NaNoWriMo Prep – Step 1 – The Notebook

As a creative person, I’m “cursed” with having ideas throughout the year, often at an importune moment (i.e. just as I’m about to fall asleep). In and of itself, this is a mild annoyance. The real problem comes when the shiny new idea distracts me from the main project I want to focus on.

For years now, I have used a notebook as the receptacle of all my ideas and a bargaining chip with my brain (with which I have a love/hate relationship, as shown countless times before). The deal is simple: if it’s in the notebook, it has no place in my mind for now, but I will look at it again next October at the latest. So far, this little trick has done wonders to keep my head cleared and focused.

When October rolls around, I go through all the notes accumulated over the years that I haven’t used yet and flag the ones that catch my attention, the ones I feel I’m ready to expand upon. The notes are extremely varied in format. I literally write down everything that sounds cool in my head whether it’s a high concept for a universe or a disembodied dialogue exchange. Here’s a page for your viewing pleasure:

The Notebook is messy and that's how I like it.

The Notebook is messy and that’s how I like it.

Do some of the notes make no sense to you? You and me, both!

The purpose of the notebook is not to preserve the authenticity of the original idea. If that was the goal, I’d write every novels I thought about as they came and never finish anything. The goal is to keep the spark, which may or may not spark something similar or completely different when I get back to it. Some of them may never inspire me again and that’s alright too; I have pages of this stuff.

When a note does spark something as I read it in October, I transfer it to a list of potential NaNoWriMo projects. Once I’ve gone through the notebook, I move on to step 2 of my preparation, which I’ll share tomorrow.

What about you? Do you have a special method to compile ideas? Do you just see what October brings and go from there? Do you plan your NaNo at all?

About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

4 responses to “NaNoWriMo Prep – Step 1 – The Notebook

  • Leaf

    Haha, yeah, that looks a lot like the notes folder I keep on my computer desk. Sometimes I only open a new folder with the tiny spark I had as a title and nothing inside — most of those won’t ever spark anything else again. Sometimes I have a one-liner I put in a word doc, those can be expanded. Sometimes I have the beginning of a plan, dialogues, plot points, even the first lines of a chapter — those will either be written or abandoned for being too stiff.

    I also have a notebook, but I mostly use it for the ideas that come when I don’t have a computer on sight. The desk folder, that’s where the good stuff is… ^^

    • Aheïla

      I used to do something similar with folders, but it annoyed me to have to click through folders and word documents to access the ideas. I prefer to have them all readily accessible on a page, but like every writerly thing, that’s a personal preference. I also like the pacing of writing on paper: I feel like it’s more intimate, involved and slower which allows me to think between the letters.

      At the end of the day, the important thing is that we somehow keep track of a potential well of awesome stories. 😉

      • Leaf


        Thing is, I used paper notebooks a lot more in past years (actually more of a binder with loose sheets) but as something makes me utterly unable to write plot points of two stories on the same sheet (my guess is lingering OCD xD), in the end the total chaos and sheer waste of paper made me rethink my creative options.

        i.e., desk folder. ^^

      • Aheïla

        That makes sense. I’m okay with having several random ideas on the same page, but when it turns to brainstorm and outline, each needs their space. In the end, all that matters is that it works for you. 😉

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