And I do mean complete this time: what I handed to Ellie was more polished than the draft I gave her of episode one.
So I thought that I’d make first Process article about the beginning of my process – how I use my notebook.
All my initial story ideas get written by hand in a notebook. Character ideas, plot points, the way the story will end. I have to be careful with my hand writing because if I write too fast I can’t understand what I’ve written. Writing in a notebook forces me to slow down and make sure my writing is legible. This is the part where I need to listen to what my mind has to say, and so this process forces me to slow down and pay attention.
The notebook is also used to untangle knots. When I have a problem with a story, I sit down and scribble out a fake conversation with myself about what the solutions could be.
I only have one notebook going at a time. I don’t use different notebooks for different projects. I find this is important to my process; to explain why, I need to get a bit esoteric.
Every now and then, everyone thinks about something they reckon will make a good book or TV show or movie. I think an important first step someone takes on the path of ‘being a writer’ is when they start writing these ideas down. It marks the point at which they just started taking their writing more seriously.
For years I went under the false impression that I didn’t need to write any ideas down. I thought if an idea was good I would remember it. Also, I didn’t want to be one of those people who whipped out a notebook in public. I thought people would look at me and think, “oh look, that guy must think he’s a writer!”
You know how much I wrote back then? Nothing. I had heaps of ideas, but could never remember them when I needed to. (Ironically, every time I saw someone in public who was writing in a notebook, I would think, “wow! That person must be a writer or something! Lucky them!”)
So, returning to the process: a thought or idea has become so important to you that you pluck it out and write it down so you don’t forget it. If it’s only relevant to a certain project, such as a sudden realisation about a particular character, then I’ll draw a box around it and label it with the title of that project.
If I want to find a note I’ve made, I have to flip backwards through the previous notes I’ve made. This puts my previous ideas in front of me every time I flip through myr notebook. I only had to do this for a few weeks to realise its value. I’ve now lost count of the times I’ve found a note that I’d forgotten about, which solved some story problem I had. If I had a separate “random thoughts” notebook then I may not think to look through it. If I used a separate notebook for each project, I may not see those ideas for months or years, until I decide to start work on that project.
The final bit of the process is review. I read through the notebook at the end of each day, to review notes I’ve made or just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
As a side note, I also use a similar method when using the Evernote app. Any time I add something to Evernote, I only ever add it to the main notebook. Then, at the end of the day, I sort through and categorise my notes into their proper notebooks. I find I remember them this way. I’ll talk more about Evernote in the future, as I use it quite a bit.
So that’s that – every story starts in a notebook. Not ground-breaking stuff, but now you know.