This post is on the importance of keeping (and regularly using) a writer's notebook.
Stephen King said that using a writer's notebook is the best way to validate terrible ideas; that good ideas should stay with you, niggling at your mind to be written.
Whilst I agree the better ideas do bother you until they're explored, I believe a writer's notebook or a journal can be useful in this industry for many other reasons.
Why bother using pen and paper when we have so many apps, programmes and tools to use online and on our devices these days?
What happens if your internet connection fails? How will you access your calendar?
And what if your phone breaks?
Or the programme you use for writing is installed to a desktop PC, but you're in a coffee shop?
Plus, using apps on your phone can quickly drain your battery.
This probably makes me sound like a grandma, and don't get me wrong, I do use a lot of technology running my business. But you just can't beat a gorgeous notebook and pen to help you get into the habit of writing by hand.
Accessible anywhere, any time.
Doesn't drain your battery.
Keeps everything in one place, not across various apps.
Doesn't rely on an internet connection or access to technology of any kind.
Sure, you're probably concerned that you could lose your notebook (and therefore lose the information stored within). This is the case whether you use a device or a pen and paper, so obviously, I highly recommend you do not record passwords or other personal information there, just in case.
How would you use a notebook as a writer? This is outside the obvious reasons, of course.
As a publisher (and as an author publishing my own work), I keep track of appointments, deadlines, tasks and events in yearly, monthly and daily overviews. I can record my thoughts and worries to empty my mind of anything weighing down my motivation and enthusiasm. I can also keep track of plots, sub-plots and details of my characters, or record when I'm due to film my next YouTube content, write my next blog post and plan what that content will actually be!
A writer's notebook or a bullet journal can also be used alongside story beats (in-depth, colour-coded notes about the book/s in a series) to track ongoing plot and storyline flaws. I use the Leuchtturn 1917 (official Bullet Journal branded journal) with dotted paper, three page markers, a pocket, page numbers and an index.
But how would you use your bullet journal (bujo) to track your story's progress?
An example of how to use your BUJO to track your storyline/plots.
If you're familiar with the official Bullet Journal Method, you'll already know the system is designed to be adaptable and easy to use no matter who you are or your circumstances. A bullet point is used to mark a task which you then cross through when it's completed, or migrate with an arrow to the next day. Using this same system, you can apply each of those to markers of your story during a re-write.
Before you read your book through, write down everything you can remember from the initial draft—what happens in this story that's important (plot, subplots, characters, secrets etc)? Then, as you re-read your manuscript to edit or re-write it, use a new page for each chapter and note (using bullet points) the main plot points/sub-plots/questions that must be answered during the story.
Is there anything that happens later on in the story that you must lay the foundations for now?
Are there any major developments or reveals?
You should now have a list of things you believe should happen from memory, plus the things that actually do happen.
When you come to re-write, if anything from what you believed should happen in that chapter isn't included, migrate it using a > symbol and add it to the list for chapter two so you remember to include it, using a circled chapter number as a flag in the margin.
If you decide something can be removed, strike through it.
If that reveal or plot is included as expected, mark it with an X.
Complete these stages for each chapter in the book.
Does anything from early on still need resolving or including by the middle or end of your story? These are things you probably need to include sooner. Leaving breadcrumbs for things that happen at the end of the book throughout the story will lessen the shock and impact on a reader if it appears out of the blue, with little to no explanation.
If you haven't already got a notebook, check out the footer for a link to 'The Bullet Journal Method' by Ryder Carroll!
And that's it.
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"Why not check out my YouTube video on the same subject? Please give it a thumbs up and subscribe for more if you enjoyed this content.
Rachael Hardcastle is an Amazon international #1 bestselling author from Bradford, UK. She is the founder of Curious Cat Books (est. 2017), but is also a trained copy-editor and a publishing coach with a diploma in Successful Self Publishing and a university-level Business qualification.
She has been writing for over 10 years—first published at the age of 18—is the author of five successful novels and co-author to her first children's book, Bluetooth & the World Wide Web (2019).
Rachael keeps a regular monthly journal on her website www.erachaelhardcastle.com and, alongside the authors signed to her company, shares their events and adventures with her readers.
"Can I convince you to give my brand new publishing guide, 'The Universe Doesn't Give A Sh*t About Your Book' a browse? You can read about keeping a personal and writing journal there."