Free creative writing course - making notes

Free Creative Writing Course – Making Notes

Creative Writing, Free Writing Course

Making notes and keeping journals

Part 3 A writer should always carry a notebook is advice you often hear and, for once, it’s true.

I used to travel around the UK running training courses for a large company. My day often started sat in the breakfast room of a large hotel and there was always a notebook on the table beside me. These notebooks are now full of potential characters (or parts of characters) for my stories.

The Butterfly Effect is set, in part, in a hotel I stayed in.

Record snippets of overheard conversations, details of locations and your feelings. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling – you are mining for raw material which can be refined later.

I sometimes find my observations, the short notes that I make, coalesce into poems.

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn is a poem made up of observations in several different hotels and The Doctor’s Tale was inspired by a comment a police doctor said to me.

Keep A Reading Journal

In part one I suggested keeping a reading journal. Did you like an author’s style, were there passages where you thought their descriptions were inspiring? Make notes, jot down page numbers – finding the section you like is much easier then. Using another author’s work as inspiration is not plagiarism – copying them word for word is.


Research is best served cold (Lee Child).

You want to set your story in Kings Lynn. You go there, make lots of notes and take photographs and come back with a wealth of material.

The temptation is to use as much as possible. Instead, think of it as a freshly made wine. It needs to mature and mellow. It is much better to use your memories and/or notes from a previous visit.

Your character wants to get from the church to the Customs House so you describe their route and what they pass (scene setting). Unless you are writing a travel guide, it’s much better to say, ‘he drove through the narrow streets to the Customs House’.

‘Writers love research – it’s much more fun than writing and a good way to avoid it.’ Harlan Coben

Read more short stories and poetry

*Saturday Live BBC Radio 4 25/03/2023 Interview with Harlan Coben.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *