Page One - a notebook for writers

Posted by Amanda Fleet on

It's going to be November next month.

Er... yes... so?

Well, there are some people in the world who decide that November is the perfect time to try and write 50,000 words of a novel ("NaNoWriMo"). That's 1667 words per day, if you decide to write every day. Or 2381 words per day if you only write on weekdays. Or 1923 words per day if you allow yourself a Sunday off each week.

You may be sensing my scepticism over the sense of all this. I'm a writer. I've written 8 books. By March next year, 5 of them will be published. One is already out (a second has also been published, but is currently unavailable). I don't have a full time job and I get to write almost any day I like. I could manage 1667 words per day, each and every day for 30 days. They just wouldn't be worth reading. (For reference, in a really good week, having spent ages planning and not having to go out to 'a proper job' I might manage 10,000-12,000 words but the following week I'd be back to planning scenes before I could write them)

But... I accept that I'm fussy and a planner and that others not only manage to write that many words every day but they also end up being worth reading, but to do so I'm pretty sure you need a plan!

For which, you could do a lot worse than getting yourself a Page One notebook. This is a notebook designed by writers, for writers. As the professional novel-writer on the team at Nero's Notes, I got my sticky paws on one to road-test, so let me share my findings with you.

[grab a beverage of your choice and settle in... TL;DR? Just buy it.]

Overview

The book is hardback, with a pen-loop, ribbon marker and a slip-in pocket in the back cover. There are 192 pages, split over seven sections. Some of the sections comprise lined pages, others are more structured. The sections are marked off with colour coding at the edge, for easy finding. The paper is 110 gsm so should handle any pen you throw at it.

Let's look at it section by section...

Right at the front is a bit about the background to the book. The notebook was designed by writers who know what it's like to be faced by The Blank Page and who want to help you get from The Blank Page to finishing that first draft.

Characters

The first main section in the book is for developing characters. This section contains more structured pages. For the main characters, these cover 6 double-page spreads. Many of the same sections are then used for more minor characters and there are 16 pages for them. A really nice touch is a space to put a picture of the character in. I certainly have various actors in mind when I'm writing (as if populating a screen version of the book!) and having space for pictures is really useful. For the main characters, you can get a picture ~6.5cm x ~8.5cm; for the minor characters, the space is ~2.5 x 3.5cm.

Plot

This is an unstructured section, comprising 32 lined pages (7 mm line spacing) for notes about the plot. To be honest, this is the one section where I thought some structure (instead of just oodles of space) would have been better. Many writers (both novice and experienced) struggle to get the plot sorted. The plot is the spine of the book. There are, of course, many ways to structure a plot, but a bit of help over this wouldn't have gone amiss, even if it covered little more than a basic three-act structure and/or an idea of 'beat sheets'. It could have had that on a double-page spread, with 30 pages for notes afterwards. After all, you can have amazing characters and a great setting, but unless you have a plot to go with them, you'll still be staring at a blank sheet when you try and write some scenes (as I'm finding with my 9th book!). But, it's a minor quibble.

Setting

This is another unstructured section, with 10 lined pages and 8 pages of dot-grid (7 mm spacing) . The dot-grid sheets are for drawings/sketches (but you could equally use them for notes). I would paste in pictures of locations, probably.

Scenes

Now, I'm an inveterate planner and I plan out my scenes before writing, with one eye on a check-sheet of 'elements of a good scene'*. Consequently, for me, the 36 lined pages in this section will run out, long before I've written the book. But that's okay, because this is a book to get you started and I do (after all) have rather a lot of other notebooks I could overflow into!

Submissions

The next section is for keeping track of submissions and is another structured section, allowing you to know the who/when/what etc. of submissions. There are 20 pages for this.

Research

Another unstructured section, this is a great place for noting down things you've researched, which may (or may not) go into the book. My internet search history can be from bizarre to quite dodgy-looking, but having a place to note down scraps of information is a sensible section in a writer's notebook and there are 30 lined pages for you here.

Ideas

Space for plot-holes, ideas for the next book... anything really - a safe space to keep them in. 10 lined pages.

Index

Right at the back is an index (technically, it's a table of contents as it's not organised alphabetically) so that you have the ability to quickly look up where you did the notes on x or y.

In the back cover is a slip pocket for storing bits and pieces. It's (slightly) gusseted, so you can fit a few sheets of paper in it.

 

Will you write 50,000 words in November, just because you bought the notebook? No, of course not. You actually have to get your ass in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard to do that. Will it help you write 50,000 words that won't need totally ripping apart and re-writing in December (and beyond)? To be honest, I can't even guarantee that, but you will have one hell of a better set of 50,000 words if you've spent time planning the setting and the plot and developing your characters and for that, the Page One book is perfect.

It comes in a variety of colours (red, grey, black, deep blue) and is a steal at £28. 

*My elements of a good scene checklist comes from here


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