Tag Archives: paper and pen

Novel Reference Journal

Neo and Notebook

Every author has their own process of writing a book. Mine has developed over the past six or seven years to use National Novel Writing Month to jump start a single long term project each year. I use the energy of my fellow wrimos to push myself to writing, but there is more to the process than simply showing up for write-ins during the month of November. I also set aside the month of October to plan my novel and December to do the first rough editing of it.

One of the first things that I create for a new novel project are an outline, character sheets, location and object descriptions. I start by brainstorming ideas in a composition book, writing these down by hand with my fountain pens in ink colors that suit my mood. I condense these ideas into plot points in another section of the notebook until I have a rough story line.

At this point, I move the plot points into my computer, using each bullet point as a scene file in my Scrivener program. I don’t name chapters or try to lock them into position, I’ll wait and finalize that once the rough draft is completed. My file names are simple descriptions of what happens in the scene with a little more detail written into the “index card” portion of the Scrivener file. In the research section of Scrivener, I set up my reference files. This is not the final step in my process, although I realize that for many people this is the point where they would start drafting because they write their stories in Scrivener via a laptop.

I find that I do not enjoy writing my novel draft in Scrivener, there is too much temptation in the internet or other distractions if I am in front of a computer. Instead I like to draft with a digital typewriter, a machine known as an Alphasmart Neo. The Neo has several advantages in the drafting process. First, it has zero internet connection and it keeps me from distraction when I write. The machine is difficult to edit on so it keeps me moving forward in the writing process. I tend to write around 50% more words when I use the Neo as apposed to writing a draft on my desktop. Finally, the Neo has the advantage of not needing a power plug. I can write anywhere on a couple of AA batteries for 700 hours. However, without a laptop to view Scrivener, I also have no access to my reference notes when I’m on the go. This is especially critical when I’m out at write-ins for Nanowrimo in November.

Filofax Writing Journal with NeoMy solution is to create a second reference book, but instead of keeping it digital, I write it on paper. This way my information is always available to work along side my Neo and I don’t need to rely on finding a power plug or to rely on my smartphone. In years past, I’ve used a personal sized Filofax to organize my notes. The personal size was small enough to tuck into my writing kit and the rings allowed me to move the papers into a different order. However, after a year or two of this system, I began to discover that the smaller page size was too small for all the notes that I like to bring. It forced me to write everything smaller or to print my information by cut and paste onto pre-punched paper that was not suitable for the fountain pens that I enjoy writing with. I longed to move up to an A5 size Filofax, but the binders are rather expensive.

This year, I was browsing the A5 sized Filofaxes, intending on picking one up for my yearly reference journal, when I happened upon the Staples ARC system in Junior size. Junior is the same size as A5. I could choose covers of polycloth (plastic) or of leather. The pre-punched paper came in lined notes, quads, or projects. A “notebook” purchase with a polycloth binder came with .5” rings and 60 sheets of notepaper. It was the right size and more than enough pages to create a workable reference journal for my novel project, with room to expand if need be. The price was a mere $14. I decided that it was time to try something other than a Filofax.

I purchased the following for my 2014 Nanowrimo Journal:

    A black and white polycloth cover
    .5” black rings
    Black A5 plastic dividers with stickers
    One plastic ruler
    A pair of large rubber bands designed to keep the journal closed

When I brought the journal home, I organized it with the black section dividers and labeled each section with the following:

    Outline
    Characters
    Locations
    Objects
    Notes

ARC Journal - Outline IndexAt the front I placed a 2014 Nanowrimo Sticker to decorate the journal a little. I labeled the project, my name and the year. It will make this easier to look over years later when it is in storage. My Outline section has two parts. The front of the section has a checklist of all the scenes of my novel. Behind this index, I write the scenes again, but I also put in a paragraph description of what the scene is about, basically the information that is in my Scrivener “index card”. My ruler stays in the scene summaries at the point where I’m writing the story to make that section easier to find.

At the end of each writing session, I will upload the text from the Alphasmart into Scrivener on my desktop. I check off each completed scene in the journal index so that I know it is done when I’m away from my computer. No more accidentally writing the same scene twice, I can see my progress in my work, and I gain the satisfaction of writing that check mark. It is a little reward for me.

