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.


Weekly Roundup

F4 Saber Yloquen via Compfight

It’s been a long week. My kid’s baseball season is finally over.  So now I can get back to finishing my latest novel and attending writer’s group meetings that have probably forgotten that I even exist anymore. I also need to get back to my diet and exercise, before I die. House work and yard work also beckon.

Last week’s post on Scrivener earned me very close to 500 unique views yesterday and made it just about pointless to update my blog, due to the high traffic. But it was fun. I hope some of them fine folks come back.


Following publishing news this week we have the release of the Taleist Self-Publishing Survey. If you have not read this report, and you are a Self-Publisher in any way, you need to read it. I just bought the Kindle version, even though I was supposed to get a free copy for participating in it. That never happened. But the report is very interesting and should help you decide how to proceed with your plans for publishing world dominance. Or whatever it is you are aiming to accomplish.

Speaking of trying to get things done, I’m just finishing up reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I know, I’m probably the last person on Earth to read it. But if you have not, per chance read it. Do.

Reading List

Here’s what is on my Kindle phone device right now. My digital night stand, if you will.

The War of Art, Not a Gold Rush – The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey, Buzz Books 2012: Exclusive Pre-Publication Excerpts from Over 30 New Books, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Drinking With Dead Woman Writers, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Story Engineering, Guns Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Predators I Have Known, Second Foundation, Understanding Artificial Intelligence, Moral Machines:Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, and Dynamic Characters.

Not much fiction, as I prefer non-fiction when I’m in the middle of a novel. Some of those I’ve already read and just keep them close by for reference.


I continue to purchase my music digitally from Amazon. This week I ordered some Classic Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks (1965-1971) and The Black Keys’ – Rubber Factory.


This week’s best app for Android is the podcast reader – Double Twist. I’ve been using it all week and I love it. What podcasts am I listening to?

ESPN Baseball Today, TWiT, Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ham Nation, MacBreak Weekly, The Self-Publishing Podcast, Tech New Today, This Week in Google, Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing and All About Android.


I’ve started using Buffer for automated Twitter posting. I plan on using it to post links to things I like and people I like. Sometimes, I might post about my own stuff. But not so much.

Space X

The first privately funded rocket launched and docked to the ISS this week. How totally awesome was that? Those ISS astronauts had to be cheering for that to succeed, it might be their ticket home someday.

Did I leave anything out? If I did, I’m sure someone will tell me about it.

Audio Book Needs Edited

I have all the audio MP3’s for a machine read version of Null_Pointer, but it needs to be edited into chapter size chunks for release to the web.  Anyone like to mess with audio and want to take on the job?  No pay available, but I will give you props for your efforts.  If you are interested, make sure you have a Gmail address and I can forward you the 13 files as they exist now.

The files were made by programmer Jeremy Carey-dressler and were created with Expressivo’s Jennifer voice. It actually sounds pretty cool, in a very Geeky way.

Carina Press Launches

There’s a new genre friendly digital only press in town and they are accepting manuscripts!  Carina Press is a new division of Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. and is being lead by Malle Vallik and Angela James among others.  Carina Press will be accepting just about any genre with the exception of YA, from 50,000 to 100,000 word manuscripts.

So if you intend to get in on the ebook revolution, now would be the perfect time to send them an inquiry and get in on the ground floor of what will no-doubt be one of the best new ebook publishers.  You can follow them on Twitter here.  Tip of the hat to Val Roberts for the news!

Changes afoot

I’ve purchased a new domain name and a new hosting package this week.  The plan is to migrate all my various and sundry web presences to one domain and one web site.  At the moment, I have two book centered web sites on Ning, and this blog all competing for my attention.  Not to mention Facebook fan page and Twitter account.  Updating all those sites is starting to drive me batty.

Sometime over the Christmas break, I will be moving this blog to the new domain name and directing hits to this domain and to the two Ning web sites to the new consolidated website.  The new site will be a WordPress installation with forums and areas especially dedicated to my two novel series.  The plan is to make it a one-stop place to find out what I’m up to and where to see me at signings and other functions.

If you are a regular member of the two Ning sites, Starstrikers.Ning.com and JJMysteries.Ning.com, you may notice a halt to my postings there.  I’ll keep updating the appearances calendars but will defer all blogging to this one.  When the new site is live, you will be able to join the forums and that’s where I will be communicating information about individual books.  The goal with the new site is to make it easier for you to communicate with me and for me to communicate to with you.  One of the features of the new site will be that the blog will be re-posted to the forums where things can be monitored in one location.  I’m told this is a good thing, so I’m looking forward to testing it out.

The new site will also have my tweets displayed on the main page, so you can at a glance see my latest post, tweets and a blurb about my latest books. It should be pretty sweet.

Book Release Party Tonight

Tonight is the release party for Null_Pointer at Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise.  If you are going to be in the area, please stop in and say hello.  There will be free cake and punch to lure you in from the cold and rain.


7:00 pm  Event kicks off with me doing a brief reading from Null_Pointer.

7:10-7:30 pm  Question and answer period and discussion about the book.

7:30 pm  Selection of best dressed Nerd with free book gifts for the best three costumes.  If only one person is in costume, she/he gets all three books!

7:30-8:30 pm  Signing, cake eating and chatting with customers.


Ubuntu Release Day

My favorite Linux distribution has updated again on the regular 6 month schedule.  Karmic Koala is now open for downloads at Ubuntu.com.  I’ll be downloading it this weekend and installing it on the computer in the garage.  Lots of new things to play with and I’m stoked about it.

A shiny new Ubuntu to play with and a book release party tomorrow night for my geeky mystery novel – Null_Pointer.  I’m in Nerdvana.

Operation EBook Drop

I’ve joined Operation EBook Drop to send my two ebooks to the service members serving overseas.  You can find more about it from this post on the Smashwords blog.  Just today I sent out my first batch of 38 emails to members from all the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.  If you are an author or a publisher, please consider joining us.


Final Week of Null_Pointer

This is the last week of regular chapter postings for Null_Pointer.  Tuesday will see the last chapter and Wednesday the final character interview.  On Thursday I might plan on doing a post where I talk about writing the novel and where I see the series going.  Then, on Friday of this week is the Book Release Party at Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise.

If you are in the area and can make it out, it’s sure to be a fun time.  There will be a cake with the book’s cover on it and some fruit punch.  I will do a short reading from the novel and then answer any questions from the audience.  Then I’ll be judging the nerd costumes and giving away free books for those who took the time to dress up.