Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bullet Journal for Writing Novels by Heather Woodhaven


Author Kristine McCord gave one of my favorite Christmas gifts to me. She handed me my first ever Moleskine lined notebook. “Trust me. Just try it,” she said. “The more you use it, the more you’ll love it. The feel of it changes with use.” 
 
I took her word for it, but I was skeptical.
 
She was so right. I loved carrying it around. No other notebook would do. 
 
And it was perfect timing, because Lisa Phillips had just challenged me to free write, by hand, any thoughts I had on a scene right before getting on the computer. I thought this was a waste of time. I could just type out the scene as I thought of it and edit later. “Trust me,” she said. “Just try it.”
 
Initially I hated it, but my daily word count soared. Now, I can’t write without jotting down some notes first.
 
There was just one problem. When I wanted to find something, my notebook was a giant mess of notes. If I tried to make my notes neater, though, it hindered my creativity. When I daydream, my notes resemble my thoughts, which both look like scattered clouds.
 
Another author friend, Becky Avella, told me to come over because she couldn’t wait to show me how to bullet journal. I went over and learned the process of indexing my daily to-do lists as well as anything else my heart desired for daily living like: goals, workout diary, prayer journal, etc. We even added pretty stickers and pictures to our notebooks—Becky said, “Trust me. Just try it.” 
 
I used one of my trusty Moleskine notebooks and my new favorite pen (Ink Joy gel pen by Papermate. My husband said to trust him and just try it.)
 
I enjoyed dumping everything that was on my mind into my handy-dandy notebook so much that I wondered if the system could be used for fiction writing. 
 
Since I started my own bullet journal for my work-in-progress, I’ve found that this isn’t such a novel idea. (Hehe. Didn’t mean to do that, but now I’ve cracked myself up.)
 
Other writers have been using bullet journals with great success, but every one of them looks completely different. Essentially, you pick and choose what to keep in your notebook based on what works for you. 
 
I still consider myself a “pantser” because I don’t have everything figured out when I start writing a book. I do have to know my characters like the back of my hand as well as research the careers and problems they might encounter. Here’s what my bullet journal index looks like:
 
 
I have places for pretty pictures of my setting and characters, plus notes, research, and a page set aside to free-write each scene right before I’m ready to write it. I even have a spot to jot down future revisions so it doesn’t slow down the pace of my first draft. It’s helped me so much. 
 
Bottom line: If you have trustworthy friends, listen to them and try new writing techniques once in a while. Who knows? It might help your word count.
 
Trust me. Just try it. 

 
BORROWED TIME 

When Rachel Cooper witnesses the abduction of her neighbor's young twin sons, she springs into action to save them. But now the thwarted kidnappers are after her…and her only hope of survival is relying on their widowed single father, James McGuire. A weapon has been planted on a satellite James's company is ready to launch, and as the systems specialist, it's his job to stop it. But someone is set on keeping James from preventing the scheduled takeoff—and they'll use anyone close to him as leverage. Now he must find a way to protect his boys and the woman he's beginning to fall for…before the final countdown can even start.
 
 
Heather Woodhaven earned her pilot's license, rode a hot air balloon over the safari lands of Kenya, assisted an engineer with a medical laser in a Haitian mission, parasailed over Caribbean seas, lived through an accidental detour onto a black diamond ski trail in the Aspens and snorkeled among sting rays before becoming a mother of three and wife of one. Now Heather spends her days celebrating laughter, adding to her impressive list of embarrassing moments, and raising a family of aspiring comedians who perform nightly at her table. She channels her love for adventure into writing characters who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances--whether running for their lives or battling the insanities of life.

11 comments:

  1. I love notebooks and notepads of any kind! (I feel like a collector.) I'll have to try this, Heather. Anything to get my word count up! :)

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    1. Sandy - I have tons of notebooks!

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    2. Me too. Is there anything better than a blank notebook?

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    3. Me too, Terri. I was looking at some of the empty beauties in a store last night, Heather. Hopefully, I won't need a future intervention! LOL!

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  2. Heather, does this help much with editing? I'm awful with getting motivated on edits.

    Definitely plan on trusting you and trying this out. My daily word count needs to improve.

    By the way - I love your books. They are some of my favorite LIS's.

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    1. Thanks, Terri! That means a lot. Yes, it helps me so much with editing. Hope it works for you!

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  3. I'm like you, Heather. Although I carry a little notebook to jot down ideas, jotting down more than just a few notes has always felt like a waste of time.

    But an author friend has told me writing in a notebook has really helped her creativity. I may need to trust you and try it! ;-)

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  4. Wonderful post! I'm a reader - not a writer - but you gave tons of excellent advice for my daily life and goals. I'll trust you and try it! Blessings.

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  5. Hi Heather,
    You've intrigued me. For years I did a lot of pre-writing in notebooks (pre-tech), but I had the same problem you describe - nothing organized - plus scraps of napkins and papers I'd jotted ideas on.
    Now I do that on my iPod on the train, but I'm finding it to be worse. With all the scraps of paper, I could at least just look at them and know what it was. Now I have a mass of Dropbox files. I've considered doing an online bullet journal, but I like the feel of pen and paper. There's something freeing about it.

    I'd love to hear more about how you use Lisa's idea.

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    1. I totally get it! So, basically, I give myself a page per scene to jot notes before I write it. I sit for about five minutes and just think about what's going to happen and anything specific that comes to mind--dialogue, setting details, etc. I write down. And, I think about what the hook at the end of the scene is going to be. Because despite a synopsis, I don't know each hook that will happen at the end of each POV. I'm finding that the more I do this, the more I see opportunities to add twists or additional conflict. We should ask Lisa to weigh in!

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