How to Set Up Your Writer’s Notebook (10+ Categories!)

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How to Set Up Your Writer’s Notebook (10+ Categories!)

I’ve always wanted to have a dedicated “writer’s notebook.” I’d try to fill them up but the notes got jumbled and mixed, and I could never find anything. Or I’d tell myself “I’ll remember this. I don’t need to write this down.” And 10 minutes later, I’d have forgotten what I wanted to remember. 😉

I had professors tell me I needed one. One professor even made us buy a notebook. But she never enforced its use or checked to see what we’d done with them, so mine remained blank the whole semester.

I’m finally committing to starting and keeping a writer’s notebook. And I’m better prepared this time. I’ve organized the notebook into sections so things won’t get jumbled around or lost. I’m going to carry it with me everywhere (it’s just the right size) and hopefully use it throughout the day. If I don’t use it during the day, I am going to spend 10 or 15 minutes each night updating it. Sometimes I use random pieces of paper or a memo on my phone. But at the end of the day I want everything in the same place, hand written, in my writer’s notebook.

Today I’m going to explain the set-up of my notebook. Along with my notebook, I love my writing planners.

How to Set Up Your Writer’s Notebook (10+ Categories!)

How to Set up Your Writer's Notebook (10+ Categories) www.thewritingpal.com

Character Development

I want to use this space to get to know my characters better. Character development is one of my biggest struggles. I want to have a space where I can write down what I learn about my characters.


This is where I will record conversations I overhear. People say the funniest things sometimes, and I never know if it could end up working in a story or be enough to trigger its own story.


In this section I can write down anything related to setting. Good descriptions of settings I know my novel needs developed or settings I find myself in that might be fun to describe and use for a future novel.

Plot Ideas

I’ve got plenty of ideas for stories I want to write. This space is perfect for writing those ideas and detailing their basic themes and plot structures.

Good Words

This section will be a place for me to write down a word I do not know, or a word that resonates with me.


I’m going to use this section to write names that I come across. People I meet, road signs, restaurants, etc. I can use this list to name characters, locations, even pets!

If you don’t have time to set up your notebook now, be sure to save this to Pinterest!


Metaphors are such a good way to strengthen a novel. But I’m so bad at writing them. In this section I can write them down as I come across them or, on the rare moment I do think of a good one, I will be able to write it down rather than trying to come up with one on the spot.

Not Cliché

In this section I can do the writing exercise where I write something cliché and then think of original ways to say it, or I can just make a list of phrases that aren’t cliché.


I want to use this section to practice describing anything. People, objects, smells. Whatever comes to mind, or whatever I come across during my day. I can even use it if I’m working on a description for a specific scene in my novel.

1st Sentences

Sometimes I get basic story ideas for a novel, but other times I come up with an idea based on the first sentence. This is rare though. I usually struggle to write the first sentence. I can use this section for the first sentences I do think up and as a place to brainstorm and draft first sentences when I am struggling.

Novel Titles

Similar to first sentences, I want to use this section to write novel titles that come to me and to work out titles for works in progress that I’m struggling to give a title to.

Motivational Quotes

I listen to a lot of podcasts for writers, and I like to read books about writing. This section will give me a space to write down quotes that inspire and motivate me. I can also find these quotes from song lyrics or anything that motivates me!


A space to keep my list of books to be read.

I’m leaving plenty of space in case I want to add more categories. I’d love to hear what you put in your writer’s notebook. Tell me in the comments the favorite part of your writer’s notebook. If you haven’t set a writer’s notebook up yet, save this to Pinterest as a good guide to get you started!

Having a planner designed for writers is also a must for me.

Do you have a writer’s notebook? What sections do you include?

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By |2018-11-27T15:29:48-07:00September 12th, 2017|Writing Craft, Writing Resources|12 Comments

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  1. Melissa September 20, 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Do you use a spriral notebook or one where you can add paper to it?

    • Shelby September 20, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      Melissa, I use a spiral notebook. But one that could be added to is a genius idea!

  2. Alicia September 20, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Do you use single subject spirals or multi-subject? Do you use colored tabs to separate where each section is? How do you divide the sections?

    • Shelby September 21, 2017 at 4:06 am - Reply

      Alicia, I use a slightly larger than pocket sized spiral notebook. I have a table of contents in the beginning and each section gets 5 pages. I use color tabs to divide each section too.

  3. Anh September 21, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Awesome suggestions. I’ve always wanted to make a writers notebook but never knew what to put in it!

    • Shelby September 21, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Anh, having designated categories really helps me actually use it. Best of luck setting up your writer’s notebook!

  4. Linda Strawn October 3, 2017 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Add a section on Body language. Knowing how people carry themselves and respond in certain situations helps with adding action beats to your story. You can only use he swallowed or she wrung her hands so many times.

    • Shelby October 3, 2017 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Linda, that is an excellent section to have! I never thought about recording body language, but it is such an important part of writing. It can be very hard to avoid cliche body language!

  5. Sandy Nork October 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    I include a timeline section with a calendar so I know when events in my book are happening.

    • Shelby October 3, 2017 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Sandy, I struggle with timeline. A section like that would help me so much!

  6. […] However, my absolute favorite resource is my writer’s notebook. I designed it myself. I’ll be selling them mid-June, fingers crossed, and it is the most helpful writing tool I own. I write down everything and anything I think might be a story idea or useful in a scene. It keeps me observing the world around me. It helps me always have something to write about. If you are interested in having your own writer’s notebook,  at the end of this post you can sign up to receive updates and information on the product launch: https://www.thewritingpal.com/2017/09/12/writers-notebook/ […]

  7. […] How to Set Up Your Writer’s Notebook  […]

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