Hey guys! This is Lys, and I am very excited to introduce our guest blogger today: The fabulous Hannah Heath! Hannah is an awesome blogger friend who loves talking about writing and books over on her blog (I am particularly fond of her book-inspired recipes). Check out her bio at the end of this post to find out more!
I think one of the stupidest phrases writers repeat to themselves is, “Oh, I don’t have to write that down. I’ll remember when I need it.”
I don’t know about you, but I used to tell myself that all the time. I swear us writers have this devil-muse sitting on our shoulder, feeding us horrible lies about the irrelevance of note-taking. Because I can’t think of any other reason for my letting perfectly good ideas or sentences die because I didn’t jot them down. Unless I’m just stupid, but honestly, I prefer the devil-muse theory.
After losing an insane amount of ideas for books, short stories, and blog posts, I decided I needed to come up with some kind of plan. Sure, I had a big journal for book ideas. And a small journal for random ideas. And a medium journal for ideas inspired by other people’s books. Which sounds good in theory, but it ended up leaving me with a mess of ideas scattered about, easily lost or forgotten. Exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to avoid.
After much opposition from my devil-muse, I came up with 5 different ways to take notes, not just for books, but for short stories, blog posts, even essays and query letters. It’s made a huge difference. Check it out:
- Pocket Notebooks. These things are the bomb. They’re cheap and small, so you can buy a few and slip them in your pocket, in your purse, and leave one lying around on your writing desk. If you’re out and about (or just browsing the internet as writers are wont to do) and get an awesome idea, jot down a few words and save it for later. Sure, you can use your smart phone for this. But I’m still using a lame flip phone too hipster for that, so I use pocket books to take quick “mini notes” that make sense to no one but myself. Now, obviously, having a bunch of mini notes cluttering up your room isn’t very organized. Don’t worry. That’s what number 2 and 3 are for:
- Highlighting system for journals. This journal is meant for more comprehensive notes, not the mess of random words that make up your mini notes. Dedicate certain journals to certain books and keep them in the room that you find yourself in the most. When an idea hits, you can write out an explanation in your journal. This is also where you get to transfer your mini notes…or, if you’re lazy, you can just tape your notes directly into it. Instead of trying to keep your journal divided into separate sections for characters, plot ideas, dialogue lines, name ideas, and descriptive passages, use highlighters to color-code. Give each new idea its own header, such as “Character idea,” then highlight the header in pink. Have piece of dialogue? Label it “Dialogue” and highlight it yellow. This makes it easy to flip through your journal and find whatever piece of information you’re looking for. The only downside is that every time you see a color, you will associate it with some kind of writing element. Oh well.
- Virtual journal. This is for those of you who find it easier to type out your ideas. It’s the exact same concept as #2, with a few differences. You simply hit “ctrl F” to search for bits of information rather than looking for a certain color in a journal. It’s also more organized and, because you don’t have five or six journals hanging around, you have space freed up for more books. Yay!
- Pinterest Boards. I’m going to use a really cliché phrase here. Ready? Try not to wince: A picture is worth a thousand words. Okay, that wasn’t so bad. Anyway, sometimes pictures or drawings are a more effective form of note-taking. They can trigger ideas or work as reminders. You can even add little notes in the pin description area to help yourself out. If you’re worried about people stealing your ideas, make your board secret. Or you can simply disguise things a bit by using character initials instead of names. This also has the added bonus of promoting your book without even trying. I keep a general “My Stories” board, and I’ve had three random people get interested by my pins and ask where they can buy my book. Unfortunately, I’m not yet published, but hey, at least I’ll have a built-in sales platform when I finally take that leap.
- Invest in a magnetic whiteboard for your wall. Every writer should have one of these babies, even if it’s just a small one. Trust me. Not only are they great for scratching out quick notes that you don’t want to transfer to a journal, such as ideas for your next blog post, but the magnetic part gives you a place to pin up your mini paper notes that are waiting to be transferred to a journal. Plus, you can doodle inspirational quotes along the top to give you something pretty to look at.
And there you have it. 5 different ways to take notes for your writing. Mix and match, add some techniques of your own, and continue to write awesome stories. What for? Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory. Or, you know, because it’s your passion and all that good stuff.
Many thanks to the lovely ladies of TGNA (specifically Lys) for inviting me to post here today. And thank you for reading! If you know of any other ways to take notes for writing projects, I’d love to hear about them. Just leave a comment below.
Having fun storming the castle,
Hannah Heath is an aspiring author and hopeless bookworm. She loves searching for old books at thrift stores, she winces every time she hears the phrase “I don’t like to read,” and she often wishes someone would invent candles that smell like hardcovers. She writes young adult Christian Fantasy and is currently seeking representation for her first novel, The Stump of the Terebinth Tree. You can find Hannah on Facebook and