Writing Books Part 5 Writers' Notebooks

Here is my fifth installment on the writing books I have read. Today, I will review Books on Writers’ Journals. If a book is so hideous I want to sue to get my money back, I will not list it here. If your favorite book isn’t reviewed, I might not have read it yet. Go to my contact page and leave me a suggestion. This review is much shorter as there are only two books.

I have journaled for about ten years. My own journals tend to be in 9.75 X 7.5 Composition books. I used to like Mead but they have gone to hell. The paper is so thin a regular Pilot Rolling ball V5 now goes through not just one sheet but onto the next! We are talking two sheet penetration! So... by going cheap... they now have reduced the usefulness by 1/2 as a 200 pages is now barely 100 as you can only use one side.

Disgusted, I wrote them a letter and got an email back. Sounds good right? Wrong. They claimed that the specs hadn’t changed. Um... yes, they had. A week later, I got a Fedex from Mead. In it was a letter and a gift. The letter was written on thick paper (obviously NOT a Mead product) and in it the customer service rep admitted the specs had changed... duh. The gift was several packs of ruled index cards. Cards? Not kidding. Sounds nice, right? No.

Get this... the cards were so thin, the Sharpie ink passed through onto the next card! Well, thanks for the warning Mead. I’ve stopped buying ALL of your products.

Forced by this stupid corporate decision, I ordered a couple of different kinds of composition books on Amazon. On a recommendation, I got a New Leaf Paper composition book which was supposed to be thicker. Guess what? They went thinner too. It is college-ruled but it bleeds as well. What do fountain pen people do? I looked at some of the
Levenger ones but I don’t have that kind of money. Ergo, I am still in search of new notebook.

As for what I keep in them? Everything. I put in lists. I tape in business cards. I glue in interesting pictures I find in magazines. I rant. I rave. But mostly... I whine. I occasionally write down a few ideas for stories and work them out in my head. I do not write actual long-hand manuscripts in my notebooks anymore because I am lazy and then would have to retype it all. There is one exception to this, poetry. I have always claimed I am NOT a poet but one will slip in now and again. I am not kidding when I say the notebooks really do have everything in them. I organize them after the fact with
highlighters (dry) and stick-em tabs. I tape a page of contents inside the front cover. I also use binder clips and rubber bands if things really get out of hand but this is rarer.

No... you don’t get to see a picture. Why? I intend to burn them if I have any warning at all on that death thing. I don’t want to burden relatives and the process of writing is very messy and very personal. Having my journals out there would be the same as a TSA screening rubber glove and all.

I may not write actual drafts in my journals but I do a lot of thinking about my stories and work out a lot of “what ifs” in the notebook. This is a helpful process for me. That was why I deliberately looked for books on how other authors use their journals. Here is what I found. I have put a couple more titles on my Christmas wish list. I’ll update this post if I get any new titles in my stocking.

Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

Ralph Fletcher

  • Breathing in Breathing Out: Keeping a Writer’s Notebook (1996) This slim volume is both inspirational and practical. This is the book that Ed. Diane Raab was wanting to do with her book (described below) but failed to do. With examples from other writers’ notebooks, Fletcher covers how to keep and use a notebook and why you might want to do it. If I had known about this book earlier, I wouldn’t have purchased the Raab book.

Ed. Dianna M. Raab

  • Writers and their notebooks (2010) Edited by Diana Raab and includes 24 essays on how writers use their notebooks. Really spotty and rather disappointing. Some of the essays were interesting but off topic and others were just non-sequiturs. One essay that was interesting but off-topic centered on hypergraphia and the author’s battle with bipolar disorder. This really had nothing to do with notebooks. Another was by an author who spent the entire time talking about NOT using a notebook. I blame the editor. She failed to elicit enough essays to make a book on the topic as stated. It appears as if she were forced to take some that should have been cut. Out of the 24, only 6 address directly how the authors use their notebooks. I liked those essays but felt the book’s title and back cover blurb were entirely misleading. (The appendix was good and hinted at what the editor thought she was going to get and what I was expecting to read about.)