This year, I’m continuing work on a novel I started back in 2011. Several of the scenes for the story are already completed. They are in a different Scrivener project file so I don’t count them toward this year’s word count, yet I want to see them in my outline so I get a good idea of where all the scenes fit in the story. They are incorporated in my checklist and summaries, but I have pre-checked them in the index and wrote a note in red ink in the summaries to let myself know that these scenes are already finished. Again, I don’t want to accidentally write scenes that I do not need to.

ARC Journal - Outline SummariesThe other sections of my notebook contain my character sheets, location descriptions, object descriptions and a section for notes. Mainly the note section holds blank pre-punched note paper for the ARC Journal so that I can add new pages on the fly.

One of the surprises I had with the ARC Journal is that the paper is of a heavy grade that is very friendly to my favorite fine nib Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. The Coleto Gel Pen that I use for color coding also works well with the paper. I like the way the note paper is printed. I feel it gives my journal a more professional look. The final extra I purchased for the journal were the rubber bands. I use one to keep my ARC Journal closed and it works flawlessly. The ARC tucks into my writing kit smoothly, never opens or mangles the pages, and the polycloth seems to slide into my bag far easier than the composition notebooks or Filofaxes I’ve used in the past.

I write with a lapboard under my Alphasmart Neo and I’ve discovered that the pull out mouse board that comes with it makes a perfect ledge to hold my ARC Journal. It keeps it off the tabletop at coffeehouses so my notebook doesn’t get smudges or wet if a coffee drink happens to spill nearby. I’ve been very pleased with this year’s journal during my writing adventures.

What sort of notebook do you use? Let me know in the comments.

Vroman’s Bookstore: A Filofax Extravaganza

Vroman Doorway 2014Vroman’s Bookstore is a Pasadena institution, a literary landmark, and a wonderful old-fashioned bookstore tucked away behind a huge Office Depot. Once you find your parking, you descend a staircase decorated with colorful tiles past buskers who play their instruments. This day, a spry elderly man in jeans and a coat that was in fashion two decades ago played classical music on his oboe, much to the delight of a little girl and her parents that stood enraptured before him. He had a twinkle in his eye as he finished his tune, an expression that turned into a delighted smile when the little girl asked for another song. That smile had more to do with their shared love of music than any dollars that landed in his open instrument case. At the ground floor, a trio of young music students were practicing their violins. They were not busking, but instead taking advantage of the excellent acoustics of the outdoor courtyard. The discordant sound of their practice was a distinct counterpoint to the lovely strains of the oboe on the steps above them.

When you first enter via the double doors of the bookstore, your first impression is one of surprise. Vroman’s Bookstore seems far larger on the inside than what you might guess from the unbroken stucco walls on the outside. The sensation I felt reminded me of how Dr. Who’s companions might feel when they enter the TARDIS for the first time. There are two floors in the bookstore and several departments on each level. On the first floor, there is an area where stationary, fountain pens, ink and other writer’s delights are temptingly displayed. A full case of Filofax binders for sale, along with all the fountain pen friendly paper you might wish for. There is a full gift shop upstairs featuring stickers, scrap booking supplies and artisan styled bags. The rest of the store was filled with paper bound books on stately wooden shelving. However, I was not there to shop, much as I was tempted to do so, I had come to be a guest speaker at the Filofax Extravaganza put together by my friend, Jennifer Reyes. The event was held on January 11, 2014.

Filofax Display 2014

In the center of the second floor of the bookstore, there is a large open area that serves as an amphitheater and community center. Many rows of chairs were set up facing a lectern and a table filled with Filofax binders. At the rear of the area was food, bottles of water, and a raffle sponsored by the Filofax Corporation. Several pocket sized Filofax binders were the prizes of the raffle, along with agenda stamps and a few scrap booking items donated by Jennifer.

After checking in with Jennifer in the back, I found my way to a seat to wait for the event to begin. A few people introduced themselves, recognizing me from my blog, No Wasted Ink. As I shook their hands and took the offered business cards, I was rather astounded. It was the first time that I have been recognized as a writer in public and to hear so many positive comments about my blog was heartwarming.

