Friday, 10 August 2007

Coffee Break

Hi, come in, what can I get you to drink? Do help yourself to biscuits, yes, I know, they're the best, aren't they?

So how's the writing going? Me, I'm struggling with my third draft. There seems like an awful lot to do – I know I am making progress, because some of the ‘to do’ list is already ticked off, but just at the moment it feels horribly slow.

I have another question for you, too. I've read loads of how-to books and websites, and many of them say 'always carry a notebook so you don't miss anything'. At least one writer I know does this, writes in it a LOT (during meals, in the middle of gigs, on the bus, etc) and spends ages typing up her notes. So, do you carry a notebook or not? If so, how do you use the notebook and the notes you make? If not, why not?

And, in the interests of fairness, here's my answer. I only carry a notebook computer (I'm keyboard dependent) if I know I'm going to be bored, e.g. when I'm travelling. I do then sometimes use it for writing descriptions of people I see and places I go, but I rarely use them when I'm working on my WIP; I rely on my knowledge, imagination and memory. Mostly, although I love writing, I don't want to carry its paraphernalia with me ALL the time. But I do struggle with descriptive writing, far more than with dialogue, and I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm missing a trick. Which is why I'm asking the question, because I'd love to know what everyone else does.


Jen said...

Ooh, Ms Cyclamen, with these biscuits you are truly spoiling us... Mmmm, scrummy!

Notebooks, yes. I carry one. I don't often remember to write in it though sometimes I will sit in a pub or a cafe or whatever and write about what I can see - peculiar people (or the lack thereof), the cheap 'n' nasty salt & pepper pots, the trombone which is, for some reason, attached to the ceiling... anything really.

More often, though, I'll just grab it when I have a thought that I don't want to forget: a couple of words that would make a good chapter title, a bit of something that I can stick in the novel (such as the genuine worry in Pizza Express that I wouldn't be able to get my jeans done up again as I'd had to lie on the bed to get the zip up when I'd got ready an hour before!).

When the men in white coats come, they'll be using my book as evidence.

Oh, but if you scribble frantically in a restaurant, you get extra-special service; they think you might be a food/restaurant critic.

Oh dear, I do ramble. Oh, and I've writeen 5,000 words or so this week which I am really rather chuffed about. Raaaaaah.

Helen said...

Good Morning. Yes I do carry a notebook. A lovely stripey one with elastic on to keep it closed from Paperchase. I scribble down all my ideas for both my novel and also feature article ideas, an idea I've had for another blog, journals to approach and snippets of words and sentences after I've read a book I want to review. I love my stripey notebook. As yet I haven't read much of it back, but I don't need to yet. I know all my ideas are in there safely tucked away. Once I start my second draft I will.

Confidence is up this week on non-fiction front thanks to a review I've had published on Trashionista. Second draft may no longer be started next week but possibly week after...

liz fenwick said...

No i don't carry a notebook most of the time. If something is a must write down I'll jot a brief note in my diary. I do have a journal which doesn't often travel in daily life where I sketch out ideas or scenes though and I loved that. If something clicks while I'm writing that is where it goes down so I don't lose it!

No writing at all at present nor will there be until i am in Dubai but I am reading, reading, reading and thinking. My head is swimming with the ideas for novel number three taking into consisderation all the mistakes I made with one - ie not enough twists. I should be plotting a the rewrite of A Cornish House but if I am it certainly isn't concious at all.

Thanks for the yummy biscuits!

NoviceNovelist said...

Oh I just wrote a realy long comment and then my internet connection died and I lost it!!!! Short version is - great biccies thanks Zinnia!!!! I have a stationary fetish so buy too many notebooks!! I only use them to jot thoughts/ideas - I can only actually write on my laptop.

I struggled with descritpion for years and think it is because I started out as a playwright. I now have myself trained to stay in the moment on the page and have a good look around at what is going on and then describe it. This has realy helped me. It took a while to get the hang of it though and it is only since I got over my fear of it that I started to write a novel. I think I linger too much on people entering and leaving rooms though - playwright legacy - I'm trying to cure that one at the moment and reading random snatches of novels to see how it is handled.

I'm going to see how many times I've used 'door' in my first draft just for a laugh - it is probably my most used word!!! My characters are probably exhausted by all their coming and goings!! Would be fine if I was writing a farce...

Rowan Coleman said...

Hello people, thanks Zinnia for biscuits and good topic. On notebooks, know I don't really use one in that 'must jot idea down' way, although I do have a nice flowery one in my bag at all times so if people ask me 'do you carry a notebook for ideas' I can show it to them to prove that I am a proper writer. What I do always have is an open notebook on my desk while I'm using my PC to write, then if I have an idea about how a character might react to something I've just written,or for a plot twist or something I need to change or have to tie in from earlier material I'll jot it down as I go becuase I know I'll forget if I don't. Ideas, once I've had a good think about them seem to stay in my head. Whether or not this will go on as I get older I don't know, bearing in my mind that yesterday I got lost walking to a friends house in the town I grew up in just because I was thinking of ideas and lost track of where I was going. See, if I used my nice flowery notebook that wouldn't have happened. Curses. This week writing is going really well and in that rare precious buzzy stage, at 97K so here's hoping I keep it up for the final push! Rx

Graeme K Talboys said...

