With very few exceptions, if a writer has made it big, they have at least one or more notebooks dedicated to the development of ideas. If they don’t, it means they keep using napkins and have a shoebox somewhere full of half-finished ideas. They might call it a journal or something else, but it is what it is; A notebook for tracking story fodder. I am going to give a quick overview of the most common forms of writer notebook.
This is a common one. At the edge of conscious thought and subconscious construction are those waking moments between a dream and the real world. The memory of what happened is as clear as crystal moments after you wake, but by the time breakfast has finished they have largely slipped into oblivion. Most of them are nonsense that sounds like a great story when you write it down, but is idiotic when you get back to it. Most, but not all. Every so often your dreams will give you a little gem hidden in the rough that will create the perfect story idea. If you track your dreams, you have a free source of creative ideas to work from later.
Ever been out on the town or watching a movie and an idea comes to you? The solution to a problem, the greatest idea for a series of novels, the question for which 42 is the answer? Yeah, me to. Invariably you are stuck without a pen and paper to note it and by the time you get some, the thought has left you. An idea journal or small notepad for ideas kept in your pocket means you never have to worry about getting those ideas onto paper before they are gone.
Newspaper clippings or just interesting facts you happen to come across should all go in a clip book or notebook for later review. It is amazing the number of interesting things you can come across over the course of a few years. When you are working on trying to come up with the perfect start to a scene or the theme of your new work, you can revisit this data and get all sorts of new ideas. I have known a few editors and authors who suggest subscribing to the New York Times and several scientific journals just to have a lot of unusual ideas on paper to go back to later.
Your Own Notebook(s)
Maybe you already have one or more of these. If not, you would do well to consider adding them to the list of things you keep around. Dream Journals can be left on your nightstand with a pen. The Data Notebook can be kept wherever you do your writing. The notebook to serve as an idea folder should be pocket sized and kept with you at all times so that you never miss anything. You don’t have to do these, but they can be very helpful. As I said before, the vast majority of successful authors make use of at least one of these.