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Ode to all my forgotten novel notes
I’m excited to share two new interviews:
You know the ones — the ideas we write furiously in our notebooks to work out what a story is going to be; the ones we jot down during an internet search, sure they contain the answer to the big problem we haven’t been able to solve; the ones we scribble on bits of scrap paper to remind ourselves of a brilliant idea.
Since I started working on my current novel, I’ve found a bunch of these notes, little clues I’ve left myself to unlock the story hiding inside my head. One was a tiny thing: “Building as landscape.” Another was a piece of lined paper torn from a pad that contained a list of chapter titles from a book of etiquette for women — things like “Morning Receptions or Calls,” “Conduct in the Street,” “Polite Deportment and Good Habits,” and “Places of Amusement.” In my notebook, I’ve found many early notes about plot, world building, and characters.
The funny thing about all these notes is that fifty pages into this draft, I’ve forgotten about so many of them. What did I even mean by “building as landscape”? And as for the chapter titles from the etiquette book, I have only a vague recollection of a plan to structure the novel around them. That idea clearly didn’t take. Also, did you know that one of my main characters has a sister? Neither did I!
Nevertheless, I love stumbling onto these little windows into what I’ve been thinking as this novel has been taking shape. Each one is like a little dream of the future, a little testament to my enthusiasm for the project. Even the abandoned ideas — especially the abandoned ones — show me how far it’s come at the fifty-page mark.
The forgotten notes also show me I’m not afraid to try things or to let them go when they don’t serve a purpose — yet. Often when I’m drafting and revising, I go back through old notes to see if there are any ideas I can finally to put to use to flesh out a character or complicate a plot element. There usually are at least a few. It’s like my subconscious knows that a piece of information is useful, even if it’s not clear how. Sometimes my notes are saviors.
My notes are little gifts to my future self. Assurances that my project is worth it. Proof that it’s alive and well even when I can’t find the time to work on it because of my day job or my family responsibilities or my chores. They’re promises that a story or novel is heading somewhere — and that it will get there. They’re much-needed words of encouragement to keep myself going.
Even the forgotten ones that never make their way into my stories still serve as the foundation on which they’re built. Hopes, dreams, imagination, drive.
So cheers to all the forgotten notes — and to the many still to be written!
I hope you’re finding ways to keep your spark alive this week.
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