As you know, Bob, Claire and James, I’m a big fan of notebooks. I have a great many of them, all shapes, all sizes, all makes. But my true love is the humble (yet pricey) Moleskine. Here’s some of them which live in my house:
At any given time I will (unless my bag is very small) have 3 moleskines with me. The first moleskine is the general ideas moleskine. This moleskine has no structure. It goes with me everywhere and I make random notes in it – story ideas, names (in fact I robbed a colleague of her niece and niece’s husband-to-be of their names as they were so pretty and unique), but also observations, addresses of cool buildings, the names of roads or areas that sound intruing. Pratts Bottom, anyone? This moleskine also goes with me to any SCBWI or CBC talks, conferences or events and it’s then used to take down notes. In my current working one, I have artwork drawn and dedicated to me by Chris Riddell and Tony DiTerlizzi and I love it.
The second notebook is a more recent thing. It’s basically the notebook for the story I’m working on at the moment. If an idea grows tentacles and legs and it seems worthwhile and clings to me like a baby monkey, it gets its own notebook. This is the spitballing notebook where the story idea, characters, and the world is built in. This is the “what if” notebook. It’s filling up fast, especially as I ask more of myself and the world I’m creating. It’s basically becoming my story-bible. More characters and backstories are turning up, along with photos of characters. More research about folklore and fairytale variants go in there and literally whatever else influences me to make the story. What’s not helping though is that I’ve become super superstitious about it. To the point where I almost suffered a panic attack recently when it went missing for 2 days (it got shoved under the couch along with other papers when unexpected visitors turned up). In my mind – don’t laugh, I swear I’m not crazy – if anything is written down in the Grimm Notebook (as it’s commonly referred to) it somehow takes on a life of its own and has to be written into the story in Real Life. I know. I told you I’m not crazy! It makes sense, I swear it does.
When I spoke to a friend (that girl Tanya Byrne) recently about getting an agent and how to handle the editorial notes, she suggested I put everything in one place, to keep things tidy so that they are easy to refer to. And to me that said: editorial notebook. So I went and chose a larger style moleskine from the pile I have at home, pasted the Mushenska’s editorial comments in on the page and I got to making notes for myself. And as I’m working through the manuscript I’m making notes and side commentaries to myself – they are like musings, about the changes I’ve made etc. and things to remember further on in the story when I get there because of the changes I’d made earlier on.
Ages ago I read The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp and in there she talks about having boxes for her different projects she works on and completes. Once a project is completed, she closes the lid and moves on, but if needs be, the box is still there to rifle though. I like the idea of this, but honestly, starting out, a box is still far too big for me. I’m happy with my notebooks, they make sense to me. And it’s something else that I remember China Mieville saying at a talk I attended some time ago: people ask you how to write and how you write and your process, and then you can them how you work, but the big thing is, they have to figure out how to do things for themselves. Some people get angry because there is no pattern to follow, no recipe to carefully measure out. All we can do is see how others do it and muddle along as best we can, hoping we can figure out our own way. I wanted to stand up and applaud because this, this is how I’ve muddled along and this is how it works for me.
3 moleskines works for me because I’m not a tidy person in my head, but I need to be tidy with my writings and this is one way I’m managing that. Nuts or sane?