(Wiping crumbs from mouth.)

I have a boxful of notebooks. They are cheapo, A5 spiral bound, with perforated pages that can be torn out. One by the bed, one on my desk, one in the front room by my chair. I also have a small policeman's type notebook to slip in my pocket on the rare occasions I go out. I would have one in the shower (where I have all my best ideas) if they didn't turn to pulp and block up the drain.

I will scribble anything into them and review them now and then. Ideas will come together that have been bubbling in my subconscious and I'll tear out those pages and put them in a folder and play with them occasionally. Eventually something will come out of that.

As an example I had bits of a story that had been brewing for several years, but I didn't know it was there until I saw a common theme in my notes and began extracting those pieces.

That gave me several short stories, which in turn led to the novel I'm writing now.

Any more biscuits?

Leatherdykeuk said...

I used to carry a notebook, but when it got to the point that I became embarrassed to look at what I'd written in it, I gave up. Now I compose haiku instead, which gives me two things for the price of one: an aide-memoir and a publishable poem :)

I've had a good week, 8.5K and still today to go, but my muscles ache from beginning (yet another) martial art.

Rowan Coleman said...

I'm starting to suffer from notebook envy....Graeme you've got it all covered! By the way people I'm running a short creative writing course in September, I hope you don't mind if when people ask me about notesbooks and related matters I tell them all of your different methods? It's so interesting.

ChrisH said...

Good topic and very interesting responses. I carry a small notebook so that if I have an idea on the move I can make a quick note of it. However, as with talking about a book too much, I don't want to write too much before I'm ready to roll because I like to keep my powder dry... maybe that's why I'm struggling with my rewrite!

Jen said...

Hello Graeme! How nice to see another former A215-er in our humble doodahs :)

CTaylor said...

I've been keeping notebooks for years and have built up quite a pile of them now. I always keep a lined A5 notebook in my bag which add to the clutter and weight (am sure one of my shoulders is lower than the other now!). I always buy a different style notebook each time I buy one - that way I've got a rough idea which book was from which writing year.

I use the notebook for all kinds of things - snippets of overheard conversations, ideas for short stories, ideas for first lines, observations and, more recently, I used it to sketch out ideas for novel #1. If you read through it can can see how my novel changed from my initial idea to to the novel it is now. There's an outline of the chapters in there, a breakdown of the next few scenes I was going to write when I got blocked and all kinds of bits and bobs and idea scribbled in the margins. If I'd lost my notebook while I was writing novel #1 I'd have been in big trouble!

At the moment my notebook is looking a bit unloved - I haven't written much in it recently but that reflects the fact I haven't been writing recently.


JJ said...

Hello everyone

Thanks for hosting Zinnia.

I have a small (policemen type) notebook which goes in my bag always for all sorts of reminders: to do lists, names to books to buy or investigate, reminders to myself, snippets to be used in writing, ideas for articles, etc. But I prefer to type than write long hand (mostly) so it's only for reminders.

I buy lots and lots of exercise books, of varying types, and hardly ever write in them more than once. I have no idea why. I'm a bit crap like that.

I've managed quite a lot of planning this week and to make a start on the writing aswell so I'm hopeful for the coming weeks.

Kate.Kingsley said...

Mmmmmmmmmm, Leibniz ~ more chocolate than biscuit indeed!

Helen ~ well done on Trashionista review ~ I�ll be popping over to read that once I�m done here. And WOW on the Peppa pig cake ~ that�s a triumph!

I am a notebooker ~ addicted to buying the blimming things, and I do carry one with me as I need to jot down ideas or snippets of prose before they evaporate (the �I SWEAR I will not forget this sparkling gem before I get back to the WIP� approach has seen me lose a lot of potentially great bits & bobs over the years, so I take no chances now. If stuck without my notebook I have been known to make shorthand notes on bus tickets or tissue whilst skulking on the loo ~ these make for interesting reading when I relocate them at the bottom of my bag three months later with a cough sweets stuck to them. They often make no sense whatsoever, always reminds me of the �fax me a haddock� episode of Seinfeld, in which Jerry awakes in the night and scribbles down details of the funniest joke ever, but can�t decipher it the next day. I must confess I�m no good at all with the pen & paper by the bed for night-time inspiration, though.

Not much in the way of words this week ~ ailments and commitments have conspired against me. A bit disappointing, but then again a bit of time away from it all and probably been for the best. Will be back to the grindstone soon.

Have a good weekend, all ~ happy writing,

Best wishes
Kate K

Caroline said...

Hi all.
I am a notebook carrying and scribbling kind of girl. I also carry a pencil case and a book to read(I have a large handbag). I am with Helen and have a lovely stripey notebook (with elastic) from Paperchase and it has a matching pen. I am a bit anal with my stationary.

I'm finishing the second draft and writing the blurb/updating my website about Black Boxes. So it's all a bit 'nice' at the moment.

Have a good week.

Cathy said...

