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Make Notes Before You Write Your Novel

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience. She holds degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Not every book needs to have detailed notes written out before you start writing. Sometimes it is because the story is already so well developed within you that notes are not that necessary for you. The book might even need a full outline with all locations and special things laid out so you can follow them as you write.

Many other stories need to have notes written out before we start to write. They can be hugely beneficial to you right now or even later with a different story. Notes allow you to move forward with the ability to move back and get more details when you need them.


Notes Keep You on Track

Notes keep you on track. Look at it like lists that keep you on track to get things done and be productive. These notes are just like that. What do you see happening in the story? In what order do you see it?

No matter how good you think your memory is, it is easy to forget things that you wanted to remember as you write the story. It could be a place you wanted a scene to be or even a certain line. Maybe you wanted a specific book, character, or movie referenced. But when you sit down to write, you go blank as you try to remember what it was. That is easy to do and quite common.

Keep notes from the moment you first thought of the story through the writing process. If John has to get to the kitchen to get the knife, make a note of it. Otherwise, you might have John in the garage and nowhere he needs to be right before the murder.

There are some things you need to happen a certain way. Making notes helps you do that. Keep in mind that you might change these as you go along, but with them, you have some kind of guide that you’ll find to be very beneficial.


Future Reminders

If you have an idea for a future part of the story, make a note of it. Again, you’ll forget about it if you don’t, especially as you start to write and get caught up in other scenes.

This is really important if your story is very dependent on time, location, or anything else similar. One slip up could really mess your story up. You don’t want that.

What do you do when you need to remind yourself to pick up milk after work? You make yourself a note whether it is on paper or virtual on a phone. That’s what you are doing when you make notes for future scenes, events, and characters in your story.

Even if you think you might not need it, write it down somewhere. Whether it is the current story or another one, you might that note extremely useful.


Nothing Is Un-Noteworthy

Don’t learn this lesson the hard way. It will hurt so bad. During your research you do for your story, keep a notebook and jot down anything that sounds unusual, interesting, or pulls at you. Even if you think you’ll remember it or have no clue how you’ll use it in your story.

I read an article once where Stephanie Meyers said that as she was writing the first book, she found a reference in her research about vampires having offspring. At the moment, she could have moved right past it as it had nothing to do with her story. Instead, she made a note of it. A few books into the series, she found that the little note she made was extremely crucial to end the series.

Nothing should just be pushed aside. Note everything. Remember that you can ignore what you don’t need easier than trying to find that information again.

A Note Can Pertain to Anything

Your note can be the source, the idea, the thought, or a name. Make sure it is something you can easily find again. Note the location and keywords. You might not need it until next week or in ten years, but it will be there an possibly be the key to dealing with a scene, character, or plot that you never would have thought of otherwise.


Kari Poulsen from Ohio on October 16, 2017:

This sounds so simple, but I never looked at it this way. Now it seems so essential! Thanks for the thoughts. :)

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 16, 2017:

Rebecca - Sometimes an idea, perhaps just a phrase or that one KEY word I was trying to dredge up from the depths will come to me in the middle of the night. I keep a pad of paper and pencil on my nightstand for just that purpose.

The biggest lie we ever tell ourselves is "I don't have to write that down; I'll remember it." Thank you for some great pointers.

Don Bobbitt from Ruskin Florida on October 16, 2017:

Rebecca - You are right on about using notes. Being a computer geek, I use the NOTES app that comes free on iPhones for my verbal and written notes on everything.

And when I get an idea for a book, I use the PAGES app on my iPad and iPhone to start my RAW product.

By raw, I mean that at some point, I have worked up a plot in my mind and I will start a book on PAGES as a list of 20 or more chapters; some are just a few words at first , and some may be a couple of paragraphs.

This is my skeleton that I then add flesh to as my mind works on more and more details that I copy/paste from my notes to my document.

Then, once I have 20,000 to 70,000 words in a document, I transfer it to WORD for my serious evolution before I eventually self-publish.

I know there are a lot of methods used by other writers, but this is what works for me, and as you said, I have my notes for my instantaneous thoughts.

Have a great day!


Rebecca Graf (author) from Wisconsin on October 15, 2017:

Louise, why don't you?

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 15, 2017:

Yes it's always best to make notes. I would love to be able to write a novel.