. Sometimes I get an idea about the book I'm working on and need to capture it. Sometimes I've seen a person and there was something about them that I wanted to note - their clothes, their conversation, their demeanour. I can also get ideas about stories or settings, or see a whole scene really clearly and need to write it down before I forget it. All of these things and more are captured in a series of notebooks that I have dotted around the place.

Essentially, I'm too disorganised to have just one notebook for capture. I'd forget to take it out with me, or I'd leave it next to my bed, or in my handbag and by the time I'd found it, whatever it was I wanted to note would have flown out of my head and be lost forever. It would make my life a lot easier if I could just manage to have a single notebook for capturing these things, but I'm an old dog and that would be a new trick.

So, these are what I have in use at the moment:

Ciak turquoise notebookThe Mothership: Sadly, not amazingly fountain pen friendly, but a Cartesio medium-sized notebook (13.3 cm x 21.2 cm or 5.25" x 8.5" in old money) is the place where all ideas end up, unless they are book-specific. It doesn't matter if it started out scribbled on the back of a beer-mat, or in any of the other notebooks, any general ideas or notes get transferred to this book. It lives on a shelf at the side of my desk. Interestingly, I rarely get ideas about anything other than what I'm working on, while I'm sitting at my desk, so few ideas ever go straight into this notebook - they're all transcribed from the others. The book has an envelope-style pocket in the back cover (with a flap over it to stop things falling out, a decent-length ribbon (though it needed a knot in it to stop it fraying) and a vertical elastic closure.
Once this is full, I'm going to use something more fountain-pen friendly! Probably something like an A5 Midori MD.

Book-specific ideas or notes get transferred to the relevant book-specific notebook, which is a topic so big, it's a whole other blog post!

Leuchtturm notebook with Viking stickerThe handbag satellite: This was kindly given to me by Stu. It's a Leuchtturm 1917 B6 notebook (although it''s not strictly B6 in size - it's a little taller). The decal on the front is a Vegvisir ("That Which Shows The Way") that I added. The book is 12.5 cm x 19 cm so a brilliant size - not too small for making notes; not too big or heavy to carry around. Unless it's on my desk to transfer ideas to The Mothership, it lives in my handbag. I have a pen-holder stuck in the back with a propelling pencil in it, because I don't like biros (at all) and don't trust fountain pens in my handbag. I do like writing in pencil though. There are two good-sized ribbon markers and a pocket in the back cover.
When I've filled this one, the next handbag notebook will be a Poach My Lobster one, or the Tartan Cloth Commonplace Book Stu's just started stocking.

Small Rhodia Webbie notebookThe bedside notebook: This is a Rhodia A6 Webbie and is truly pocket-sized. But, since my bedside table has limited space, it's perfect! It's about 9 cm x 14 cm. It doesn't have a pen-holder and nor have I added one as there is always a pen or pencil on my bedside table. This notebook is used most commonly for scribbling down thoughts about whichever book I'm working on (as my brain refuses to shut up at night), but I do also write down particularly vivid dreams (in case the imagery might be useful sometime). The only thing I don't like about this notebook (and it might just be this one, rather than all Webbies) is that the bookmark is far too short! Even stretched out to its fullest extent, it's barely a cm longer than the page (as you can see in the picture!)! It's often not stretched taut and impossible to find. Other than that, it's a great wee book.

These are the three main 'capture' notebooks. Next time, I'll share with you what I use once these random ideas start to coalesce into potentially being a book.


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