A to Z Challenge

Notebooks and Other Things for Writing

N is for Notebooks.

Being a writer is an exciting journey. You can write on most anything. Yet there are those who believe that there is only one right way to do your writing: on a high-end high-tech laptop (sometimes called a notebook). But that’s just silly. You don’t need tech to be a writer. You need to write to be called a writer.

Twitter, and a few other social media networks, is a great place for writers to tell other writers how much they’ve been writing, what they’ve been writing on, how great a program has helped them to write, etc.

But it can get a little elitist. Why? Because there’s this misconception that real writers only use programs like Scrivener to get their writing done and that anyone who has a different approach isn’t a real writer.

*I’m not saying you cannot use Scrivener and other tools to help you, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be a bully about it. I love tech. We’ll be looking at tech for writers with T later this month.*

Why this little soapbox moment?

Because even though we all have found ways to be excellent writers, be productive and do what we love (while lying our arses off on Twitter about how awesome everything is, crying a little because we have to keep up with everyone else), we are creating an unhealthy environment. We are setting expectations about writing and the writing life that just isn’t manageable. We aren’t Richard Castle or Jessica Fletcher: we’re real people. (Check out what it’s really like to be a writer with this post from earlier this month.)

Which means we have to do the laundry, keep the house clean, visit with friends (before they think we’re dead or have written them off), keep appointments with healthcare providers, not swear in the streets while talking to fictional friends, take care of the children, balance the budget, get enough sleep, and remember to eat.

And we have to write.

I always carry a pen and a notebook in my handbag – and a novel to read, of course. My old cell phone had a great app to take notes on. The back of the coffee date bill makes for a great place to write. Napkins do in a pinch. Voice notes while driving can be transcribed later.

The point: make notes when inspiration strikes, write whole scenes when they unfold before you – even if you’re in the waiting room somewhere.

Real writers write.

Friends know that the perfect gift for me is a notebook (the actual paper version). I have a whole collection of them. Some are filled with story notes, scenes, characters, plot points, etc. Others are empty and waiting.

I have a box full of random pieces of paper with notes on them. I’ve typed them and stored them in different files (and on different backup devices) for later use. But I haven’t thrown out that box. Not yet. Maybe because it reminds me that the writing magic can happen anywhere at any time?

So, what do you need to be a writer?

Words and the will to put them on paper (or screen).

My method (if you’re interested):

After the research, character development and plotting is done, and a little notebook is filled with everything for this story:

  • I write longhand either in a notebook or on an exam pad. I write the entire story, letting the words flow from me. Sure, my handwriting isn’t pretty and sometimes it’s downright illegible, but the story gets written.
  • I then type it, proofread and print it.
  • Then I take this printed out draft and read it through, making notes, fixing typos that had slipped through with a red pen, and just follow the story. Then I rewrite it. I type it. I print it. I edit it. I type it again and then it is usually done and ready for beta readers.

Three stages of my writing.

Everyone has their own method. This is mine and it works great for me. Why all the non-tech stuff? Because in my country you never know when the electricity is going to be off (either because of load shedding or because a transformer had blown up thanks to theft). You have to adapt to your circumstances. You have to figure out what’s the best way for you to write.

When I write a first draft, I can write fifteen to twenty thousand words in a day. I shared this one year with a NaNoWriMo group… And I could tell that I made the others feel bad about their own pace: most kept to the minimum word count (around a thousand seven hundred words) or at most five thousand words.  (That’s one reason I don’t share my daily word count anymore.)

But when you have the worldbuilding done, the characterisation done, the plot mostly in order, time, and the energy and determination, you can get your first draft written quite quickly. Because you shouldn’t edit while writing. When I take that printed out draft and a red pen out, a lot of words fall. It takes time to get it perfect – a lot more than writing that first draft.

How to save time to get the writing done:

  • Don’t tell everyone on Twitter how many words you’ve written today – it’s time you could’ve spent writing.
  • Turn off the internet.
  • Spend less time in front of the TV.

And check out this great post from earlier this month: how to write but still have a life.

Yes, you need your work digital. Whether you’re going traditional or indie, your words need to be typed and in digital format. Which means you’ll need a computer.

I had a great shock in December when my computer died. It was irreparable (something about the parts being a few years old and compatible replacement parts aren’t available). I wrote about it in January.

Buying a new computer is a huge commitment. (Time, money, your career.) I borrowed a laptop in the interim. I was researching everything and thinking long term. I found one that would work well, had extra programs that would help with reducing costs on publishing stuff, would help with the whole electricity problem, and lots of other perks.

But I would have to borrow a lot of money to get that right. And with my fledgling indie career I didn’t think it was the best investment at the time.

What my computer set-up looks like now.

Thankfully my tech guy came through: his company was clearing old stock and tech from their storerooms and he was able to get me a PC (though its capacity isn’t nearly what I had before) that would work with my screens for next to nothing. And it is practically brand new. He even got me a new keyboard – some of the keys on my old one weren’t working as well as they should (I kill keyboards with my typing). I think the laptop I had borrowed needs a bit of TLC.

You obviously stopped by for a look at notebooks.

And here’s a Pinterest board dedicated to notebooks. Enjoy.

What are your thoughts about things to write on? Do you like notebooks? Do you have a favourite pen?

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