Please Open Your Notebooks

Write it Down in Something — Anything

One of the most important tools a writer can have is a notebook.  Some writers use a simple black & white composition book, while others prefer to write solely in Moleskine notebooks.

You will have to find out what works best for you.  This may be as easy as opting for the least expensive notebook you can find and sticking with it, or trying out several different ones until you find one that suits your needs.  

I experimented with different sizes, brands, covers and paper.  Although I will write in anything, I have settled on the large hard covered Moleskine. It is sturdy, the perfect size and has a good number of pages.


Some of my notebooks

You may come across many articles that will suggest what should go in a writer’s notebook.  Some say plot ideas, character sketches and the like, but this is your notebook, and I say put in it what you want.  If it will help you write better then by all means put it in.

I have many notebooks, and some of them contain a lot of writing, while others contain a lot of typed pages of my writing.  A few have articles; while others have a variety of quotes and other snippets of information.

I knew nothing about maintaining an author’s notebooks. Although I read a lot of information on it, I had to use trial and error.  

Organizing Thoughts in a Tiny Little Package

When you have a lot of ideas coming to you, it is hard to put them in an ‘area’ of your notebook.  This works fine if your notebook is a 3-ring binder, but not so easy if it is a bound notebook.  So how do you get around it?  I tried several methods, but they didn’t work for me. 

The methods I tried and didn’t work well with were:

Sectioning the notebook

  • Putting plots in one section
  • Character sketches in another
  • Miscellaneous information in a third

Right side up front, upside down back

  • Using the front of the book to do straight writing
  • Flipping the book over and upside down to write ideas and anything miscellaneous

Two notebooks

  • One notebook for miscellaneous stuff
  • One notebook for pure writing

Writing whatever — wherever

  • Whatever comes to my mind goes on the page I’m on next.  No division of any kind

These may work for you, but for me, they failed.  However, in these failures came a method I could work with. Some notebooks do have page numbers or table of contents.

The large Moleskine notebooks do not have numbered pages or Table of Contents, so I hand number each page and in the back of the book reserve one page (front and back) for a table of contents. I found that the back pages of the book work better for me.

As for what goes where, I simplified that as well.  

  1. Definitions and quotes go in the back of the book.  I start at the last page and work toward the front.  Since these items are short, there is no chance of them not fitting on the page.
  1. Everything else goes in the front end of the book.  This includes plots, character sketches and other things that may or may not have anything to do with writing.
  1. I jot down dreams and things that happen to me.  This may sound like a journal, but I have jotted things down that later turned into short stories.  Nothing gets lost, even if it seems mundane at the time.




Keeping volumes makes things easier to find

I have been keeping notebooks off and on since 1986.  I was mostly in off mode for most of 1990 and early 2000.  I started picking up steam again in 2010 and now have a rather large collection of notebooks.

Storage is up to you.  You’d want to keep them accessible because it is wise to go through them every once in awhile. It is a good idea if you are suffering from writer’s block and need some inspiration.

I used to keep mine on a small bookshelf, but that didn’t work too well.  They are now in a bureau in my bedroom.



Some will argue that it is a waste of space and they opt for an electronic device.  I will not argue with anyone about what method they prefer. We are individuals with individual tastes. 

With the popularity of smartphones and speech to text dictation, there is no need for the antiquated art of writing something by hand, except…

It slows down your thought process.

I’m not the first to say it. There is something about writing that causes ideas to flow better.  Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in a pinch sans notebook, I will jot something down on my phone.  However, if I’m sitting somewhere and have a few moments to spare, I will pull out my book and write it down.  But sometimes, you just have to get it out of your brain on to something, and if a phone  is all you’ve got then go for it.

Just remember, it is fun to devise plots and characters in our notebooks.  The most important thing is to get them out of that book and into a story.



About Liz Kelso
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