Feature post image with pictures of notebooks

9 Ways to fill your Notebook when Writing a Novel

Notebooks are handy for those ideas that come at odd times. Here's 9 ways to fill your notebook when writing your novel.
My Notebooks waiting to be filled.

Not just a notebook – it’s a writing tool

In this post, I share with you, 9 ways to fill your notebook when writing a novel. Some of them are from personal experience and one or two are how other authors use their notebooks.

When I first thought about writing this post, it seemed notebooks and how handy they are, how many you should have and what you should write in them was the most flavoursome topic at the time. Not only blog posts, but Instagram posts and the Notebook conversation are also featured in podcasts as the topic or in questions for the author. As an example, Carolin Donohue’s Instagram post at the end of January presented commentary on the usefulness of a notebook and notebooks that hold even more notebooks.

Here is my list of 9 ways to fill your notebook while writing a novel –

#1 A4 size notebook devoted to each manuscript.

Even though I compose my stories in Word, I use each notebook to record the story outline, character descriptions, characters’ back story, setting ideas, and research notes. The notebook for my current MS has the list of character names I’ve used and their origins ( in case I want to include an explanation at the back of my novel);  names of towns, cities, mountains, swamps etc. and their origins;  Edit notes while I’m still writing the first draft. If I’ve thought of something after I’ve written a scene, rather than go backwards, I reference the scene and add the note in the book. (Usually, I’m out and about when these thoughts pop up, so I write them in the notes app on my phone. Then much later, when I finally remember to, they’re added to the notebook.) I’ve also written a synopsis and little hints of novel pitches for both manuscripts.

I am editing my first manuscript and that notebook now has a list and description of each scene, and more edit notes – step one of editing. As a side note, I also use Scrivener for the same task, but writing it in longhand helped me to get a better sense of the scenes.

One notebook devoted to each manuscript – #1 of 9 ways to fill your notebook when writing a novel

#2 Lists of interesting First Names I might like to use

One of my A5 notebooks contains interesting boys’ and girls’ names with their origins and/or meanings. Also in this book is a list of interesting place names some real, some made up.

#3 Lists of ideas for Blog Posts, Short Stories and Novels.

This A5 notebook contains suggested titles and storylines. As I think of them I write them down. I’ve heard it’s a good idea to have a pen and notebook by the side of your bed for those ideas that hit you at 3 am. That’s way too much work for me, I want to sleep, but if it works for you, go for it.

#4 Author platform notes

This notebook contains strategies to promote me here and on social media and when the time comes, my books.

#5 Write a manuscript

Some authors write their entire first draft in longhand. Not me, but others do. Karen J Carlisle writes “steampunk, Victorian mysteries, fantasy, and cosies with a twist”. She is the perfect example of someone who has many notebooks for each manuscript. She also edits that book before transcribing it onto the computer.

#6 Research

Some authors use a notebook purely for research for their novel. My notebook, see #1, contains the research plus I also attach copies of maps, and photos of scene inspiration, among other things. But historical fiction requires much more research and possibly more notebooks. Kate Forsyth is a great example of this. Check out episode 204 of the So You Want to be a Writer Podcast for more explanation.

#7 Writing Courses

Over the past two years, I have done a number of online writing courses. All my notes from the courses are in an A4 notebook. How else will I remember what I learned?

Every writer needs some downtime and for that purpose, I’ve included two downtime activities of mine –

#8 Hobby related

Another A5 notebook has photography ideas and ideas for my website from the photography side. I hope to add my photos to sell as prints, plus some theme ideas for photo books.

#9 Hobby (number 2) related

For me, it is Costume ideas. I attend different costume events either cosplaying a character or in Steampunk. Lately, this list hasn’t grown much, because of the lack of events in the past couple of years. Hopefully soon, it will grow. You could use this idea for a different hobby. Maybe if you garden, you could include plants you’d like to grow or garden designs you’d like to create.

I cannot walk past a stationery store without checking out their notebooks and buying at least one, or two…maybe three. My fascination starts with the cover. What is it about a notebook that we just need another one?

Notebooks are a handy writing tool and I like to hear about how and when they are used. Some of the posts are helpful and some really are Over. The. Top! 

I hope you found this post, 9 Ways to Fill Your Notebook When Writing a Novel, helpful. What tasks do your notebooks perform?

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