I am about to start a brand new notebook. It’s a historic event, not only because the notebook is strikingly pretty and it lay in my drawer in a virginal state for about five years, but also because that means I have to tear myself away from my old notebooks – and that’s just like taking out my own tonsils with a butcher’s knife.
My notebooks are the mirror of my soul. They are the first tangible step in my writing process. They help me capture those rare moments of creative genius and commit them to paper before they elope from my mind with all those dirty thoughts and unrealised desires that never quite stay long enough to come true.
Planning is every writer’s secret weapon. It can only be equated with solid and thorough premeditation in the near-perfect crime to be committed. It requires a clear purpose, means and an opportunity. When you write crime thrillers like I do, you can’t allow your reader the slightest glimpse into your planning. So it must be cunning and subversive. It has to play with the reader’s mind.
Did I mention that it was my husband who introduced me to methodical planning? I captured his professionalism in the planning department in this cartoon, which I named The Art of Strategic Planning:
But going back to my planning. And MY beloved notebooks. They come in all shapes and sizes and they kept me company through many drafts and re-writes, serving me faithfully as the mental and emotional dumping ground for all that has been littering my poor head while I was trying to focus on writing.
I wonder how other writers record their research and keep track of their planning, but I can be meticulous in taking down every detail and plotting the storyline in endless bullet points. I relish the moment when I can tick them off. Done! Next one, please: number four! Except that, despite all that diligent planning, the storyline has a habit of running away from me and taking strange turns, at which point my old planning gets the sack and my new planning goes to a new page where it is recorded in numbered points with every confidence of this being the final version of events. Only to be hijacked once again by some unruly character. So I have pages and pages of plotting the same storyline. Sometimes those pages become so crowded that I can’t read my own writing, but because we are on the same version, I simply cannot allow myself to move to a brand new page. So some pages become a little bit schizophrenic with many voices arguing for supremacy.
And sometimes (I hate to admit this) sometimes I lose focus and my planning notebooks turn into a graffiti wall with bizarre creatures turning up from nowhere and claiming some sort of executive-planner status. Take a look at these. Don’t ask me who they are and where they came from. I don’t know, but they are in my notebooks. They came to me when I could think of nothing, when I couldn’t write or plan – I just sat there with my pen in my hand. And they came along… They are my imps and my muses and that makes them an integral part of my planning process.