Jennifer Reyes 2014The presentation was moderated by Jennifer Reyes. She spoke about Filofax the company and the history of the binders through the past several decades. Filofax was very popular in the 1980s. I remember that most of my friends had them in college and I was urged to “fit in” by purchasing one myself. This was before electronic PDAs and then later phone apps became popular as agendas. In the last few years, Filofax has been gaining popularity once again as many people are turning off their phones and returning back to paper when it comes to scheduling their lives. She also gave an extensive demo on how she uses washi tape, stamps, and other scrap booking techniques to decorate her Filofax planners.

Rebecca Moore BoverThe first guest speaker was Rebecca Moore Bover. She spoke about her role as an admin for a Filofax group on Facebook called FiloRAKs. As an admin, she has far more duties than simply adding and booting people from the group, she also needs to schedule events. Her Filofax is instrumental in helping her track all of the extra duties she does for the group. Being an admin to a Facebook group is hard work and is often unrewarded. I hope Rebecca knows that her volunteer work is much appreciated.

Karen Massie

Next was Karen Massie, a collector of rare and limited edition Filofax binders. She brought her snake Filofax and an A5 purple Malden that she has filled with her personal, teaching and doctoral studies paperwork. Karen’s collection is truly a marvel to see. Many of the rare Filofaxes are more luxurious in person than how they appear on catalog screens via your home computer. Many of the nuances of the leather are simply not captured and it takes seeing the Filofax in your hands before you can appreciate its finer points. Some of Karen’s binders are worth hundreds of dollars. She has much to be proud of in her extensive collection and I hope she can be persuaded to bring them to future Filofax events in the area.

Wendy Van CampI was the third speaker on deck. Before driving to Vroman’s, I had stuffed my Crimson Personal Malden into a bag and I always carry my Brown Slimline Holborn with me as a wallet. This gave me a few items to display as I spoke. The Malden is what I use to track all the posts and marketing I do on my writing blog, No Wasted Ink. I explained my tracking system and how I interface what I have written in my Filofax with the various online systems I use. The main online systems are: Hootsuite, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I also pulled out my wallet and explained why I like using the slimline Filofax as apposed to using a pocket size.

Karine TovmassianThe final guest speaker was Karine Tovmassian. Karine is spreading the word about how analogue planners such as a Filofax can be superior and more accessable for planning purposes, yet can also interface with the digital parts of our lives. Her company ThinkerExtraordinaire, is helping people all over the nation learn to use their time and energy more efficiently.

After the event, I felt the need for a hot cup of coffee and took the elevator downstairs where a small, somewhat posh coffeehouse is located just off the main street and tucked into a corner of the bookstore. The pastries looked divine and the coffee was smooth. I was lucky enough to find a chair by the window and was able to relax and people watch. There was a foursome playing a game of cards with what appeared to be an aged and weather antique deck along with the usual assortment of laptop and iPad users scattered about.

Visiting Vroman’s Bookstore is a unique experience, even without the Filofax Extravaganza to attend. If you are in the Los Angeles area, it is a literary landmark worth paying a visit. The bookstore is mere blocks away from the freeway and there is plenty of parking in the back. You owe it to yourself to take in the atmosphere of this book lover’s destination.

Filofax Extravaganza Attendees

Guest Post: The Jewelry Project Part 2

Jeweler's Bench - Indigoskye Bead Fashions

I received a beautiful leather A5 Burde Binder that I am turning into a project binder. I will be writing a five part series about how I am turning this binder into a design journal for my artisan jeweley business. In this second edition, I explain what a design journal is and why they are useful to artisans like myself. Please, stop by This Bug’s Life and read part 2 of my post series.

Preparing Your Nanowrimo Writing Kit

Writing Kit 2013Every October I prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo promotes the act of writing 50K words toward the rough draft of a novel. People join together all over the world to support their fellow writers and to help all of us cross the finish line toward success. Most of the writers of Nanowrimo are beginners. The participation in Nanowrimo can be a submergence learning experience where new ideas, techniques, and tools are all explored at a rapid rate to get the beginner writer off in the right direction. Although I am now a published writer, I still look forward to Nanowrimo because it gives me that huge energy boost and camaraderie that keeps me going on a new project.

One of the main things that I do to prepare for the event is to put together a writing kit. It allows me to participate in the local write-ins that take place at various hotel lobbies, coffeehouses, and libraries. Every writer has a unique kit that they assemble to aid them in the writing process.

