Thursday, October 10, 2013

5-minute MFA: Use Your Notebook Correctly (Day 10)

Ugh. Last week flew by so fast. I have my last 9 days (of the 31 day challenge) written on Word, but I have yet to transfer those bad boys over. Bear with me, writers. They'll get here, I promise!

So let's talk about today's tip: your writer's notebook.

If you're anything like me, chances are you have MILLIONS of pretty, cute, sleek, fancy notebooks floating around your house, littered with thoughts, words, and doodles. It's fun to dream in these books, but are they really working for you as a writer? Are they helping you get to your goals that much faster? My guess is no.

When I was in graduate school, they  never taught me methods for productivity, despite how badly I needed them. In grad school, you simply show up to your workshop each week with whatever story or poem or essay that was due. Nobody cared how you managed it, you just did. That was fine when I was a single 20-something without kids, who could stay up late and pound out a few poems in haste and sleep in the next morning to recover.

But here in the real world, with kids, and jobs, and bills, and laundry, and Sleepy do we get it done?

One of my methods is the writer's notebook. But more powerful than the notebook itself is how you use it.

In years past, I collected notebooks and filled them with a few pages of character sketches and basic plot notes, but that's about it. So I had 47 notebooks with the first ten pages filled in and not much more. These days I keep my character and plot notes on my computer, print a few sheets out to STICK in the notebook for reference and use my notebook SOLELY for production of material.

I took an online workshop a year or so back that focused on productivity and how some authors just seemed to be book machines. How did they do it? What was their secret?

The biggest weapon these writers had, it turns out, were chunks of 15 minutes sprinkled throughout their days that they claimed. And they wrote in these notebooks during these two or three 15 minute blocks and at the end of the day (or the beginning) when they got to sit down for their larger block of writing, they had at least five or six notebook pages of material they could transcribe and from there, the material kept flowing.

It's a pretty simple concept: work on your draft for 15 minutes at a time, a few times a day, in your notebook and suddenly at the end of the week you've amassed up to 20 pages in your non-writing time.

More on how I stack and organize my notes online tomorrow.

Happy writing!

...happy happy happy...

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Miss a day? Check out my 31 Day MFA Challenge Master List!


  1. I personally don't feel like that would be very productive. It feels like, when editing, most of that would be chopped since it's the first bit of your writing, each day, that's kinda crap anyway, but it serves to get your juices flowing... Maybe it just depends on one's writing style? I don't know that it would work at all for me, I'd go back and read it at the end of the week and just feel like I had a whole lot of conflicting nothing because each 15 minute spurt had come from such a different place...

  2. I can see that...but for me it works IF and only if I add something to it daily and keep them all in the same notebook. That way, I'm not too far away from my story that I don't remember where we were in the action. I've found, for me, this really keeps my momentum going. If I have lapses, it becomes a big mental mess where I lose motivation and beat myself up if I don't write something for a few days, which turns in to a few weeks. I'm a mental case to begin with. :D

    Hope you're having an awesome fall up there, girl. It's hot and bazoingas here on the gulf. BLARGH!