Something of Note…
I’m well rested after two weeks under the Sardinian sun and I can finally get down to nailing a first draft and getting some submissions ready for little old New Zealand. While I was away I had no internet connection and no laptop or electronic device of any kind so it’s my first update in a while. Although I had no way of writing electronically I did have the archaic pair of pen and paper. And what a lovely pair they make. The paper was in the form of two brand new notebooks and this is where I hand out some advice. I will let you decide whether it is good or bad but it is something that I adhere to as part of the writing process.
Whenever you embark on a new project a useful tool is a notebook in which to promote your ideas, form schemata, experiment with structure and write loose synopsis for chapters. Pretty much any idea you have for the project you put in this book. This formative stage will help you get off the ground. I like to use A5 size notebooks and I dedicate one to each project I am working on. There is something about putting pen to paper every now and then that makes a liberating change from the ‘keyboard hunch’ and ‘screen squint’ we all encounter with electronic devices.
I like to make each notebook distinctive from the next. Whether coloured or patterned, the notebook lets me know this is an individual work and not a clone of anything else. The first of the two recent notebooks is plain black and lined and will contain all my ideas for my third work of fiction. The other book which has a floral image will be used for my second non-fiction work. While on holiday I would refine the ideas in this ‘Black Book’ until they sounded richer in detail. I would begin with a simple theme or event and then expand and expand until I had a fairly clear synopsis for a chapter. Once I know how that chapter unfolds it should flow when it comes time to type the draft. The ‘Floral Book’ remains untouched but those empty pages are crying out to be scribbled on. Personally I decided the notebook would suit me as a tool after reading the explanatory notes in my copy of ‘Ulysses‘. There are more than 250 pages of notes and most of it is an analysis where whole episodes of the novel are simplified into themes and condensed into ideas as if to understand how the writer formulated the book. The schemata were written to understand those fundamental ideas when Joyce first formulated the book. And this is what your notebook is for – fundamental ideas.
Use your notebook for anything in the process. Repeat yourself again and again if you must until you are convinced of your own message. These are the bones of your book and more you input and the more you refine, when it comes time to fleshing the draft things should simply fall into place. The notebook could be the difference between you having an excellent beginning but no middle and end and having a complete work. It could be the difference between your characters showing particular traits for the first half of your novel and then losing them altogether or consistent characterisation. It could be the cure for some forms of writers block.
When you are stumped, first stand up and walk away from the keyboard. Then pick up your trusty notebook and go to your favourite place to read. Next read over what you have written and align yourself with your original ideas or make the changes that you now see are necessary. That is the beauty of the notebook – it has flexible form. Make of it what you will.
I hope this helps. Onward and good luck.