Welcome to writing camp, everybody!
Teachers Write! is a virtual summer writing camp for teachers and librarians. Click here to sign up if you’d like to join us! If you’re on Facebook & want to also join our group there,here’s the link. Then click “Join Group.”
A quick note about blogging your Teachers Write experience: It’s GREAT if you want to set up a blog where you share all of your writing from this summer. One important request: Please do not copy and paste the mini-lessons or writing prompts – publish only your own writing on your blog. If you’d like to reference the ideas shared here, providing a link is the best way to do that. Thanks!
Today’s mini-lesson is all about keeping a writer’s notebook. When people ask me about how to get started writing, I almost always share the same two pieces of advice, whether those people are nine years old or thirty-five, or seventy. The first thing is this: Read. Readers develop an ear for what good sentences sound like and a sense for what makes a story work. Reading will make you a better writer. The second piece of advice is: Write. This may sound ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how many people talk about wanting to write without actually sitting down and doing it. A writer’s notebook is a good way to start.
There are some very strict rules for having a writer’s notebook. Here they are:
Rule #1: Write in it.
Rule #2: There are no other rules.
Because here’s the thing… A writer’s notebook can have a million different jobs. Some people scribble a few lines first thing every morning when they wake up. Some write throughout the day, at breakfast, in the grocery checkout line, waiting for the kids to get out of school. You can use a writer’s notebook to journal, to scribble story ideas, to record snatches of conversation or names you like or the way the leaves make swishing sounds in the wind. You get the idea…
So if you don’t already have one, choose a notebook. And write things in it. Here are some of mine…
I am a multiple-notebook kind of writer. I usually have at least three going at once. The little black ones are “idea books,” and every time I get a new book idea while I’m working on a project, I scribble a note on one page — it only gets a page — and then I go back to work on my work-in-progress. These books are where I go sniffing around for stories when I’m ready to start something new.
I have a shameless addiction to Eco-Jot notebooks, and I often have a big one that I’m using for taking research notes on whatever book I’m working on as well as a small one that I carry around for all sorts of scribbles. The thing about my writer’s notebooks is this… They aren’t sacred. They are full of all kinds of things, often all mixed together. Here are just a few random notebook pages:
Here’s a page where I was brainstorming ideas for HIDE AND SEEK…
Here’s a list of questions I wanted to remember to ask one of the tornado specialists I went to interview in Oklahoma when i was researching EYE OF THE STORM…
Here’s a page I scribbled when I was outside one spring day, writing with my 7th grade students. We were practicing noticing details.
My notebooks are full of things like this, as well as collections of names, descriptions of clothes I borrowed from strangers to save for my characters later on, blurted “what-ifs” that I scribbled because I thought they might help solve story problems, funny things my kids and their friends said, all mixed in with a scattering of to-do lists, grocery lists, and things like this…
This eclectic mix makes for a lot of searching when I need to find something, but the whole mishmash also creates a fertile breeding ground for fresh ideas. It works for me. You’ll figure out what works best for you.
Your writing notebook doesn’t have to be perfect or sacred. It doesn’t have to be tidy. It should be something you reach for often, something that hangs out with you so much you feel naked if you’ve left home without it. Practice having it and using it. Practice writing.
Your assignment for today: If you don’t already have a writer’s notebook, find one. Write something. Need inspiration? Jo Knowles shares a Monday Morning Warm-Up on her blog each week. Visit her… she’ll ask good questions to get you started.
In the comments: Share a few lines of what you wrote in your notebook today, OR tell us a little about what kinds of things you like to write/sketch in your writer’s notebook! Please note: If you’re a first-time commenter, I’ll have to approve your comment before it appears. This may take a while if I’m not at my computer, but don’t worry – I’ll get to it and it will show up later on!
Giveaway: In honor of the first day of writing camp, I’ll mail a signed copy of HIDE AND SEEK to one commenter, drawn at random. The winner will be announced Friday morning!