Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Writers' Notebooks and Maple Syrup

photo courtesy
"It takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Maple sap is mostly water. To make syrup you've got to boil off that water. Much of your writer's notebook is like that watery sap. You have to boil off lots of water in order to make the syrup of your writing dark, thick, and sweet." --Donald Murray

Following this analogy, does it take forty notebooks to distill down to one successful book? Oh, my, I hope not. I'm certainly on my way, but no where close to that! Let's see. A notebook for my WIP, one for character sketches, those for ideas to develop, descriptions, fun word combinations, poetry, inspirational thoughts, tidbits I don't want to lose track of but don't know what to do with, various journals. Some I work out of regularly, others I haven't made an entry in for a long time.

Question of the week: do you keep a writer's notebook? What does it look like? Do you maintain more than one? Do you have one that's sticky with maple syrup?

Want to see what others say about the writer's notebook? You might check out:
Writer's Notebook, on Pinterest
Keeping a Writer's Notebook
Never Be Blocked


  1. I keep files, mostly. For my current WIP there are literally hundreds of files and numerous file folders. Then there are the writer's files that are of a more general nature. I have a couple gigabytes' worth of that type of files. And I have each of the 8-10 novels I've written over the past 20 years in separate 3-ring binders. Someday soon, if life slows down a bit, I want to read them again.

  2. Cathy, like you I have bunches of files, along with notebooks, but my files are mostly research materials. That's where things get out of hand. I'm always clipping an article here or a reference there--so much so that I often wonder what I'm going to do with it all! I suppose it would be good to sort through/toss a bunch of stuff but I don't have the heart to do that yet. Enjoy reading through your previous work--hopefully you'll be pleased with how good your novels actually turned out. Thanks for stopping by...

  3. I do keep a notebook that I carry around with me a lot. I write down all sorts of ideas - things that could improve characterization, plot ideas, even words or phrases that appeal to me. I took a fresh one with me on a recent vacation (didn't want to risk losing that special one plus I wanted to record things that happened). One evening my nine-year-old grandson and I sat down together. He was supposed to write about his vacation for school next fall. We wrote together and compared notes. Writers of all ages can benefit from keeping a notebook!

  4. I have one primary notebook, but have others scattered about the house. Don't even want to count the scraps of paper that litter my desk, too - I write ideas and notes down all the time! No syrup on any of them that I know of, more likely a bit of chocolate. :)

  5. Peggy, what a neat thing to do with your grandson--making memories while fostering the next generation of writers. Way to go! And I can relate to leaving special notebooks behind when traveling, they would be irreplaceable if lost along the way :-) Hope you enjoyed that vacation...

    Karen, it's good to know I'm not the only one whose desk is littered with scraps and notes. Now if I can only get them organized in some way...if I do, I'm sure I'll find some chocolate shavings in the mix, too :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Shoot, my first comment didn't post for some reason. I was just rambling about how I made pancakes for the wee ones this morning and how I love that syrup quote :) I don't keep a notebook, but I have lots of "idea" files on the computer. I do take lots of random notes on any available purse paper scraps--empty space on take-out menus, the backs of receipts, etc. And I pile them around my computer to transfer onto my electronic files~ the mess drives my hubby bonkers because my "office" is on the kitchen table :)