Saturday, 18 January 2014

Notebooks and challenges

Certain subjects come up every now and then in ABBA blogs, things that are dear to a writer's heart, something that bothers us all or questions we are frequently asked.
I am always fascinated by the way each topic is approached or dealt with in a completely different manner. One of the things that makes ABBA posts so interesting to read.

One of these is the perennial question of Where do you get your ideas? and Emma Barnes' lovely poem on the blog yesterday is a great example of a completely different approach to the subject.

Notebooks come up quite often. I looked and found there are 9 blogs with the tag 'notebook' and i am quite sure there are more where they are discussed but not tagged as such.

I know some writers whose notebooks are a work of art, with research information, quotes and sketches. Mine are sadly not such as these.  But  I love notebooks.  Some of mine are gifts but many of them I have bought myself - unable to resist their bright or pretty colours and images, or covers with a luxurious feel of soft leather.

These are just some of the notebooks I have collected, some are quite well used but many are bare aside from a page or two.  It is fascinating to go through them - all the things I discover that I had meant to remember, but had forgotten..
Often I will start one and forget what I was using it for then a new one comes along, so I start that, delighting in that wonderful sense of something fresh and new, the first pristine page...ahh!

Some are filled with off ideas, scraps of stories, thoughts on how to change something I am writing.   

One problem with notebooks is that sometimes I can't bear to write in them, especially if they are new, expensive, beautiful or quirky notebooks 

I have one in handmade paper bound in bark and tied with a thin string, it came as a present with a peacock feather quill pen and a bottle of dragonblood ink!    A truly a lovely present from one of my sons, that I have looked at longingly for a long time but not had the courage to start writing in!


The two notebooks in the picture at the top of the page were both presents and I decided I wanted to think of a way to use them together and do something new and interesting.

The lovely blue one with the picture of a dragonfly says 'IMAGINE' on the front.  inside each left hand page is blank with a quote at the foot of the page, the facing page has lines.  
The black soft leather notebook has lined pages.

The quotes gave me the idea to give myself a challenge. 
Being someone who writes on a laptop rather than by hand I use notebooks more as a way to think and jot ideas, or when I have no access to my laptop. 

The quotes are to be the seed for a short piece of writing, title or just the spark. Reading them I realised they could be taken in all sorts of ways for any genre of story or perhaps a poem, One or two have suggested ideas for a book I am currently writing. I find these quotes are real triggers for the imagination.  e.g.

                         'Not all who wander are lost'  J. R. R. Tolkien
                          'Everything you can imagine is real'  Pablo Picasso

I decided I would use the black notebook to make notes (I am a bit of a scribbler) and it would be where I would try out ideas and the Imagine notebook is where I would write the main part of each  piece.  I also discovered that the book has each quote repeated three or four times and this made me think of how I could experiment in different genre e.g. the Picasso quote could work as well in reality as it would in fantasy.  

I have to admit I have barely started but like all the most successful New Year resolutions there is more chance of success if you tell people about them!

I hope to be able to report back later in the year that at least some of the pages of these new twin notebooks have been filled.

How do you use your notebooks?


Linda Strachan  is  Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh 

Author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and a writing handbook  Writing For Children    Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me  

blog: Bookwords


Joan Lennon said...

Sounds like a fun challenge! Mine are all handbag notebooks - never leave the house without a book to read or a notebook to write in. Oh, and 2 pens, because one might run out ... (This happened to me once and I had to try to remember all my train inspirations - nightmare!)

Penny Dolan said...

I like your mention of those partly filled notebooks. as I now feel less guilty about the ones I've begun but have not - for some reason - concluded. (In accounts of writers lives & studies & blah blah, the piles of notebooks are always "full", aren't they? Or are just assumed to be?) And some do seem almost too beautiful to sully with ideas that - one fears - may so easily go wrong and become dull muddled blotches or - worse - everyday to-do lists, though one could pretend they are poems.

I never go out without a small pocket notebook, but as I have large handwriting, I need the space of large pages once I get going.

Well, now we could get on to the subject of good handbags for writers . . . yes, seriously! A clutch? I don't think so!

Sue Purkiss said...

Yes, writers need big handbags. I love the ideas about what to put in notebooks, and the sound of that handmade one!

Linda Strachan said...

Joan, I agree 2 or more pens - handbag always full of them, then suddenly there are none there. Where do they disappear to?

Penny yes I am glad to hear it is not just me, with half used or almost empty notebooks!

Handbag - needs to be big enough to take notebook,although I also have small notebooks for emergencies,but prefer something larger. Not so big a handbag that I fill it and it becomes too heavy!

Have one which does not look or feel huge and my small notebook/laptop does fit in one side of it, v useful for travelling and school visits.

Sue I am really keen to find a use for the handmade one and want to use the quill pen and dragonsblood ink to write in it.
Just had a thought I could use it for writing-inspiring quotes perhaps?? or descriptions of fantasy creatures for future books!