You’re lucky if you manage to spot one of these rare specimens. They’re unique in that they’re found in every environment, come in all shapes and sizes with plumage from blonde ringlets to bald pates, and can generally be found engaged in their favourite activity. Yes, you know who I’m referring to – writers with notebooks.
Ideas can be sparked by anything, but as many writers know if you don’t write down that idea while it’s fresh in your mind, it’s often taken wing by the time you reach for it later. Today many of us use electronic devices of one kind or another to write with, but one important tool which shouldn’t be neglected is the humble notebook.
With notebooks, size doesn’t matter, although you might want to choose one small enough to carry around in a pocket or bag. I have half a dozen books of various sizes because at one point I kept leaving my notebook at home. Some writers enjoy indulging in the luxury end of the market, and without doubt there is a certain gratification in opening a notebook whose cover is an ornately designed piece of art, but currently a 50p exercise book suits me fine. Whenever I go out, I always check I have my trusty notebook and a couple of pens with me. In the matter of pens, never rely on one, because it will run out just when you need it most.
Developing the habit of jotting down observations, descriptions of people, and places is worthwhile cultivating. A good exercise to practice when you’re out and about is to spend ten minutes or so writing what you see, hear, and smell. Notice any actions taking place and the different shades and shapes of objects. Are there clouds in the sky? What does the air feel like on your skin? (Although the latter may be easier in seasons when the weather is not too inclement.) Try to create a written snapshot of what is around you. Don’t worry over grammar or punctuation; think like an impressionist painter, it’s all about the moment.
Another use for a notebook is as a diary. Diaries can be used to explore your emotions, and develop a deeper awareness of your internal monologue. Both Virginia Woolf and Somerset Maugham kept notebooks which they found invaluable for different reasons. Maugham because he intended to use what he wrote as a resource, and Woolf often recorded observations regarding her own writing process. Writers naturally take a lot from their life experiences.
Notebooks are also good for morning writing, another practice advocated for improving your writing. The theory is that by writing as soon as you wake, you’re still in contact with your subconscious, and can access ideas and your imagination more easily. Morning writing is freewriting without clustering or a prompt. A warning – this practice needs discipline as groping for a notepad on a dark winter’s morning, and trying to function without coffee didn’t work for me. But I still do my best writing when I’ve made it downstairs to the warm kitchen, and after I’ve drunk my coffee!
The news, wherever you get it from, radio, tv, twitter, newspapers, is an endless source of inspiration. A story needs tension and conflict and you’ll find plenty in any newscast. A notebook is ideal for collecting ideas for later development. Even if you never expand or use much of what you’ve written, the act of observing and recording items which interest you feeds your imagination.
You can use your notebook however you wish: freewriting, diary, morning writing, character sketches, beginnings and expansions of ideas, planning the chain of events for your novel – anything and everything. I know that for me, my notebook has become an invaluable tool in my writing journey.
Last week I was thinking about cutting back on my blog, and posting every two weeks, but yet here I am still posting. I must thank Anne, Carol, Vashti, Christine and Anita for their generous support and encouragement. I also read a blog last week which struck a chord as it pointed out that if you are serious about this writing business, then you should be in for the long haul. And that made me think again.
In the meantime, as I ponder whether to reduce to a bi-monthly blog or not, I’ll continue to post weekly. This week I’ve reworked another of my earliest posts which I believe is still of relevance, and ended up writing more than usual! My new blog resolution is to aim for cheery shorter posts!
You may have noticed the new cover for One Summer in Montmartre. Giving birth to this book is like having your first child – that’s the one you learn most from because that’s the one where you make your mistakes. I changed the cover, not because of negative feedback, but because (diplomatic and thoughtful) feedback from readers said the cover didn’t indicate the genre clearly enough. I’d chosen an illustration because it resonated with the theme, but I took on board that this meant little if you hadn’t read the book.
Derek Murphy’s posts on book cover design (including a tutorial on how to create covers in ms word) pointed me in the right direction, and I went back to scratch creating a mood board of the elements I wanted to convey to readers, et voila!
I don’t believe people set out to make mistakes, but to err is in our nature. We, as human beings are imperfect, and our efforts will have flaws. While trying to be as professional as possible, things can go wrong. You fix them as best you can, and move on learning the lessons for next time. I do believe in this story, and with many prayers and hopes, am sending my book out once more into the world.
red throats and forked tails
swallows soar with wide spread wings
lured by southern warmth
These lovely supportive people write entertaining, informative blogs that are well worth following. Check them out!
Here’s the link to Derek Murphy’s guide to book cover design:
The following two websites are brilliant whether you’re designing your own cover, or just looking to get ideas to give an illustrator.
I’d love it if you checked out my debut novel, One Summer in Montmartre, or popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories... just click on the links to the right.
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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