Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Notebook

Since my childhood in the 1970s, I knew I wanted to write. I cannot recall when I first read that a writer always needs to carry a pen and paper for inspiration’s lightning strikes, but a few months later I was the proud owner of scrap paper piles. I said to myself “Wow, this is helpful.”

Then I heard about keeping a writer’s notebook; the concept impacted my skull like a brick. This eleventh Commandment (somewhere in Leviticus I think), inspired me to load a three ringbinder with two hundred sheets of filler paper and two packs of index tabs. Many hours of scribbling later gave me a full trash bin and an invaluable personal fiction reference resource: my notebook has become a lifestyle.

Later I began writing in another genre: my first act was to split my notes into a second notebook. Duct tape could not revive my original binder, may it rest in pieces, but the system upon which I’ve come to depend, lives on. It doesn’t matter if you write notes in a hard copyfolder or type in e-file, the important thing is your ability to access your own catalog of ideas.

THE TABS: These will vary depending upon one’s form and genre. I write speculative and fantasy fiction so my own look like this:


I’ll detail each of these categories in coming months, but a recent question from the Fellowship of Christian Writers Newsgroup makes me focus on the last in this list: the nebulous SEQUEL NOTES.

gificor@gmail.com asked, “I am trying to organize some of my short story ideas into coherent story outlines. Does anyone have advice and examples?”

The following methodology serves either long or short fiction:

I begin with a concept, an inkling of story-line and characters, then turn to my SEQUEL NOTES tab to gather up some particulars. My loose outline is left intentionally rough in order to accommodate brainstorms that occur as I create.

Themes: this is where I start. Meaningful fiction carries messages. List here the social concerns that have weighted your heart to address in future fiction.
Plots: I’ve begun with a kernel, but this treasure of notes fleshes out the skeleton.
Scene Ideas: little mind’s-eye concepts that add silk leather and velvet to each tale.
Characters: the heart of any story. By now I have enough of the story constructed that I can fill one page bios.
Concepts: The little things that would otherwise slip the cracks between characters and construct: symbolism, misdirection, strategy, etc.
Snappy Lines: a record of THAT’S-what-I-should-have-said. One of the advantages of our craft is time.

Every writer’s bag of tricks is of unique cloth, but each of us dumps it out our work must have details and depth.

“Trifles go to make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”
–Michelangelo Buonarroti

To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris



Anonymous said...

Holy Library of Congress, Batman!

An organized writer? Who woulda thunk it? Well, I guess I fall somewhere between the organized and disorganized sort. Every few months I say to myself, “Gosh. This place of mine is a wreck!” and launch myself into a frenetic period of reorganization. It usually gets me back to the point of being about halfway organized (and serves to remind me of just how many things I still have unfinished).

Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea of where (i.e, in which disorganized stack) something I need is located… until my wife comes through in one of her frenetic fits of reorganization…

This place of mine is a wreck!
Would you excuse me for a few days…er…weeks?


Anonymous said...

At a Writer’s Digest seminar about a year ago, it was suggested that you have a notebook for each project you’re working on, and that it be a special notebook that represents your main character or your theme. The instructor said to “take your main character shopping with you” — pick out the perfect notebook, even a special pen just for writing in THAT notebook, little momentos that will inspire you — anything that will stir the creative juices. While I haven’t gone so far as to buy a pen for every project, I have a stack of notebooks, most of them decorative spiral-bound 5×7 sized, and they house the specifics of each major project brewing on the many burners in my mind! Then there is one specific notebook for all the short stories that blossom from time to time.

If it keeps you writing, do whatever it takes. I have a necklace I purchased for an absurdly paltry sum, but it looks like a dragon’s scale! (it’s really abalone shell…) When I’m writing a story about dragons, I wear it. Another cheap little necklace is my dragon’s tooth! You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but small things like this can set your mind spinning, and suddenly the sky’s the limit! No matter what kind of notebook, pen, or artifact, the very best asset of any writer is the fertile ground of our imaginations. May they never run dry.


Anonymous said...

Scott, you are an inspiration. Organization is my downfall. I need to do more in the way of keeping the details straight, but if I attempted something on the scale you have done, I would be working more on my organization than on my writing. My style is rather scary in that regard, and can be summed up in two words: “Whatever works”. I know many writers, and no two do it the same. Some are hyper organized, some just sit down and start rattling out thoughts, starting in the middle of a story and working both directions. Wow… I outline heavily, but don’t stick to my outline too rigorously. Cheese Runners was the one exception to my rule of outlining. That one, I shot from the hip. I rather like the result, but humor is a spontaneous thing with me. I can’t really plan it. Anyway, good advice as always!
Cheers! Chris J.

Anonymous said...

I have not organized like that but I do have a lot of notes from resources. Notes about characters that I may or may not use. Snippets about what’s coming up. Glad to see that I’m not alone in sorting out the crazy story that’s in my mind.
Regards, Chris