Friday, October 4, 2013

Scribbles and Scratches: A Writer's Notebooks

Last night I decided I wanted to take something special to GRL to show my friends: a copy of my very first published novel. I knew Id find one of those old paper things buried in the attic, among several boxes holding the collected files of my correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, old contracts, ancient reviews and, well, everything I’ve ever written professionally.

But I also found something else, and I thought it might be fun to share a bit of whimsy with you.

Here is my very first notebook. This one started life when I was 15. If you look closely, you will see that it cost 25 cents, and that’s about what it’s worth today. To me it was a priceless repository and I poured my first story into its pages.

Here is the original, fresh from my teenage mind, conception of the multi-dimension structure of what later became my Triempery universe. It’s not clear to anyone but me. The pages of the book also contain genealogies, histories, and clippings from magazines of what my characters and settings looked like. Every page is filled to bursting with what my teenage self believed important to a story. In the end, I used only the core idea and a few names.

I continued to keep notebooks for each novel. I even decorated them. Notice the attention to detail. Inside the book are name lists, lists of alien words, explanations for cultural aspects of the society including its religion, sexual practices, and more clippings from magazines illustrating clothing and settings.

The advent of the internet and the ability to store photos (and lists) on my computer killed off my need to mutilate exotic magazines and also meant the demise of my notebooks. But I still have a penchant for writing out the bones of my stories on paper.

Meet the legal pad.

Here is a scene from Thick as Thieves. I believe Vorgell and Madd are facing a battle in the forest.

And here is a picture of scenes from several stories in scribbled form. I keep each story’s notes and scribbles in their respective file folders, along with any research not on the computer. There’s my creative process spilling all over the pages.

Did I mention I draw maps? They range from the crude to the painstakingly detailed, and every world has one.

There you have it. Proof positive I’m a disorganized, in no way green writer with marginal map skills. What’s fun is having all this paper around to remind me of what was, and how my stories are researched and plotted and grow. It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen only in pixels. There's a lot of ink involved.

And, should the need arise, enough paper to keep my little house warm for a whole winter.

So, what kind of paper trail does your writingor readingcreate?


  1. Tali,

    what a great post. I loved seeing all your notes and especially your maps. You're very talented.

    I've used notebooks too. I still do to scribble down the rough draft or when I need to get a clear grip on a scene. My desk is also littered with all kinds of books (depending on the research I'm doing--if I'm writing a shapeshifter story I usually have biology books scattered around). Oh, and then there are those long e-mails I printed out, so I can edit my manuscripts properly.

    What a fun post. :)

    1. The forensics of a story can be great fun. All the stuff that goes into one! I'm happy to meet another scribbler. Every time I talk with you, we seem to have more in common. :)

  2. I mourn the demise of paper and pen writing. You should see my grandsons' handwriting; horrible, illegible just a mess. They don't teach penmanship anymore and evidently neatness counts for nothing. There are many things about "modern" education that horrify me. I think someday someone is going to give a big "whoopsie maybe we should have taught them how to write and to memorize those multiplication tables." Oh, and don't even get me started on spelling and grammar. Sorry for the rant, tried to help the middle one with his homework earlier and was nearly crying with frustration afterwards. So you have my approval for your use of the notebooks and pens. Don't lose the old ways entirely as someday these youngsters may need someone to show them the way.

    1. Hi Nancy. :) I get a little nostalgic when I think back on my early love of fountain pens and gorgeous fine paper for letter writing. I no longer write many letters by hand and there's a whole intimacy of communication being lost. Email conveys information, but there's something intensely personal about seeing a friend or relative's handwriting. It also says so much about them. You're so very right about handwriting becoming a kind of lost art!

  3. Love the post. Writing is too complicated to only "write"

    Maps, random thoughts, scribbles, diaries, and coming at it from every direction and turning it into a coherent great. Love the pics.

    1. Plot, characters, and setting are spun from a gooey mass of information, ideas, imagination, and purpose. It's part of the fun. Thanks for coming by! :)

  4. *rubs eyes, looks again* Holy frijoles, Tali, I just had to say something. I have a box of ancient notebooks that could be twins of those in my basement...

  5. Ancient being the operative word. :) You and I might just head up the OF brigade!

  6. There is absolutely nothing like the sight and smell of a brand new notebook. Untouched. Virgin. Begging to be written on. And of course, the pen has to be right. Smooth, even and nicely shaped for holding and stroking...oh and chewing the end of. Sigh. I miss writing those books. Damn the digital age.