Friday, May 27, 2011

The Secrets Inside My Writing Notebook

My writing notebook is precious to me. Sometimes, it feels like my whole life is inside. But I don't make any particular effort to keep it hidden or secret.  It's lying around the house, on my desk, beside my bed, on the kitchen table. My kids or husband could easily take a peek, but I don't think they do. Well, maybe the kids do, long enough to see that there's nothing much in it about them.

If someone did peek at my latest page, here's what they'd find:

1. Two quotes by Donald Maass from Writing the Breakout Novel:

"Great characters are the key to great fiction."

"The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary."

2. A bunch of nearly illegible ideas about applying some of what I've read in Maass's book to the novel I'm revising                               

3. A mysterious phone number (maybe I'll have to call it to see why I wrote it down)

4. A note to myself to back up my book files (I am going to do it today, I promise)

5. And the titles of a couple of new MG books profiled at the Middle Grade Buzz Panel of BEA:
  The Unwanted by Lisa McMann
  Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

What's in your writing notebook today? Do you keep the contents of your notebook a secret?


  1. I don't have a writing notebook like that. The lists are in my head. I do keep a notebook to take notes as I read books. So you'll see pages and pages of breakdowns.

  2. Love this! Especially the mysterious phone number. You should call it. I have all sorts of notebooks, pads, scraps, etc. I keep it all in two folders. And it is so true about interesting characers. Who wants to read ordinary happenings by people just like them? That is not why I read.

  3. Untill two weeks ago, my writing notebook was scraps of paper everywhere around my house. Then I won a beautiful set of three coordinating notebooks, savvy enough to sit on my desk. Each has a different use. MG reviews. Blog posts to return to. And my writing notebook - which right now is full of notes about revising my WIP (like: include journal snippet at end of Ch.1).

  4. My writing notebook is filled with questions. (I sometimes joke that my next tattoo will simply be a ? mark!) I tend to treat it like that magic book in Harry Potter. You know, the one where the book "answers" the question that is written down. It works for me. Typically, just asking the question on paper will generate an answer. I also have a lot of lists and circles and arrows pointing to other things and random thoughts. Smack dab in the middle of my current notebook are notes I took at a writing workshop. Sometimes, I'll back to them and read through when I get stuck.

  5. I'm excited for Icefall too. Ack, back up your files. My laptop went into the ER because something came loose. Luckily I had just backed up.

  6. I have about 15 writing notebooks going at once--no exaggeration. There's one for each project, one for my purse, one for my crocheting bag, one for my desk, one for my backpack, one get the idea! I think there are so many notebooks scattered around the house with so many words in them (written in my very bad handwriting) that my family no longer bothers to look at them.

    When I have a file open on my computer, though--that's another story. My kids can get sucked into a story from ten feet away, so if I don't want them jumping into the middle of a book, or reading a first draft, I have to make sure I don't leave files open!

    Let us know if you figure out that phone number :)

  7. I have quotes in my notebook, too, along with writing prompts and exercises, and notes for future projects. Now my desk--that's another story. Scraps of paper galore, and all over the map--lists, reminders, bits of overheard conversations, web addresses...and, yes, a reminder to back up my files. I think I need a notebook to organize my desk!

  8. Those are awesome quotes! And I've got to write those two books down. I don't read as much MG as I wish I could. There just not enought time to do everything. Wouldn't it be fun to have a job where you read and write all day? And get paid for it? Tee hee!

  9. Car, I find that writing and answering my own questions really helps with my writing.

    Cheryl, my kids always read what I leave up on the screen too! Definitely have to remember to close my files.

    Christy, Donald Maass' book is full of gems like clear and really getting at the heart of what you need to do, as a writer. It makes me want to buy more of his books!


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