I’m super excited to share this because I think it will help me write faster and more consistently. I might end up completely wrong about this, but either way, it’s going to be a fun experiment.
I’m going to participate in nanowrimo this year. Despite having a bunch of publishing tasks for The Island Experiment (Kepos Chronicles, Book 3) coming up in November, I want to get to work on Book 4. I’ll be using nanowrimo as a motivational tool to push me. Even if I fail nano, I’ll be that much closer to having a draft completed.
I watched a bunch of youtube videos on bullet journaling, specifically those with a novel writing and nanowrimo focus. Rachael Stephen and Boho Berry have some good content, but there are lots of videos out there. I pulled some spreads from these youtubers, but I’m also incorporating my own component which is key to this process working for me (#10 on my list).
My Journal Layout
Here’s a list of the spreads/pages I plan to use. For decoration, I used washi tape because I can’t draw. I didn’t want to spend too much time making it pretty, so the washi tape really saved me time in that respect.
1. Mantra: This is a short phrase you can repeat frequently to yourself that will motivate you I chose: “You only fail if you stop writing.” (Ray Bradbury). I also wrote it wrong so that it says “quit” instead of “stop writing,” but it still works.
2. Preptober Checklist: This is the list of things I need to do in October to “clear the deck” of distractions and get ready to write in November. The list includes things like finish editing Book 3 and outline Book 4.
3. Daily Word Count Goals: I plan to give myself a sticker for any day I hit 1667 words, then tally up my weekly word count. I accidentally made too many boxes, so I turned them into bonuses for hitting higher daily counts, from 2K words to 6K words in a day.
4. Word Count Target vs. Actual Tracker & Graph: This is to track progress through the month and see how I’m measuring up against the “suggested” pace. Lots of people divide the words up differently for the month, but I’m just dividing them evenly this go around—1667 words daily.
5. Habit Tracker (Wake up time) & Project Diary: I kind of hate this spread. I made a mistake on the Habit Tracker and covered it up with washi tape, and now my “habit” to track is at the bottom of the page. I also can’t think of any other daily habits aside from writing that I’d want to put here since it’s a novel-specific bullet journal, but I may add more later.
The Project Diary is just for general thoughts and feelings as I’m writing. This is one I saw others have and it sounded interesting I’m not sure if I’ll end up using it much, but it’s there if I need it.
7. Plan Ahead & November Checklist: This one I think will be especially helpful. It’s a list of other writing tasks I need to complete in November. It’s a big list since I’ll be working on publishing my third book (The Island Experiment). The Plan Ahead page also allows me to anticipate things that will make writing difficult or take up time, and then brainstorm solutions. For example, Pokemon Sword and Shield comes out in November. This would be a huge distraction, but if I don’t buy it until after I’m done writing, I can’t get sucked in. Planning ahead to delay buying the game means that I won’t stop by the store after work one day and bring home a giant distraction.
8. Revision/Question Tracker: I usually note these in my writing doc (I use Scrivener), but it might be nice to have a place to write them physically, too, especially if I want to brainstorm solutions offline later.
9. Elements of a Good Scene (notes): I saw a lot of spreads that contained notes about different plotting methods (like Dan Harmon’s story circle) and people writing out notes on all sixteen Meyer-Briggs personality types. I’m not a big fan of notes like that for a novel bullet journal, but maybe that’s because I’m doing my actual outline outside of this journal in a separate notebook. I decided to include these scene-writing notes, taken from Jami Gold’s blog, because I’ll be planning my scenes in this journal so I thought it was relevant.
10. Chapter Prewriting Spreads & Chopped-Up Chapter by Chapter Outline
This is my “bright idea.” One of the biggest things that helps people write faster, it seems, is knowing what they’re going to write (Shocking!). Anyway, once I have my chapter by chapter outline, I’m going to print it and cut out each little scene/chapter blurb. I’ll glue each chapter description, usually just a few sentences, at the top of each page. Before I write the chapter, I’ll be able to plan it out anywhere. On the couch, waiting in line, etc. I’ve dedicated a spread to each chapter.
My chapters are short (1000-2500 words) and just one scene, so I think a single journal spread will be enough space to plan it out. I set up my journal for 40 chapters. There’s a break every 10 chapters with an extra spread, so I can always write overflow there. I also set up different colored tabs for every 10 chapters so I can easily flip to where I am. I used washi tape to create the tabs and mark the edge of the pages in that section with the same color.
The other element I added to each chapter planning spread is a place to record the start date (SD) and end date (ED) for each chapter. If I’m stuck on a chapter for too long, either something’s wrong with me or something’s wrong with the chapter, so it might give me some useful data to look back on.
I shouldn’t have set up the chapter planning spreads so far in advance in my journal, but I know myself. The more set up I have to do in the moment, the less likely I am to do it. Worst case scenario, I have to relabel things. That’s not a big issue, especially since there isn’t much writing on the spread anyway, just the chapter number and a place for the start and end date.
11. Story Timeline: I stuck this in the very back of the journal. I’m not going to include a picture because I haven’t done more than title it. I’m not quite sure how I want to format it. I still want to keep track of the timeline because I always struggle keeping track of my characters and how much time has passed when they are in different places throughout the book.
Was making this journal a little extra? Totally. But I really do think it will help. Do you have a favorite novel writing spread for your journal? I’d love to hear how you use a bullet journal to help organize your writing in the comments.