I do keep a small notebook in my bag, but it is used for everything -noting down appointments/phone numbers etc as I don't carry my diary, occasional observations for descriptive writing (the last one was of pigeons pecking at a pile of dried out vomit - yuk!), character and plot ideas etc etc.

On the computer I have started to use Google notebook to compile quick ideas, log useful urls and addresses can make notebooks on different subjects so it is a little more organised.

No novel writing again this week, it is just too noisy here in the holidays! But I am still planning, plotting, straightening ideas in my in my mind as I want to sort out a complicated timeline for the starts in the middle, will go backwards and forwards until it reaches the starting point and then will probably be straightforward to the end, I think. But everything is subject to change!

Great to see you here too Graeme! Hope you enjoyed Zinnias lovely biscuits, there don't seem to be many left now! That will teach me to be late...

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks for the coffee break and for the treats, Zinnia.

I don't have a notebook that I carry with me. I have tons of them around the house, though. All of them have notes and scribbles and little jots of things. I admit, it's a very disorganized way of doing things, but every time I try to get organized, I fail. If I'm outside the house and something strikes me, I grab whatever paper I can - napkins, business cards, receipts, etc. - and write it down. If I'm lucky those notes make it out of my purse and onto the computer.

Off topic, I'm really behind with seeing all the new members, so forgive me for not welcoming you, Graeme. (And anyone else I missed.) Hi.

Feel free to use my comments in your writing course, Rowan. The one thing I always try to remember is that there's no one right way to go about this crazy business of writing. Just look at all the ways the Racers do things. ;o)

I knocked another thousand words out of my third book this week. Oh, and I sent my first book off unsolicited to a publisher. From the good feedback I've gotten on my synopsis, hope are high.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hello everybody. Good to be here. Happy to be quoted on notebooks. I have to use them as my memory is crap. I also tend to have things well organised as I have mobility problems. If I have an idea in the front room, it will have gone by the time I get to the study, so I need to be able to write things down there and then.

I did another chapter on my latest this week (2319 words). Although I call it a first draft, I'm doing preliminary rewrites on this as I'm posting it on a weekly (or so) basis on an OU forum. Great for me as there is pressure to keep up the pace otherwise people start pestering. I also get lots of feedback, which is even better. I have samples with several agents, but it clearly hasn't excited interest as yet.

A lot of this material is coming from notebook jottings, as well as the huge folder I now have of research material. Sad, I know, but I get a real buzz out of organising my bits of paper and collating all the stuff into a single text.

A. Writer said...

Hello all!

I don't like coffee but I'll help myself to some biscuits, ta! :)

As for a notebook. I tried having one but I kept losing it. I need a notepad for my day job (the non-writing job I do) so I find myself scribbling stuff on that, ripping it off and stuffing it in my pocket. I have loads of bits of paper with scribbles on it. Not very organised but it works for me.

Emily Hendricks said...

I do carry a tiny notebook in my purse. Half the time when I go back and read my notes (ideas that come to me during the day when I'm not close to the computer) I can't read what I've written, but I'm getting better than that...

KeVin K. said...

I carry a notebook, the sort that fits in my hip pocket. Though it's as likely to have the phone number from the "for sale" sign in some sports car's window as a story idea. (There's a dark blue Lexus by the gas station -- they're only asking my gross annual income.) I'll write turns of phrase I overhear, or bits of description, or solutions to a plot problem that's been bothering me, or some detail of character backstory or a setting that occurs to me.
Before I bought a laptop, I used to fill spiral-bound notebooks -- the school size, with the very stiff backs and the spiral binding across the top of the page -- and transcribe on the children's homework computer from 3-6AM. Now I want to trade my laptop in for a smaller and lighter model. Maybe with my second million -- took long enough to be able to afford this one.
My friend Phaedra Weldon (her "Wraith" just came out) does a lot of her writing on a little machine meant for teaching children typing called -- I think -- an AlphaSmart. Though you can only see something like a dozen words at a time, it's cheap, weightless, and indestructible.
As a nurse, my wife works with a pocket-PC that is Blue-toothed to the hospital net work for keeping patient notes as she works. Always struck me as a cool way to keep track of things without having to transcribe them later.
But I never worry about losing an idea if I don't write it down. I'll either remember or think of something better.

hesitant scribe said...

Oh I'm late again - any biscuits left?!

I carry a notebook, and have lots of them all over the house. I have notebooks for different purposes - the personal, the ficticious, the poetic, the nonsensical, the spiritual/lots of buddhist quotes/sioux stuff (yes even we athesists can be spiritual). I once set fire to over 14 years of journals and diaries, and while it was liberating, I would love to be able to read them again.

Currently I am using over 20 notebooks I filled in Spain to write my novel, and the notebook by my bed reads keeps track of my fag free days/weeks (14 wks now hurrah). I can't be without something to write with/on and will resort to napkins/tickets/flyers etc to make notes and observations if caught short. I wake up in the middle of the night and jot stuff down too - a regular nightmare to live with.

Ah well. Still not writing very much but then it is August, and the kids are wanting attention, and the sand dunes are begging to be slid down...

Lots of summer love to y'all!