03 September 2012

Making Notes

In the last post I talked about giving readers context in our writing, but we need to give ourselves context as well.

Like most writers I always have a notebook with me for writing down ideas, snippets of conversation, or descriptions of things I see. At the time the scene is clear and I think I will always remember it, but unfortunately it doesn't always work that way. 

On my last two visits to the UK, and London in particular, I made copious notes for Lives Interrupted. The first trip occurred as I was planning the book, and the second while I was editing, so my notes were very specific to that book. In addition I wrote down other things I found interesting, but with no real idea of when, or if, they would come in useful. For these types of musings you need to note down clearly the important points, and the date and place could also be useful. A cryptic note will not be of much use four or five years down the track, I know because I've spent hours trying to recall what some of my own more cryptic comments meant. 

In contrast I also have some lovely descriptions and dialogue that act like a photograph in reminding me of the happenings of a day, or a person that I've seen, but never met.

I recently used a notebook entry in a short story. The original note was made about six years ago, so make the notes clear, and don't worry if it takes time before you find a use for them.


  1. Good advice, Shauna. One of my books (Impact) started from a 6 line sidebar item in a newspaper that I cut out and kept for over 4 years before I began the novel.

    1. Thanks Jeannie, some times you know things are going to be useful, but not exactly how, so it does pay to keep them. I have notes of an incident I saw about five or six years ago, and for once I wrote down several sentences rather than the cryptic one-word items I often use. When I look through that notebook now and read the entry I can see the scene as if I were there. One day I'll find the right place to use it!