Writing Routine Helper: Daily Notes

Who has come across the writing advice to leave a writing session mid-sentence and make a note of where to pick up the next day?

It’s something I heard years ago and have used in the past.

Just recently, I was editing my latest draft and not feeling enthusiastic about it. I’m already a few months into the edit and only have five new scenes to write. In an ideal world, I’d be done by now, but it’s taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r instead.

During this one session, as I was finishing for the day, I remembered that old advice and jotted down where I thought the new scene should go next. It was only a few sentences and scant on details, but it was enough for me to close my laptop, actually excited about coming back to the scene the next day. Anyone who is months long into an edit knows how rare that feeling can be.

That excitement sparked the idea of a simple task that I could add to my writing routine: make daily notes.

Writing Routine Helper: Daily Notes

Whilst in my case the notes were for the specific scene I was working on, jotting down other notes while the details are fresh in your mind would be helpful too, and will only benefit your MS in the long run.

If you’d like to see how, get into the habit of making the following notes at the end of your writing sessions, based on the pages/scene/chapter just penned.

  • POV character.
  • Other characters.
  • Setting/s.
  • Day/night/time.
  • Big reveal/important detail.
  • A summary of what happened.
  • Character arc.
  • Where to next.

Feel free to be as detailed as you like with your notes, but keep in mind this process should be quick and simple.

Ideally, the longest notes will be the summary and where to next, and try to limit them to a paragraph or two at most.

Here’s an example:

POV character: Main Character, Jenny.

Other characters:
Her best friend and fellow office worker, Carla.

Setting/s:
Jenny’s house. Carla’s office.

Time:
Present day, Thursday, early afternoon.

Summary:
Jenny is working from home when she needs to log onto the work server and realizes she’s accidentally been given access to Carla’s files. Carla is her best friend who works in the cubicle next to her. They’re both up for a promotion and Jenny can now see that Carla has copied her notes on a big-deal presentation and is going to give it that afternoon while Jenny is not in the office.

Big reveal/important detail: Jenny’s best friend is working against her.

Character arc: Up until this point, Jenny has been nothing but nice to Carla and even helped her get her job in the office. She decides she needs to step up and fight for what she wants.

Where to next: Jenny goes into the office to confront Carla and arrives just as the meeting is happening and takes it over. She knows the project better than Carla and can prove it with her knowledge. Or Jenny could arrive too late and get there just as the presentation is ending and Carla is shaking hands with their boss, having earned the promotion over Jenny.

As you can see, the notes are simple and wouldn’t take long to write down. If you were coming back to your writing desk the next day, later in the week, or even a few months later, these notes would let you know exactly what’s happened and where you are going next with the story.

What To Do With Your Notes

Not just good for a head start on your next writing session, the notes can also be used in other ways…

Daily

  • Use them to refresh your memory of the story and quickly pick up where you left off.
  • As an encouragement to keep writing. The notes prove you’re making progress with the story. Keep it up!
  • Help you decide what to do next. Writing out your summary could spark ideas for how to continue the story. As will your notes brainstorming where to go next.

Longterm

Since you have regular notes about what you’ve been writing, it’s a good idea to get more mileage out of them.

They might not seem like much, but by the time you get to the end of your manuscript, notes that cover pretty much everything are going to be a big help. After all, you have…

  • Character names and a running tally of chapters/scenes from their POV.
  • Settings – your daily notes will give you a list of the places in your story world.
  • Summaries and character arc notes that tell you all about your characters, their motivation, and backstory.
  • Time notes that will create a timeline of the events in your book.
  • Summaries, when listing major events, will help you keep track of and check your plot.

From this info, you can create a book bible, an outline, your synopsis, or refresh the story in your mind without having to re-read the whole MS.

Just from one simple habit of making daily notes, you’ve got a wealth of information about your book!

And the best thing about these notes is that they’re adaptable to your own process and story. Include the categories and details that will help you keep track and make sense of your story. It’s an extra step in your writing routine, but it’s well worth it.

— K.M. Allan

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18 thoughts on “Writing Routine Helper: Daily Notes

  1. Great advice, Kate! As a pantser, I am constantly adding notes to myself about what’s coming in the chapters yet to be written at the bottom of the document. I also jot down ideas just after my stopping point for the day so I have an idea of where I was going. It’s too easy to forget things otherwise. Thank goodness for scratch paper and post-it notes, since ideas spring up when you least expect them and are nowhere near your computer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this tip, because I often forget where I’m at once I’m a few chapters past—or worse, when I come back to edit after a long time of letting the manuscript marinate. Will definitely give this a go. Thanks for this!

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  3. Pingback: Writing Routine Helper: Daily Notes — K.M. Allan – Kastonedigital

  4. Grant at Tame Your Book!

    Excellent checklist! I reread your post and realized I had been doing something similar with Scrivener. I call it my Metadata Edit. Using the Custom Metadata feature in Scrivener, I list the items, which appear in the right-hand Inspector column.

    During or after my writing, I fill in the list. If I get interrupted or just feel like calling it a day, I can pick up right where I left off.

    When editing, I go a step further with Aeon Timeline, syncing the Metadata to see key elements come together, much like the hubs on a subway map. Once it became a habit, filling in the Metadata actually enhanced my writing by prompting for the items on your list plus senses, humor, story problem, scene goal, conflict, stakes, weather, etc. Thanks for the excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

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