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Of Bullet Journals And Novel Notes

I was super interested to read Tobias Buckell’s excellent post This Is How I Bullet Journal. I know he’s real good at organizing and was intrigued by how he used it. I’m not a journal writer nor does my schedule conflate beyond my ability to comprehend so I’ve never really seen a need to try Bullet Journalling. But when Buckell mentioned that he found it good for keeping track of his novels, that piqued my interest.

When it comes to organizing myself for writing a first draft I’ve tried all kinds of software and I’ve even used paper notebooks. The programs that let you organize your opus and write it in the same place eventually let me down when I jumped to a different writing platform. I just can’t seem to pick one I like. Lately I’ve been composing my novels in Google Docs. Writing them in a linear fashion while following an outline from a spreadsheet. This is pretty common actually. Although most people use Word and Excel for the software. I don’t do Microsoft if I can get away with it. So I use GDocs. I can access my work from a Chromebook, Android phone or regular a laptop and Google syncs me up when I go online. No need to back anything up and there is excellent sharing ability for letting folks watch my progress or for letting my editor do his thing to make it better.

When it comes to keeping track of all my notes on a novel I’ve also started to move things to GDocs. Again, it’s all in one spot for easy reference. Now you can do similar things with other programs but I’ve just found GDocs to be easier for my lifestyle. Before I wrote this way I would keep notebooks filled with scribbles about the novels I would write. Background details, plot points and character arcs all jumbled into various areas in more than one notebook. But it was never organized in a sane manner so that when I started writing, I could look stuff up.

Then I realized, as did Buckell, that you could organize with the Bullet Journal method and suddenly your novel notes become more manageable.  I ordered some things from Amazon and messed around with different mechanical pencils and pens and eventually came up with this method of organizing my novel notes.  I haven’t been doing this for more than a few days, so I’m not sure this will stick as a best practice yet. But it’s worth a try. I have two novels to write this year and time’s a wasting.

I use the soft cover notebook that Buckell recommended – Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover in A5 size. It came with a spiral note pad which I use for scheduling stuff. I set it up like a Bullet Journal and use it to track ideas, deadlines and stuff related to writing. It’s a great cover with pockets and room for another notebook inside. This is where I put my novel notebook. For that I use: MUJI Thread Binding Notebook A5 Dot-grid 96sheets. Each novel I start will get it’s own Muji bound notebook. 

The last piece is what to use to write with. I’ve never had an issue using pens or pencils. I prefer pens, actually. But I have lots of pencils that I use on the modeling workbench. So I tried out Buckell’s recommended mech pencil and for some reason it soon made its way to my workbench for marking styrene. It might come back to my notebooks, but I have found I really like the Pigma Micron pens.

So that’s how I’m using the Bullet Journaling craze – to keep my novel notes organized. I number my pages and reference new topics back to the Index page as I write them down. As long as I do this, I can find all those crazy ideas faster than just flipping pages. The notes are small enough to carry with me to my lunchtime writing sprints with my laptop. I even stick the phone in the front pocket so I can carry it all in one hand.

Do you use journals or notebooks to keep track of your novels? Tell me about your process. Do a blog post and link to it or jot down your best practices in the comments. I’m always interested in what different people are doing to keep organized.