Write A Novel: Make It Easy With A Bullet Journal And Collections

You want to write a novel. Perhaps you’ve already begun. However, you’re struggling. It’s a mess. How will you remember all the details of settings, characters, and your plot’s elements?

And more to the point: how will you find what you need immediately, while you’re in the middle of writing?

A bullet journal for your novel can help.

A powerful tool to help you to write a novel

Your bullet journal (create a new journal for each novel) helps you to keep everything straight, especially if you use Collections.

In Bullet Journal Your Novel: 5 Tips To Help You To Write More, we said:

Keep an index of Collections at the front of your bullet journal

What are “Collections”?

Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal method, explains Collections:

Sometimes you’ll have notes and tasks that are related by a common theme or purpose. Rather than having all these related entries scattered across your Bullet Journal, simply create a Collection Module.

Let’s look at some Collections you can create in your novel’s journal immediately: a Scenes List, as well as notes about Major Characters, Minor Characters, and Subplots.

1. A Scenes’ List: create this list while you’re writing

When you write a novel, you need to track where you’ve been, as well as where your plot is headed. By the time you’ve written 10,000 words, you’ll forget what happened in earlier scenes.

When I begin a new notebook for a novel, a Scenes List—that is, “done” scenes—is the first Collection I create. For each scene, you can note the location, the time of day, characters in the scene, as well as a sentence or two about what happens.

Some authors prefer to create a spreadsheet for this. However, I like to keep this list in my bullet journal, so I can read it regularly, jot tiny notations, and develop ideas for further scenes.

2. Your major characters’ Collection: notes for your hero, heroine, and antagonist

In most genres, you’ll have two storylines for your major characters: external, and internal. Your external story concerns what characters say and do. The internal story is your characters’ thoughts and feelings; how they change during the novel.

Some genres, such the fantasy and thriller genres, focus mainly on the external plot. Since readers read to experience, however, you’ll provide a more engaging experience when your characters reveal their thoughts.

Your antagonist—the villain, if you like—is also a major character. The stronger they are, the stronger your hero characters become.

I like to create a bullet journal Collection for each major character as a novel grows. You can create one Collection for them, or several.

3. Minor characters enhance your novel: create a Collection for them

As we discussed in this article on enhancing your minor characters, the best reason to develop them is:

… they help you to develop your major characters, without a lot of narrative — that is, “telling”

Create a Collection for your minor characters. Not only do they enrich your novel, they’re a source of subplots too.

Speaking of which…

4. Remember the novel’s subplots, create a Collection for them

Your novel’s subplots keep readers reading. One subplot might involve the antagonist’s machinations. Another might concern the heroine’s best friend, and her challenges.

Consider creating a subplot for each major conflict. For example, if your major character is a police officer, perhaps several officers who are his friends, are under investigation. You can develop this into an intriguing subplot, which helps you to develop the main character.

Paper or digital Collections?

In a recent writers’ group meeting, we discussed bullet journals, and whether we used paper or digital.

I use both. I keep character notes in Obsidian, but I also keep Collections in my paper journal. Do what works for you.

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