I start out my writing kit with a designated bag. I will keep this bag packed with all my writing gear at all times. It allows me to pick up the bag and go on a moment’s notice. I know that everything I will need will be available in the bag. I’ve used everything from a grocery sack to a cloth tote bag. My current writing kit bag is a Solo Laptop Tote. It looks like leather and is stylish, but not extremely expensive or heavy. It is large enough to hold all my gear and offers my electronic devices a bit of padded protection. Any laptop bag or backpack should work for this purpose.

Next, I pack in my Alphasmart Neo. I prefer the Alphasmart to a laptop for drafting. An Alphasmart has been my go to device for Nanowrimo for the past four years. I started with a $30 Alphasmart 3000 for my first Nanowrimo write-ins because at the time I could not afford a laptop computer. The AS3K has a run time of 700 hours on 3 AA batteries. Basically, I pop in the batteries and I’m good to go for the year. The screen is LCD and easy on the eyes, unlike bright computer screens or tablets, and it has no Internet capability. Unless I deliberately turn on a device to access the Internet, such as my cell phone, I am not distracted by Facebook or other on-line time wasters. I credit the AS3K for helping me reach my 50K word goal for the first time. The following year, I upgraded to the Alphasmart Neo. The Neo has a more ergonomic keyboard, the 8 built in files can hold more data and the screen is somewhat bigger than the AS3K. I find that my typing speed is faster on the Neo. It makes a great keyboard for computers and tablets, needing only an USB connection to operate. The Neo is about the size of a small Mac Air laptop, but is much lighter in weight and far more durable.

Mighty Brite Duet LED LightI store the Neo in the laptop portion of my bag and I bring along a few accessories to go with it. I keep my USB printer cable in the bag, it is the way that my Neo accesses my computer at home. I use it to upload my writing at the end of each coffeehouse session. I also have a Mighty Brite Duet light system that I clip to my Neo in dark situations or to write at night when I’m camping. The Mighty Brite has two LED lights that can light up my keyboard evenly. It was originally designed to be a music stand light for musicians, but many Neo owners equip their digital typewriters with this light because the clip is strong enough to grip the back of the Neo’s housing. Finally, I bring along a rubberized lap board. It provides a grippy place to perch my Neo if I’m writing on my lap or gives a more stable surface for my device when writing on a table. The Neo never gets hot, but the bottom is a little slick. The board keeps my Neo from sliding off my lap. The board I use is a Logitech Portable Lapdesk.

Logitech Lap Board

I bring several paper bound books with me. First is a composition notebook with the outline, character sketches and other notes for my novel. With it I have a pouch with a fountain pen and a Coleto Mult-pen for color coding. Perhaps it is old-fashioned, but I find that when I’m brainstorming new ideas, I do it better on paper. I index the front of my notebook so that I can easily find the sections inside where my notes are and I always have blank pages available for writing down new ideas on the fly. The other two books I bring are a Pocket Webster’s Dictionary and a Pocket Thesaurus. I like having the means to look up words without having to rely on electricity or wifi access in a pinch.

The final device I like to bring is my iPod Touch with earbuds. Usually, the general din of the coffeehouse is fine as background noise, but sometimes the PA system is not playing something that I find pleasing. When you put on earbuds or headphones, people also take this as a signal that you do not wish to chat and you can carve out more writing time for yourself that way. My iPod Touch is set up with several apps that I use for research, including a dictionary, thesaurus and an app called Lists for Writers. I also carry a cell phone, but I tend to not bring it out unless absolutely necessary because it is too easy to pull out a game or to read Facebook when I do so.

All writers have unique items that they like to bring to write-ins during Nanowrimo. The key is to keep all the items in a single, portable, bag and only bring what is necessary to promote good writing habits while you are away from home. Do keep in mind that local write-ins are a great place to talk about writing and gain advice from your fellow writers. Do not close yourself up completely when you attend a write-in. Most of the habits that I have as a writer were learned as a Nanowrimo participant. Open yourself up to the information available during the November writing push and most of all, have fun!

Tea Rose Garden: A Filofax Adventure

Filofax and NotebooksAs a writer, I use agendas and composition books to organize and brainstorm my novels and short stories. The act of putting a pen to paper helps my creativity. When an English friend showed off her Filofax agenda and explained how she used it to organize her novel, a larger Filofax to keep her notes, timeline and other details organized and a smaller pocket sized one to hold all the index cards that she used to outline her novel, I became intrigued. One look at the luxury leather, the metal snaps and all the little stationary accessories that could be used with it, I fell in love. My first Filofax was a Crimson Personal Malden. The leather was soft, the agenda opened flat and I found that I could keep my novel’s notes at my fingertips.

