I was asked recently how I start writing a book. Well, I’ll let you in on a super secret: it all starts with the right notebook. Really.
And it can’t be just any notebook. I like colored ones. I have two that I work between–one that is sort of lime green and the other is bright blue. I like those colors because when my office turns into a bomb scene, either because I am in full writing/research/what the heck did I call that butler mode, my office can get a tad bit messy. So a neon bright notebook stands out and at the very least I can find my working pages.
Here is the one I’ve got started for the book I am calling Pippin & the Pirate. That’s just the working title, so don’t start looking for it.
The first step in getting a notebook together is getting just the right cover sheet. Normally this means a trip over to Candice Hern’s Print Collections where I find just the most perfect fashion plate and, ahem, borrow it for the cover. Sorry for the lopsided photo. I’ve tried for like the last 45 minutes to fix it and I’ve lost patience. But you get the point. Actually this isn’t the right print and I will probably be swapping it out for this one of Lyme Regis when it was hit with a storm last March. Fits the mood of the book better.
Well, you really shouldn’t judge a notebook by its cover, so what’s inside this notebook that makes it work, at least for me? Well, I have it divided into chapters, and then into various reference sections in the back. I like having all the chapters neatly divided because I will go back to make changes while I am writing and with the notebook at my elbow, I just flip it open to the right spot in the book, make a hasty note and go back to the pages on the screen. I never go back and rewrite sections of the book until I am completely done with the manuscript.
Since these characters, Pippin and Dash, have appeared in so many other books, I have copied out their previous scenes so I have them readily at hand. I also keep all the notes I take in my pre-writing stages. I hand write out notes and ideas about chapters before I compose it on the computer and I file these notes away once the chapter is complete because sometimes when I am rewriting, I go back to those initial thoughts as a starting point to see where it was I intended to go with a scene, what happened when I was writing it and if the final sequence is missing something. This is what a note page might look like:
In the research section, I currently have pages I’ve copied from the internet on Turkish Delight. Well, who said hunting recipes on the internet isn’t a good use of your time! I’ll be adding pictures and diagrams of ships, history timelines and fashion plates from the years that the story covers. My notebook is like my security blanket, but also the end of my procrastination and hemming and hawing about getting to work. With a notebook at the ready, there is no excuse but to write.
So you’ll excuse me while I get to work . . .