May 11 Writing Prompt

In yesterday’s writing prompt we covered the best way to utilize an idea notebook.

Today I want to take it a step further and show you the best methods for note taking on a current project.

Instead of the idea notebook, you can use various methods to keep your notes, thoughts and ideas organized and in tact.

Taking notes
How you take notes can make all the difference in your storytelling ability

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. Are notes required for writing a novel or screenplay? No. But they should be.

If you plan to write out a story, you need to be able to keep track of what you have already told, where the story is going and what is left to uncover.

There are Many Ways to Take Notes

Many writing software programs have built in note taking abilities. You will also find note taking apps for free download in your mobile store.

Which ones do I recommend? None of them. Not that they aren’t useful, but writing a story is a connection. You connect yourself to the reader, the story to the reader and yourself to the story.

Back before computers and smartphones, many writers used pen and paper to write out their stories. A typewriter was used to put the final draft in a specific font and format for submission, but before that notebooks and loose leaf paper were used.

My first novel and first screenplay were written out long-hand. There is a distinct connection to the story that can only be had by writing this way.

Today, of course, almost every word is written on the computer. It is faster, easier and more organized. Personlly, I use note taking to stay physically connected to my stories, and it is what I recommend for everyone.

And while I know that many of you will opt for the digital note taking version, you should still know how to hand write story notes.

One example, was that recently I was without power for several days due to a hurricane. During the power outage I couldn’t use the computer or work on my stories. However, I continuously had ideas and thoughts for writing them. Pulling out paper and pen allowed me to make the notes I needed without having to wait for power to come back on.

Let’s look at the writing prompt for today and see how we can utilize this basic writing tool for our own use.

May 11

Get something to write with and something to write on. Small paper is recommended. Think about the last scene you wrote and make 4 to 6 notes on what should happen next.

You may have noticed I said small paper. This means things like Post-It notes (TM) or other small scraps of paper. Index cards work well, too.

Why, though? Because paper is like a shopping cart. It is a psychological aspect and why many grocers and markets are doing away with the small, hand-held baskets.

The larger your basket when you go shopping, the more you tend to buy. Psychologically we want to fill our carts, so even if we have a list to follow, we still see “room” to add more items. This is how a 4-item list turns into a $300 shopping trip.

Note taking is the same thing.

The more room you have to write notes, the less notes you will actually write. Instead your “note” will turn into a multi-page thing that makes the process even more difficult.

So take your smaller paper and limit what you write on it. In this case, you want to write about things that should happen next based on teh scene or chapter you have already written.

What are Some Things you Should Write?

Well, if your character is leaving the house, they may need to grab a jacket. You might have mentioned the adverse weather outside. If a few chapters previous you put them in shorts and a tank top, the snow or rain going on outside may require something different.

You may want to remember the time of day for continuity. Or how the character is getting from point A to point B.

There are so many things you can use for notes here. Things about the scene itself, the character or even the plot. If you want to introduce a new character, for example, you can do that when the situation is right. If you want to put the new character in the shop when the MC is buying a pack of smokes, then the MC needs to leave their house.

When writing these short notes, remember to think about the big things in your story that no one realizes are there. Things like timeline continuity, weather, time of day or night, locations, names, modes or transportation.

It is a real scene break when your MC gets in their car to drive to the mall only to get off the bus when they get there. Use your notes to make sure all the “hidden” aspects of your story stay true throughout.

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