I’m sure we writers hit a spot during our writing career when we feel overwhelmed. We’ve done a great job developing that plot, the foreshadowing and characters, but it’s too much. We can’t keep track, what with all the scattered Word files and notebooks full of unorganized scribbles. Let’s face it:
It’s tough being a writer. It can be depressing, writing about people, who, even though they are fictional, have serious problems. Delving into those problems and developing them, crafting them into a story, can lead to fictional stress (a real thing). It’s like you’re making sure ten different people are all taken care of and happy at the same time. Unorganized and dislocated, all these story tidbits, the tiniest scenes, the snatches of dialog, a character’s arc, etc. etc. all come tumbling down on your poor cluttered mind and distracts you, forcing you to lose your confidence. Your wits. Your sanity. Your nut.
For a while, this fit me to a T. When school started, it got worse, and I found the root of the problem was disorganization. I like keeping notes about my writing, but they’re all scattered in one tiny notebook I bring with me everywhere. There are a lot of ways to keep your writing organized; I’ve heard Scrivener is a very popular and handy resource particularly for fiction writers. But I can’t take a laptop everywhere I go. A notebook? Check. And that’s where all my writing ideas go before I log them onto a Word file.
I started researching how to gather up all my ideas into one place (in this case, a single journal) where I could find them easily. Now if that doesn’t sound like heaven to a plotter, I don’t know what does. In my research, I came across a term called “bullet journaling” and I was very happy with the article I found: Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers
I bought a notebook. I fell in love with it. And I started to bullet journal. (Cue suspenseful music.)
I’m really loving it. And not only do I get all my flurries of ideas organized about my one WIP novel, I also get to arrange other story ideas, new characters and plots, and anything slightly writing related. All in one place. I read a couple articles on how to do it and then decided to experiment. Seeing as my experiment worked, here’s the results: Keep Your Writing Organized with a Bullet Journal.
As a side note: I JUST started bullet journaling, and haven’t had a ton of experience. I haven’t seen a lot of step by step articles on how to bullet journal for writing fiction, thus this blog post. So, learn with me!
Step 1: How to Bullet Journal Anyway?
Short answer: Take notes with lots of bullets.
Long answer which is still kind of short on my part: Take a look at this page on the official bullet journal site. It summarizes the basics of what these nifty noteboks should incorporate and tips to help you get started. “All you need is a notebook and a pen.” In my opinion, there’s no right or wrong way to bullet journal. Organization is key.
I bought a travelers notebook that looks and functions exactly like a Midori notebook, but it’s cheaper. It’s called the ZLYC Travelers Notebook, made with good-quality leather, and is refillable for only 15 bucks. Not only is it leather and authentic, it also looks like something Bilbo might bring with him on the journey there and back again (and I can recommend it for that one reason alone). Ever since I got it in the mail, it’s been my absolute favorite thing and writing this post was a good excuse to take lots and lots of pictures. You know the drill.
I highly recommend this one, though if you want something bigger, I’d definitely go with the Leuchtturm1917 if you were me. But you’re not me, so don’t feel like you have to go with my judgement (I’ve never used the Leuchtturm1917 but it is the “official” bullet journal; can’t go wrong there).
Step 2: Organize Before you Write
As soon as I got the journal, I held it, hugged it, and looked at it from all the different possible angles before the temptation hit me full force: I MUST WRITE IN THIS THING. But then, I remembered the reason I’d gotten it for.
Er, yes. Bullet journaling.
Which means I had to plan how to format the notebook, write an index, etc. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any post, not even with pictures, that showed step by step how to organize and what to include in a bullet journal specifically for fiction writers (particularly of fantasy and sci-fi). As I said before, because of this, I came up with my own layout, divided up the segments/categories accordingly with the amount of pages, and I’m quite satisfied with it. Behold, the visual guide.
The Title Page
Every bullet journal needs a title page, particularly if you’re going to have a bunch of them.
This bullet journal is specifically for writing and everything related. But the calander pages gave me some extra room for other stuff. We’ll get to that in a sec.
Index and Organization
The index is the beauty of bullet journaling and is the Cornerstone of all Organization. The notebook comes with three sections: One with lined paper, another calander, and the other blank, each with about 60 pages at least. The first section I titled NETHERWORLD and did some math to divide the pages among the different categories. For example, the pages for my Characters got 16 pages (2-4 pages for each character, depending on depth), Dialog got 4 pages, etc.
I did the same thing with the calander section. The months September-January each got about 5 pages each with one page for wrting goals, another for reading goals, and so on. The third section, all blank, got the categories assorted such as Writing Prompts, Movie Shot Ideas, Character Sketches, and Additional WIP Inspiration.
The tricky part was alloting each section to a certain number of pages. It took some math, but in the end, everything fit well.
So there you have it. A non-in-depth guide to bullet journaling for writers. Feel free to pop any comment down there with questions or opinions. Do you bullet journal? Please leave some tips!!! Particularly if you bullet journal for your own fiction writing. Teach me your ways. Thanks for reading and good luck with your writing organization!