Justine: Write It Down or Forget It


My “Little Black Book”

This summer’s RWA conference wasn’t the best for me (see this post for reasons why). What’s worse was what I discovered after I got home. My black Moleskine, which contained every little tidbit of information, ideas, notes, practice log lines, minutiae from my trip to England this past May, all the “Heyer-isms” I’d written down after listening to hundreds of hours of her books, advice from fellow writers I’d gleaned at our local RWA chapter meetings…in other words, my entire writing life – was missing.


Like that.

*snaps fingers*

I’d never felt so sick in my life.

But there’s a happy ending to my sad story. A week ago, I got an email from someone at RWA telling me they were finally going through the lost-and-found box from the conference this summer and found my notebook (in which, thankfully, I’d put my contact info). They dropped it in the mail that day and I got it back on Saturday.

Cue the massive relieve and overwhelming joy!

See, I’m getting older. (Hang on, I need to wait for the other Eight Ladies to stop laughing – or snorting – as they read this. I’m the youngest in the group and it wouldn’t be the first time they laughed at my references to old age.) But I am getting older and I remember less and less. It’s become a requirement for me to write things down lest I forget them, even when I’m in the shower (thank you Jennifer O’Brien for introducing me to AquaNotes!).

And I write down a lot of things.

Here’s a sample from some random pages:

  • Rococo design clue: look at the chairs – the seat is the same size as the back. Lots of gold and twisty bits
  • Look into the legality of the marriage thing before age 21. Could really mess up my story
  • Ian Fleming – 007 is the bus route from London to Dover
  • Sailors did NOT like women on board – very unlucky
  • In dialogue – cut out the definitive “yes/no” and make it more of a lead

I have also jotted down future story ideas, about 12 pages of varying iterations of log lines for Three Proposals, and lots of notes from my England trip, including ideas for different scenes in 3P and the other books I have planned.

My husband thinks I’m insane for keeping information so important on something so easy to lose. He’s a digital junkie – hates paper. But I’m not a good note-taker on the computer. Or iPad. It’s not creative enough for me. When I’m musing about something, I find I work much better doodling with my favorite type of pen and lots of blank pages. Not to mention when I’m out and about, stowing an iPad or laptop is just plain impractical. I don’t want to carry around a laptop bag everywhere I go. It’s bad enough all the crap I carry around for my little kids.

So I stick to my Moleskine (I did buy another one to replace the first – this one in a bright purple so it would be easier to spot – but I’ll save it for when my current one is full).

Jilly is also a devoted Moleskine user. It’s not a bad idea to keep a notebook handy so you can write down great ideas. I’ve had several ideas fly out the car window or slide down the drain because I didn’t have anything to write with or on. And I’ll never forget hearing Jude Devereaux talk at an RWA conference about her great idea – so wonderful that she thought she couldn’t possibly forget it, but she did. She admonished us to write down everything.

So do you keep a notebook handy? Or are you more technological? What’s your strategy for keeping track of ideas?

As a postscript, to the person who turned in my notebook, I am forever grateful to you! Thank you for your random act of kindness. I promise to pay it forward.

7 thoughts on “Justine: Write It Down or Forget It

  1. I’m glad you got your notebook back. Too bad there isn’t an easy scan solution to allow for a digital backup. Of course, then the digital back up has to be backed up (twice). I’ve lost digital stuff as well as hard copy stuff. It is heartbreaking.

  2. Very glad you got your notebook back, Justine! As you know, I love my Moleskines. Somehow I can’t work out problems on the computer, but give me a pen and paper and I’ll keep doodling away until my brain gets there. It means that I have books full of junk – page after page of character/title/plot problem/ brain dump – but I’d never throw them away and I’d be devastated to lose them.

  3. Hi, guys.
    I have notebooks all over the place. Organization, not so much.
    In other news, Campfire is basically dying since they’re not supporting it any more, so I’m going to shut down my account next month. HOWEVER, there’s still plenty of time to get transcripts if you want them, and I’ve found a MUCH better chat/project site that’s free that you can set up for yourselves:


    Lani and I worked on it for awhile and it’s great for chat, plus there’s all the other project things there.

    Also, VERY glad you got that notebook back. That really was awful.

  4. The very first time I commented on 8LW – which must be nearly two years ago – it was to say that I had just lost my project notebook. Unlike you (and I’m so happy for you), I never got it back. What I discovered, though, was that all was not all lost because the very act of making all the notes had moved me on in the story, and I’d internalised most of it (and, as for everything else, I can’t remember what it was, so I don’t miss it).

    What I do now is have two notebooks: one for research stuff (that I wouldn’t remember – things like the number of your bus to dover) and I don’t carry that about much (only when necessary). The other is all the notes I make about that story – I carry that nearly everywhere with me and, although it feels like my lifeblood, I know that it is the very act of making the notes that is the most important thing, not keeping them forever. (I try to copy a few things that are really important, like scene by scene outline onto the computer.)

    And I’m also part of the Moleskine club!

  5. I’m an Evernote kind of girl. I have it on my computers and phone (easy access from anywhere, to either type in notes or review them), and backed up on Evernote’s cloud. I even put my spreadsheets (like my series bible) there. But all our brains work differently, and lots of people need the act of writing out stuff longhand, which seems to work for you with your research and ideas phases. So glad to hear you found the notebook!

  6. I’ve got pages and pages of notes down in a Word Document that is backed up to Dropbox. It’s probably larger than a book at this point, LOL! See, I like digital note-taking because my handwriting sucks, and also because I can take screenshots of what I’m looking at. Then I have to transcribe things so they are searchable, but I can do that offline

    I also have scraps of paper and notebooks and all sorts of fool things laying around. I can never find a piece of paper or a pen when I need it, though. I need to get more organized on that front. Just the act of writing something is very satisfying, and I believe there’s research that says it sticks in your brain better if you write it down — even if you lose it later.

    But still, it’s so good to hear you got it back. There’s a moral for us all: write your name on all your stuff, and back up the computers. (Oh, forgot to mention that I backed up my word documents to an external hard drive — so that’s three places I have it now. Future archaelogists are going to have so much trouble reconstructing anything!!)

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