Starter NotebooksIt can be a bound journal such as the one pictured above. It can be a spiral notebook (my personal favorite). It can even be a three-ring binder with page protectors. Whatever its shape, a writer must have a starter notebook. What do I mean by a starter notebook? I refer to a notebook in which your writerly mind is free to jot, make notes, and write random scribblings. Fill it to the brim with any minutiae that you think of while you’re out and about or while your up late at night. I have many of these notebooks stashed all over my house in various places. The other night, I was sitting on my bed and as usual, a flood of ideas for stories came to my mind (this tends to happen at night for me). As I flipped through one of my spiral notebooks…I came across my very first passage that I wrote for Night Bells. If you’ve been hanging around my blog for a while, you’ll know that Night Bells is the first novel I published.

I cannot tell you the flood of emotion that overcame me in that moment. Some years ago in college, probably on a night just like that one, I sat down and scribbled a bit of a small boy’s story onto those blue-lined pages. Then, I closed it and went to sleep. Over the next two years, that boy’s story grew and I didn’t even remember that I had jotted down the first words of his tale on that spiral notebook page. It was so precious to see all those words thrown on that starter notebook page. You never know when you’re writing away in a brainstorming journal whether or not those sentences might become the springboard for your next novel.

Writers should keep notebooks like this for several reasons:

//1// Writers need to be able to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes! — We writers tend to become inspired by myriad things and if we don’t have something to pour our thoughts onto, chances are you’ll forget what you came up with!

//2// It gives you freedom to break away from current projects. — Many authors can get so wrapped up in their current novel projects that they don’t allow themselves breaks. I use my starter notebooks for this very purpose. I let my mind become free to create entirely new characters, settings, and dialogue that are unrelated to anything I’m currently working on. This helps my mind to stay active, fresh, and creative.

//3// They are terrific for later perusal. — It brings me so much joy to go back and read through the random writings I have stashed all over these sorts of notebooks. Not only am I able to see visible growth in my writing, but I can appreciate how much creativity my mind has been able to generate from these brainstorming exercises. In short, they make you happy!

Do you keep a starter notebook or brainstorming journal? If so, have any of your random scribbles become a novel? Do you prefer spiral notebooks, bound journals, or something different? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment!

If you’d like to see what that passage became, check out my novel Night Bells! It’s only $.99 on Kindle and Nook. If you love fantasy stories and young adult fiction, Night Bells is definitely a book you’ll enjoy.

Have a terrific Monday, ladies and gents!

Why Writers Should Keep “Starter Notebooks”
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  • Kelli

    I’m not a writer (yet!), but I do keep various notebooks for jotting notes, memories and quotes. Usually, I write things that I feel deserve returning to later (and I know I will forget). This way, I am free to forget as I am wont to do, with the assurance that somewhere I have scribbled that wise statement from a professor, or obscure latin etymological connection, or amusing anecdote.

    Keep n mind, these are definitely not journals or diaries. I’ve never been one to journal very heavily, preferring to exist wholly in the present and finding journals overly personal and sentimental for my taste. But notebooks are quite another matter altogether! Jotted notations and scribbled insights of wisdom are lovely things.

    • That definitely sounds like the Kelli I know and love! I used to journal personal daily entries–especially while I was teaching–but now prefer to exist much as you do: wholly in the present. I do keep a journal still for work related stuff and occasional, personal revelations. I miss you, girl! I hope your grad school program is going super swell!

      • Kelli

        Miss you too, my lovely friend! Hope all is well in the Sherwin house. 🙂

        • It is, it is. Busy–VERY busy–but good. Hope the Hardin household is lovely and cheery as well!

  • I used to keep full size scribble pads; now I only keep a small one. I work on a computer all day, and I carry my personal laptop with almost everywhere. Normally if I have an idea I can whip out the digital pad or jot it down on my work computer, but I still keep the mini tree killer with me just in case E=mc squared eludes my computers. I’m glad you wrote this post. I need to go revisit some packed-up notes pads that might be collecting some moisture between its pages down in the cellar. Have any of my scribbles become novels? No, but they all have become novels in progress.. :O)

    • Haha, you absolutely SHOULD go look at your old ones! It’s always fun to see what a “younger you” came up with. A lot of my old notes and written passages haven’t turned into anything, but it’s still fun to go back and read them.

      • Yeah, they don’t go that far back- maybe 5 years max.

        • Aww, that’s a shame! I think it’s hilarious to go back and read the stuff I wrote in middle school. All my characters were either extremely violent or SUPER angsty!

  • Pingback: What You Might Have Missed | Unearthing Words()

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