Improve Your Writing With Your Observation Notebook

If you’re in the middle of a NaNoWriMo draft and feel like your novel lacks those sensory details that other writers seem to naturally include – a writing style that makes you feel inside the story with the characters, feeling what they are feeling – maybe it’s time to start carrying a notebook with you.

This kind of notebook is not so much a diary as a way to quickly write down what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel – you get the idea. Once you have mastered the practice of observing such sensory details, you can use your enhanced sensory vocabulary in your own writing.

The Literary Hub recently published an excerpt from a new collection of essays by author Lydia Davis, Essays One , in which Davis explains the benefits of this practice :

This will sharpen your observation and expressiveness. A productive feedback loop is established: through the habit of taking notes, you will inevitably observe more; watching more, you will have something to write down.

Davis invites you to use his notebook to jot down specific, detailed observations about everything from the pose of a person sitting alone in a cafe to the way the steam coming out of your cup of coffee temporarily thickens the air in front of your nose. … (Of course, I’m not saying you should do this observational work in a coffee shop, but coffee shop writers are clich├ęs for a reason.)

Here’s an excerpt from Davis’ notebook on how the wind hits the patio:

Yesterday a strong wind fluttered women’s long hair, women’s long skirts, tree crowns, at dinner outdoors, napkins from the knees, salad from plates, cereals of pastry from plates to the sidewalk.

If you take the time to observe and describe your surroundings, and how that environment affects your body and the bodies of the people you see around you, you will have more detail and memory from which to draw inspiration. compose your novel.

They say, after all, you should write what you know, so use your observation pad to make sure you know what a windy day does with puff pastry, or what a cup of hot coffee does to your nostrils, or what is sitting in loneliness. in a noisy cafe someone on the shoulder.

Then go back to your NaNoWriMo draft and see how many of these observations ended up being reflected in your story.

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