This is the third post in my series on keeping a writers notebook. I can’t emphasize enough how important this tool is for cataloging and organizing ideas. I take most of my ideas for this tool from the book, The Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. This book helps you organize your notebook and use the information you record for various purposes.
If you want to read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series, just click on the links.
Keep Lists of Interesting Words
Did you ever come across a word while playing Words with Friends or while thumbing through a magazine article or the vocabulary quiz in Reader’s Digest and think that it was an interesting word that you’d like to use some time?
I started keeping lists of words and their definitions some time ago and try to weave them into my writing.
Here are some examples:
- Instead of chew, use masticate. Your reader will take a second look at your writing if your main character insists on masticating for 30 seconds after each bite of dinner
- Instead of walking, a character can saunter or amble.
- Why run when you can scuttle or lope
- Wonky or Catty Wompass sound much more interesting than turned or twisted toward one side. I picked these gems up in Texas.
- Quixotic is a great word when you want to say someone is not sensible about practical matters
- Use the word misanthrope when you want to describe someone who dislikes people in general
- Something is jejune if it is lacking interest or significance or impact
- If your character likes to wander aimlessly in search of pleasure, you can say they gallivant
- If something is determined by chance or impulse rather than by necessity, then you can say it is capricious
Set Goals in Your Notebook
I use my notebook this way. I actually start at the back page and move forward with goals. I used to carry a separate notebook just for goals, but that got to be a pain. Your goals can include both short and long-term goals like:
- Edit chapter 10 of new book
- Complete editing new book
- Contract cover design
- Design social media ads
- Write screenplay
- Sell 1 million books
- Become rich and famous
You can use whatever system you prefer to list goals, but when you see them in writing and can check them off as you finish them, they become more tangible.
Record Your Memories
In my Frank Rozzani Detective Novels, much of my character’s backstory matches my own in terms of growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Upstate New York in my grandmother’s two family house. I captured a lot of my memories from my childhood using my five senses to describe them. Here are some examples:
- The house constantly smelled like garlic and tomatoes
- The sound of ambulances speeding to the nearby hospital often woke me at night
- The sight of the two story house brought forth feelings of family and the large parties that we had there (my grandmother had nine children)
- The walls looked like melted wax on the side of candles. They were designed by a special technique where burlap bags were put over wet plaster and beaten. I remember the feel of the walls from touching them.
- I remember the taste of warm Italian bread, olive oil and fresh tomatoes and onions from the garden.
This is the second post in my series on keeping a writers notebook. I can’t emphasize enough how important this tool is for cataloging and organizing ideas. I take most of my ideas for this tool from the book, The Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. This book helps you organize your notebook and use the information you record for various purposes.
If you want to read Part 1 of this series, you can click HERE.
Your Notebook is Like an Incubator
Think of your writer’s notebook as a place where the seeds of ideas are stored and nurtured until they can hatch into full-fledged stories. Once you’ve recorded an idea, your mind will return to it and may collect other observations and partial ideas that will help nourish the original thought into a complete story or book idea.
These seeds can be partial sentences or even a single word. They are designed to get you thinking and helping them grow until they are ready to survive on their own.
Create Mind Pictures
Mind pictures are descriptions of things that you experience as realized through your five senses. If you walk by a building, try describing how it appears using these senses:
- The brick of the building was a deep red speckled with the white scars realized from harsh winters and intense sunlight of summer. (Sight)
- The floors of the building creaked like an old man’s knees might groan when standing up from a favorite chair. (Sound)
- There was the odor of chalk dust and crayons lingering in the air within the long closed brick school building. (Smell)
- The brick felt rough as if it had experienced many years of students tramping through the building, each leaving their mark. This was contrasted with the smooth feel of the blackboards and desks that had been written upon repeatedly yet maintained their slick exterior. (Touch)
- Deeply inhaling the air in the building resulted in a mixture of dust, mildew and floor wax passing through my sinuses and on my tongue. (Taste – this one may be difficult)
Bits of Conversation
As I travel around the country, I try to notice the things that people say in different areas. This helps with portraying accurate local dialog in your work when you work in particular settings. It also helps you to pick up local sayings and colorful phrases that can entertain your readers.
Here are some unique words I’ve picked up from states that I’ve traveled to over the past five years:
- Colorado: buck — a brace for cutting firewood
- Florida: scaper — rascal or critter
- Georgia: burk — vomit
- Iowa: kittenball — softball
- Massachusetts: diddledees — pine needles
- Michigan: sewing needle — dragonfly
- Minnesota: ish — expression of disgust
- New Mexico: colchon — mattress