How to Build a Novel Notebook
Copyright: Vicki Hinze- All rights reserved
First things first. What is a
novel notebook, and why do you, a creative genius, need
A novel notebook is
simply a binder in which you organize and store all the
information pertinent to a single novel.
Why do you need one?
Because the more organized you are,
the less time you spend searching for things you can't
remember where you put, and the more time you spend
geniusing. In other words, more fun time and less
What goes into a novel notebook?
In a word, everything pertinent to
the novel under construction. You can structure your
notebook in any manner that works for you.
I structure mine as follows:
What you need:
A loose leaf binder (so you can
Tabbed Index Labels
I start with a .5" binder so
it doesn't seem so empty, and I don't feel so
overwhelmed. Then when the novel progresses and that's a
tight fit, I move the contents to a 1" binder. By
the time the novel is done, depending upon the novel,
I've graduated to a 2" or even a 4" binder--and
on each progression, I celebrate. I can see my progress!
The tabbed indices mark the topic
headings, so that it's easy to locate whatever you're
after--no rifling through all the pages.
Topic Headings I use:
What goes in each topic?
· Time Sheet: Here I track the
date, time invested, the focus of the investment,
and progress each time I work on this specific
· Correspondence: Copies of all
correspondence that I generate or receive
regarding the novel is kept here.
· Time Line: A brief annual
overview of the characters' histories and dates
of important events in their lives. A story
calendar, of sorts.
· Idea: The first seed of the
story is typed up and captured here. Perhaps only
a couple pages, written, unedited, but containing
the meat of the story theme.
· Characters--Main: The heroine
and heroine. Photos, character biographies,
magazine cut-outs or anything else of interest to
· Characters--Minor: Secondary
character photos, character biographies, magazine
cut-outs or anything of interest to these
· Synopsis: A detailed synopsis
of the novel. My copy is more detailed than the
one submitted, so the version submitted, I
include here, as well.
· Scene Sheets: A separate
sheet for each scene in the novel that includes
information pertinent to that scene. (i.e., the
point of view character, date, time, and place of
the scene. The scene purpose, goal, conflict and
resolution.) I also keep photos of houses, floor
plans, interior rooms here--unless they become
too cumbersome. Then I add a topic:
· Notes: Jottings of anything
that has relevance to the novel but isn't, for
example, a thread that needs to be run through
the novel. Those go directly onto the scene
· Research: Copies of specific
research pertinent to any aspect of the novel are
kept here, as is a list of references/sources
used in compiling information. If I speak to a
doctor, for example, his name, number, and a
synopsis of the conversation will be found here.
· Chapters: The actual novel,
page by page, chapter by chapter. After the first
draft is written, I revise and replace the first
draft with the second one. The only novel draft
that isn't included here is the FINAL.
When the novel is done, I put the
notebook contents into an envelope, label it, and reuse
the binder for the next novel.
Putting together a notebook is
work, yes, but it's efficient work. Having constructed
novels with and without the organizational aid of a
notebook, I find I work a lot faster with one--with less
frustration, and with more time spent creating and less
time spent trying to recall eye colors, or where I read a
tidbit I need and now can't locate.
You can build your novel notebook
in any way which works for you. The important thing is to
structure it so that it is an aid that assists you in
creating. For me, a notebook is an essential tool.
About the author:
Dr. Vicki Hinze is an award-winning, best-selling author
who routinely shares her expertise at national writers'
conferences, online, and through her writing guides. Her
latest non-fiction book is "All About Writing to
Sell", from Spilled Candy Books for Writers. This
589-page ebook covers everything you need to know about
the craft of writing, the publishing business, and the
secrets to getting published. "All About Writing to
Sell" is available at
www.SpilledCandy.com as a download or disk.