January 17, 2015

Stepping Up the Process

      Before my first book was published I considered my writing incredibly important, but only to me. Writing is very private, especially in the genre I enjoy most. I write stories that reflect my innermost thoughts, dreams and fears even though they are complete fantasy. To imagine that anyone else would enjoy reading my work as much as I loved writing it, seemed like a dream. Every day I find that I was shortchanging myself and I am very thankful to be sharing my stories with the world. Now as my career in writing grows and develops, it seems that even the little things I do to put together my books have become vastly important. One of those things is my method of organizing my notes.
      I am essentially an organized person, for which I am often grateful, and I have developed a routine that I go through before beginning a new book. It starts when I develop my characters. Once they are sketched out in my mind I get a notebook and put a few categories down on paper. One section has the names of all the people in the novel. The first few are the main characters. After each name I write a brief description of that person including who they are in the story, their age and relationship to other characters. I also name all the animals. I set up a timeline as well. For characters like Mark and Louisa from Stavewood, who start out as children and grow to adults, it’s important to know their ages at each point in the story. As I work on my novel, other, lesser characters appear. A character like the local sheriff, for example, might not seem terribly important at first, but as the story develops he will need a name, and maybe his deputy will too. That sheriff might even have a wife that works into the story for some reason. All of my novels begin with a basic outline, like a skeleton of sorts, and building the characters helps to flesh out the story.
      If I add that sheriff in chapter twelve it’s very distracting to try to go back while working on chapter twenty-two to find out what I named the guy. With him in my notebook, his name is right there and I don’t waste time trying to figure out what the heck I called him.
      Before I begin any book there are other lists I make in that notebook as well. I list locations, such as town names and, if it’s relevant to the story, things like what type of trees grow in the setting, which flowers, and so on. In a book where there’s a bit of a mystery to be solved, like The Secret of Stavewood, I also make sure that any questions that need to be answered in the story are wrapped up so that there are no loose ends. I strive for a story that is complete when you read the words, The End. If the novel is part of a saga then I usually begin taking notes for the following novels as well.
      When I wrote my first novel, and several since, I used whatever notebook I had on hand. Later I picked up a new one when I saw something pretty that caught my eye. After nine novels, and a few that were test-runs, I acquired a stack of miscellaneous styles and sizes of pads. I had recently purchased a good old-fashioned tablet of lined, letter paper at the supermarket for an unrelated project, and I began to use it for my notes of my current book. It had no cover and the pages came loose quite easily and I found that it was not a good tool. I needed to get even more organized.
      I got online and ordered a box of a dozen, good old composition notebooks. They have been consistent and available for years. Since I always have basically the same list of things in all of the notebooks it would be easy to dedicate a composition pad to each novel and tuck them away neatly together when I’m finished.
      While shopping for the notebook I ran across composition book covers. There were some lovely leather bound versions available. I suppose I could treat myself to a fine bound container for my future notepads, but I had to wonder how long it would be before I set down a pen or a cup of coffee onto an expensive leather cover. I just don’t want that kind of pressure while my mind is off in the Yukon on an adventure. I also found handmade composition book covers designed by creative college students and decided to design one of my own. 

If you'd like to make one for yourself you will need:

About a yard of a lightweight fabric
Scraps of lace and other fabrics, buttons, ribbon etc. for embellishments
A pencil for marking
The notebook you plan to cover
A sewing machine
Iron and an ironing surface

(You can click on the pictures for a closer look.)

Iron the fabric and lay your notebook open and flat onto the wrong side of the material. Be sure to allow for the fabric to wrap around the spine and both sides of the book. Draw around it with your pencil for a stitching line. If you like, leave a little space for wiggle room:

Cut around the outline, leaving about 5/8" to 1/2" for a seam allowance:

Mark and cut two more pieces that are a couple of inches narrower than the covers of your notebook. These are the flaps that will hold the cover in place:

Sew a narrow hem on the long, straight edge of the flaps:

Now is the time to add some of your embellishments, before you assemble the cover.  I decided I wanted a book title but I didn't want to make a new cover each time I started a new notebook. I used a business card for a template and drew around it onto a plan scrap of cotton muslin. I folded over the edges, adding two strips of ribbon on each side for holders and stitched around, including a little lace ruffle.

The materials:

Trimmed with  the edges folded and pressed and ribbon pinned on:

 Sew around the edges. Before I stitched, I added lace. The business card or whatever card I want to slip inside is held by the strips of ribbon at each end:

I then attached the label by sewing it to the outside of the cover with a second row of stitching. Here it is with the business card removed and attached to the cover piece:

Next put the right sides of the fabric together and pin on the flaps matching the pencil lines you drew on all pieces. Sew around the outside leaving the flat edge of the flaps open like this:

This is a good time to check the fit. Put the notebook into the cover before turning it inside out:

 If it fits, now's the time to clip the corners like this: (Do not cut too close to the stitching. This clipping will take out some of the wrinkles when the cover is turned right side out.)

Turn your cover right side out, pushing
 out the edges until they are a smooth and give it a good pressing with your iron.

I decided I wanted a ribbon bookmark attached and sewed it to the top after pressing.

I also added a button on the front and back, and a bit of cotton twine to tie the cover closed.

 Now I 'll get back to writing my next novel. Maybe this would be a good time to begin that one you always swore you would write!

Have fun and see you next week!

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