I believe in notebooks. They can be journaling books, binders, fancy notebooks from the bookstore or office supply place, small note pads or whatever you like. Some should be small enough to keep beside you when you are reading and writing. Binders can hold information you’ve printed out from on-line or pulled from magazines.

Each one should have its own purpose. One for reading. One for writing. One for marketing. One for your recipes, etc. You might have one for each book you write with research, lists, notes, anything to do with that book.

But most important for a writer is to have one for reading and one for writing.

Why for reading? Because as you read, you should note down anything you find interesting or important. You might even have one for fiction and one for non-fiction. For example, for fiction, put down the date you read it, title, author, perhaps year it was published and by whom. Write down the main characters’ names, quote lines you liked, and when you’re finished reading, write down a quick plot summary. Note whether you liked the book or not, maybe even giving it a star rating. After you’ve done this for about a year, you can see what you liked most in plots, characters, and the writing itself if you’ve written down great lines. This will help you with your own writing and to pick out future reading. For non-fiction, simply fill in the title/author/etc., then jot down every highlight—the things you find most interesting and want to remember. Of course, if you own the book, you can also simply mark it up and put it in your bookshelves. Perhaps even dedicate shelves to those books you have marked up.

For writing? Every time you read a great article or book, be sure to write down the important things, things that you think you need to remember or need to keep in mind when you write. You’ll find yourself reading over this notebook every so often. I recommend you do so before you start writing each novel. You can also mark up these books you own, too, of course.

Notes and notebooks are your friends.


Organization takes planning. To plan, you need a few tools. For me, the most basic are a calendar/planner, some small, legal-sized notebooks and a pen.

When buying a planner, I’d look for a binder that holds both a yearly calendar with blocks on each day to write in, plus a few pockets for miscellaneous pieces of paper and some of your business cards, and, very important, a place for a small legal pad. If you can’t find anything like that, you’ll have to stick with a separate calendar/planner and some small legal size pads.

The calendar part of planning is obvious. Put down appointments and other important things you have to do each day. Another trick is, at the end of the day, write one line about the most significant thing you did. You can keep these as a kind of quick and dirty diary to look back at, if needed, or if interested, later on.

The notepads can have a cover or not. Have one for each project. Right now I have:

  • One for daily stuff—to-do lists, to-buy lists, notes about anything I find important, miscellaneous stuff. This one is with my calendar.
  • I also have one about writing. I jot down ideas for this blog, other ideas about writing, anything I need to remember about writing in general.
  • Another one is full of notes about organization; many of those ideas from that notebook will probably be expanded on for this blog.
  • Yet another one now is for plans being made for an upcoming road trip. To pack, ideas for sight-seeing, towns to stop in along the way and so on.
  • I write short stories, so I keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas for those.
  • Suggestions for others are: hobbies, reading, genealogy.

You’d think I’d have one for my novels. But I make all my notes about my current work-in-progress right in a document (saving it as: <Title> Notes.doc) in my word processor.

A single, large or small notebook can also serve the same purpose. With tabs for each individual project, you can keep it all together and quickly find what you need. Since I am on my laptop a good part of the day, I find the smaller, individual notebooks easier to handle.

Have you found a different system that works for you to keep the areas of your life separate? Please share them here in the comments section. I’d love to hear them.