3. Start a Writer’s Notebook

As a writer, sometimes it seems almost impossible to find inspiration for a new story. But there’s a sure-fire way to create a treasure box of ideas that’s available at your finger tips whenever you need it! All you need to do is to start, and keep adding, to your very own Writer’s Notebook!


Writer’s notebooks have been around a long time – in fact hundreds of years! Here are just some of the famous writers who kept notebooks as an essential tool of their writing trade: the great 18th century polymath Isaac Newton and US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin; 19th century American writer Mark Twain, English writer Oscar Wilde and English naturalist Charles Darwin; the famous 20th century writers Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham – to name but a few!

WHY keep a Writer’s Notebook?

Have you ever read a strange fact in a newspaper or watched a funny film clip on TV or seen something amazing in your neighbourhood and thought to yourself “Now that would be a great idea for a story!” then promptly forgotten it? So that when it came time to write a story you couldn’t for the life of you remember the details? If you’re anything like me, that has happened to you a lot!

Writer’s notebooks are the easy way to stop that ever happening again! They’re a stress-free way of storing every idea for a story that ever pops into your head right away, so that you can always find it again! It’s like a big memory box, filled with great ideas, which you can mix and match to create truly remarkable original stories at any time in the future.

WHAT to keep in your Writer’s Notebook?

This is entirely up to you! The only rule is, it must be something which you might be able to use in your writing one day. So unlike a Daily Diary, in which you can write about anything you like, a Notebook is strictly a writing tool, and you need to think first about what you put in it. But that can be quite a lot! For example:

  • a quick paragraph describing someone you just met;
  • something you noticed which amused or excited or intrigued you;
  • a record of a conversation you just heard;
  • random facts like the population of dung beetles in California :) !
  • a running list of things that you find scary, or funny, or surprising, which you can keep adding to;
  • a dream you had last night;
  • a list of books you’d like to read in future;
  • descriptions of any special traditions your family keeps like religious festivals,  special celebrations for school results, maybe a funeral for a pet – anything a bit different that could be a fascinating part of a story at a later date;
  • quotes that inspire you;
  • a list of rhymes for words, or great names for characters, or a terrific title for a story;
  • newspaper clippings of interesting articles;
  • quick drawings or sketches of people or places or objects you’ve seen;
  • ticket stubs, photos, maps and brochures for places you’ve visited (great tools for a story setting at a later date).

WHERE to keep your Writer’s Notebook?

The most important use for a Writer’s Notebook is to capture your ideas immediately, before you forget them! So needless to say, you need to keep your Notebook with you at all times (except when you’re in the shower..!). So keep it in your pocket if you can, or a shoulder bag, or your school bag, then take it out and put it on your homework table when you get home, then make sure to keep it on your bedside table when you go to bed! And of course it must go with you on all your activites and travels! And remember that a Notebook is of no use whatsoever if you don’t have a PEN to write with, so make sure to keep a pen with your Notebook too!

HOW to keep your Writer’s Notebook?

You’re going to write and draw and paste all kinds of things into your Notebook so it could all end up in a big jumble! As the whole point of the notebook is to make your ideas instantly accessible, it’s a good idea to number all the pages of your book before you start writing in it, and to leave some pages blank either at the front or the back for an index where you can list the page numbers of various types of information as they build up. For example, one heading might be “Names for Characters” or another might be “Quotes” or “Ideas for Stories” or “Information for Settings”. Make sure also to put the starting and ending date on your Notebook as it will be the first of many Notebooks you will fill up as a budding author!

WHAT sort of book to use for your Writer’s Notebook?

Any kind of notebook is just fine provided it’s strong and sturdy, with a hardcover and both lined and blank pages, and a strong spine you can write on. It also has to be small enough to be easliy portable in a small bag, and of course it should look good too, with a great colour or pretty design on the cover to make you want to write in it a lot! It also helps if all your Notebooks are of a similar height and width so that they can be easily stored together on a bookshelf.

What a fabulous way to build up a treasure house of ideas for stories  if you’re really, truly serious about becoming a great writer! So go on – start your very own Writer’s Notebook this weekend and join the company of some of the greatest writers the world has ever known!

Copyright Sarah Brennan 25th June 2012


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  1. I absolutely love this idea! My ideal notebook is just a blank leather journal. Always manages to spark a bit of inspiration. Thanks so much 🙂

    • Thanks for writing Georgia – and I hope your notebook gives you plenty of wonderful ideas for your stories!

  2. […] I shall have to adopt better habits and Start a Writer’s Notebook as recommended on Sarah Brennan’s Funny and Fabulous […]

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for the great post. I’ve linked to it on my blog. Hope that’s okay.

    • Lorrie – you’re very welcome – and your blog is excellent! I’ll let the kids know about it on my next Top Tip posting!

      • That will be much appreciated.

  4. Great ideas…never thought about numbering the pages of a notebook. May actually make it easier for me to find things.

    • Great to hear from you – page numbering rules! Sarah

  5. […] every so often a post-it flag accidentally falls out.  Here is a blog post I read yesterday about writers’ notebooks, which had an interesting idea I’m thinking of trying.  It was simply to number the pages in […]

  6. A friend of mine actually purchased a waterproof notebook and pen for use in the shower. Woo!

  7. […] should you censor yourself, especially when your writing notebook is concerned.  Sarah Brennan has a whole blog post about what you should write in your notebook, written especially for kids and teens.  My notebook is a combination of a personal journal, my […]

    • Hi Tom – thanks for the pingback. Your blogpost is fantastic and I’ll recommend it to younger writers on my blog.

  8. […] very much like many of the suggestions on this page, and this writer’s energy about keeping a writing […]

    • Thanks so much Collaborative Writer! And for anyone reading this post, make sure you take a look at Collaborative Writer’s blog – it’s terrific and full of inspiration and encouragement for budding authors!

  9. First of all I want to say terrific blog! I had
    a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself
    and clear your thoughts before writing. I’ve
    had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts
    out there. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes
    are wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Many thanks!

    • Hi and thanks for posting. One of the best ways I find to centre myself before writing is to go out walking on my own somewhere green and beautiful. There’s something about the rhythm, the silence and nature itself which calms my brain, and I find that ideas start popping into my head for whatever I’m writing next. Particularly as I write my stories in rhyme, the rhythm of walking is extremely helpful in finding that “song” for the story. Hope that helps and best of luck!

  10. Wonderful idea, I’m going to follow your advice. Nice!

  11. This ia a great idea for everyone I love it Thx 💗💗

  12. thanks! I am trying to learn more about writing and these ideas are great.

  13. […] writer’s notebook yet? If not, why not start one? Here’s a great article called “Start a Writer’s Notebook” that could help you begin. Reading it makes me realize my own notebooks are more neglected […]

    • Thanks Maris for the kind comments! Best of luck with your notebooks!

  14. you are good at doing these type of things and I am a like you I take a notebook everywhere well not everywhere but most places school,my grandparents, my room, in the car I use it so ya I can relate to this and you gave me a idea you know were that will go NOTEBOOK lol any was it is helpful so thanks for sharing it to everyone

  15. helped a lot thank you

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