I discovered a community of Filofax users and collectors at a blog called Philofaxy. There I discovered a myriad of tips on how to become better organized by using the planners. Filofax owners used their scrapbooking skills to create dividers, decorate their diary pages and attached charms to the rings of their binders. Each luxury binder became a unique expression of the owner’s artistic vision.

Filofax is a United Kingdom based company and most of the owners of the agendas live in Europe. When the members of Philofaxy met in order to show off their personalized binders to each other, these gatherings were held in London. Filofax agendas are difficult to find in the United States, only a few specialty shops carry them, and a meet up would be the only way that I could see one in person before I purchased one from an online catalog. Since the meet ups were only in London, an opportunity to hold a Filofax that I was interested in before purchasing it was nil. The United States Filofax owners decided to change that. One of our Philofaxy members decided to see if there would be any interest in setting up the first Filofax meet up in the Los Angeles area. A dozen ladies RSVPed on Facebook, a few committing to travel in from other Western States, and the plans were confirmed.

When the appointed Saturday arrived, I set off in my car to Old Town Pasadena. The freeways in California were busy even on the weekend. My google map app sent me in the wrong direction once I made the city streets. It was good that I had tucked a few paper maps of the area into my glovebox. I ended up parking at a nearby metro station and then walking. I passed by many small boutiques, including stationary and art supply shops. It was amazing to see so many of these types stores all in a single city block. At last, I found myself in front of small shop with large windows and a cloth awning over the doorway.

Friends meet at the Tea Rose Garden

The front of The Tea Rose Garden was an indoor atrium with stone tiles on the floor, rustic iron furniture painted in distressed cream, and hanging plants. In old-fashioned cupboards, an abundance of bone china plates and teacups were on display. In the rear, behind the restaurant area, was a functional florist shop where several short women were busy creating arrangements with roses, daisies and carnations. Our Filofax group gathered around several tables in the front beside the large windows. The women were of a variety of ages, from a young child all the way to seniors, each one present due to their love of Filofax and stationary. All the ladies had brought their collection of Filofax agendas. I had considered myself an addict with four of them, but there were ladies with far more in their bags.

Jennifer Reyes from PhilofaxyOur coordinator, Jennifer Reyes, gave a short lecture about Filofax agendas and held up the various binders that we had brought with us, discussing the different colors that each range came in and the variations of the different sizes. This helped to break the ice and soon we were freely passing around the Filofaxes that we had brought. We examined the various agendas with their myriad of pockets, felt the leather with our hands and were able to compare the construction between the models of the ranges.

I was astounded by the creativity that these ladies showed via the paper arts. Some had taken photos, glued them onto cardstock to make dividers, others had used a criscut to create paper shapes to jazz up and personalize their dividers and pages. Washi tape was placed in their agendas and various stamps were used to not only help organize their Filofaxes, but to decorate too. Their skill made my simple attempts at patterned dividers seem quite humble.

Filofax and Coleto Multi PenOne lady passed around a Filofax with a Coleto multi-pen inside the rings where it nested until needed. I happened to have brought my own Coleto, that I use during editing, and put it into my Personal Malden as an experiment. The clip on the Coleto seemed to mold around the rings and it gripped them securely. It was as if the space were designed to fit the pen. I can take the Coleto with me when I wish to color code in my agenda instead of in a separate pen holder, which makes the Filofax more user friendly.

Soon the English tea was served by the wait staff. We had a choice of iced tea or a private blend of hot Earl Grey Tea served along with platefuls of tiny crustless sandwiches, fresh fruit and scones with Derbyshire cream. We Americans thought that having a English tea was appropriate for a Filofax meet up since most of the gatherings were held in London. This idea was spoken of with mild amusement by our modern day members across the pond. However, we all enjoyed our lunch at the Tea Rose Garden and the Filofax fellowship that we participated in.



English Tea Is Served
English Tea Is Served




Filofaxes and Friends at the Tea Rose Garden
Filofaxes and Friends at the Tea Rose Garden