Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Praise Of Wire-bound Notebooks

Like many writers, I love office supplies. I can spend an hour wandering the aisles of Office Depot or Office Max, lusting after pens, paper cutters, and staplers—"Look! This one has a built-in staple remover!"—even though I have such things already.

One of my lusts, though, I can always indulge in because one can never have too many: wire-bound notebooks. They come in many colors and patterns and sizes; they come with tightly spaced lines, with more loosely spaced lines, with graph paper, or blank; some have pockets; some have dividers; the wire ring may be on the left, top (great for us lefties!), or right. There's a wire-bound notebook for every conceivable purpose, and obviously one needs to have one of each kind on hand, just in case!

Here's how I use them in my writing.
  1. Notes for novels. I start a fresh notebook for each novel. In it, I jot down title ideas, character ideas, plot ideas, timelines, lists of features of places or characters, maps, mind maps, and other aids to writing the book. Sometimes I also keep track of how many hours I work each day on that book and how many words I produced.
  2. Client contacts. I keep a notebook near the phone and use it to take notes when I have a phone meeting with a client or when a possible new client calls me to discuss a project. I write down the date and the client's name, email address, and phone number (even for existing clients). With this notebook, I can always find the details of a conversation quickly or remind myself of someone's name.
  3. Random jottings. I keep a smaller notebook in my purse so that any time I have an idea, I can write it down before I forget. I pull it out when I have a story idea, when someone recommends a book or a make-up or a costume supplier, when I see a book at the bookstore that looks interesting but I want to check whether I already have it, the name and email address of writers I meet, and various and sundry other notes.
  4. Conference notes. When I go to writers' conferences or sf/f cons, I see many people at the panels just listening to the speakers. If I did that, the information would disappear from my brain the moment I walked out the door. I have to reinforce what I'm hearing by writing it down and looking at it on the page. So I always carry a notebook at conferences to take notes in. (It also gives me a place to write down the time and location of parties people tell me about.) The notebooks with hard backs are particularly useful for notetaking without a desk.
  5. Blog ideas. I have a notebook dedicated to ideas for blog posts for those weeks in which I can't think of a topic.
  6. Word ideas. I have trouble making up alien words for sf/f stories. So I keep a little notebook in which I write down the words that pop up for word verification in blogs and Websites that have comment moderation enabled.
If you want to get really decadent, you can get personalized notebooks, such as the one at right, which I ordered and customized at Vistaprint. You can even create your own design from scratch and upload it to be put on a notebook cover at Vistaprint, Cafe Press, and presumably other online printing places.

How do you use notebooks to help you with your writing? Have I missed any valuable uses?

Thanks for stopping by today. I'll be blogging again on November 5, when I'll talk a little about the brainstorming technique of mind mapping.

—Shauna Roberts


Farrah Rochon said...

Oh, Shauna, your notebook is lovely!!! And so very tempting.

I wrote my entire first novel in a Mead 3-Subject spiral bound notebook, so I've always been a huge fan. :)

These days, each new book gets its own notebook. I use them for jotting down any notes necessary for the story. A couple of years ago, I found what I consider the perfect notebook. It's a 5x7 spiral bound notebook with a pocket in the front and an elastic band to help keep it closed. I bought 25 of them, so I have them for many years to come. :)

I do love the thought of a notebook with my name on it, though.

Charles Gramlich said...

I still have some wire bound notebooks from graduate school. I always loved them too. These days, though, I do almost all my notes and stuff on computer. FOr me it's practical because my handwriting is so bad'

Phyllis Bourne said...

Shauna - LOVE the personalized notebook! While I buy spiral bound notebooks all the time, I always end up using yellow legal pads.

KeVin K. said...

Top-bound wire notebooks were my tools of choice before I could afford a laptop. I wrote everywhere and transcribed at night on the family computer (kids' homework had priority). I still have a few around. On my job I use 8x5 steno-type notebooks for keeping client notes while in the field and transcribe them to the agency database from 7-8 each morning before the day officially begins.

I still use a top-bound wire notebook with a thick back cover loaded & with graph paper for brainstorming and structuring plots.

G said...

I usually use mine as scrap for writing blog posts. Makes it easy when I'm hanging ten in my backyard or walking around town.

I also use for the time when I feel like doing a little writing by hand because it forces me to concentrate more on a given scene than sometimes doing it via the coimputer.

Also use it when I have to re-write large sections and would rather have it plotted out and written first before messing around with it on the computer.

Shauna Roberts said...

FARRAH, those Mead 3-Subject notebooks are great. I love all the pockets. If only they made them in a left-handed version. I always end up having to start from the ugly back.

CHARLES, my handwriting is pretty bad, too, but there are things I can do with a notebook easily that are hard on the computer. Venn diagrams, for one. Also maps. Long lists that I want to be able to see the whole thing at once. Drawing arrows to connect related ideas.

PHYLLIS, that's funny—me too. Even though I have a stack of beautiful, pristine notebooks in my office, I'll often search out a ratty old legal pad instead to write something. I feel as if only something special is notebook-worthy.

KEVIN, how do you use the graph paper for structuring plots? In the same way some writers use a spread sheet? Or do you have your own method?

G, thanks for sharing how you use notebooks. I also find it easier to write down plot ideas and rearrange them on paper.