Writer’s Notebooks

Last week I had the great good fortune to meet David Almond on the occasion of the launch of his anniversary edition of Skellig. 15 years. Brilliant writer. I asked a question about how he writes, with a pen, on a computer? He showed his notebook for Counting Stars. Just wonderful. It gave me the idea to post a page of author’s notebook photos.

To add yours email me.

david Almond's notebook for Counting Stars

Above David Almond‘s notebook for Counting Stars.

Below, Robert MacFarlane’s notebooks. Robert said, “all notebooks here from current long-term book on underworlds and underlands. One of the pics shows the consequences for language of working in part-flooded cave systems!” I love the drawing, and the theft by the dark  words in the black ink by the spirits of the underworld, or damp.


Below, Benjamin Myers, author of The Gallows Pole, pub by Bluemoose Books.

Below, four pages from the notebooks of Max Porter who wrote Grief is the Thing with Feathers

And then, William Blake.

Below Frank Cottrell-Boyce who says, “I make a scrap book on the left hand pages then write the text on the right – leaving a big gutter for notes. I enjoy the juxtapositions it creates.  For instance here you’v got my description of being admitted to A&E in Wrexham on one side and stuff from Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and Gawain and the Green Knight on the right.”


Below is Tom Bullough, author of The Claude Glass and Addlands. He’s unbound when it comes to notebooks.

And below again, Amir Darwish, British/Syrian poet/writer/translator, also writing on sheets of paper, rather than in a notebook.

east of sun notebook

Above: my East of the Sun notebook, which is now in the archive of Seven Stories in Newcastle.

cat notebook

My notebook for Cat Walk, now published by Graffeg. And below notes for my next book, also with Graffeg:



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Above, three from Dylan Thomas ( via Dorian Bowen) showing notes for Under Milk Wood and lists of rolling rhyming words.

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Above, three from Adele Geras: two have notes for Cover Your Eyes, one for A Hidden Life, published by Orion.

Below, Karin Celestine, one for a book already published and one for a work in progress, with her writing companions, Little P and Emily and friends.

Below, Jane Johnson, author of The Sultan’s Wife and The Salt Road, and editor of George RR Martin and Robin Hobb.

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Below, Pat Cadigan, calculating distances from earth to other places.

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Above, from Jo Nadin, notes for stories and ideas.

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Above 4 notebooks are from Joe Craig.

Below, 4 from Elizabeth Wein who says, “I send you notebook pages for your perusal.  I just finished this one yesterday. It is a “paperblanks” publication and the cover is the Evangelii from the Book of Kells. I love the size of these paperblanks notebooks, their tactic breadth and covers, how easily they fall open to the page you’re writing on and the way the signatures are bound with twine.  Very old-fashioned. For page samples I’ve sent you my annual Christmas stamp collection from 2012 (I do this every year in my notebooks, saving the stamps from all the Christmas cards that I receive); a sample notebook entry; and a list of Things to Do, including my then 12-year-old’s parent/teacher conference!

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Above, Jeffrey Ford’s notebook.


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Above 2 notebooks are from the wonderful Nicola Davies who wrote The Promise, one of my favourite picture books of the year.


Above C S E Cooney’s notes.


Above, Gillian Philip, hiding any spoilers! But she says she folds her pages over like this anyway.

Below, Terri Windling.


Below, from Australia, from Mo Orkiszewski, lyrics, from Old Man Crow.


Below, two from Theodora Goss

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Below, Angela Koenig.



Above Tade Thompson, ideas, thoughts, sketches, mingled.

Below, Lyn Huggins Cooper, coming over all Haloween.



Below, Roz Morris using a whole room as a notebook to plan out a book.



Below, 2 from Elizabeth Hand who says “Back home in Maine I have a highly photogenic oversized old accounts book which I’ve used as a notebook for many years.  But I’m in London with this, my working notebook for Flash Burn.  The only artistic part is the cover, which I made from a photo of the late flaneur Sebastian Horseley, who inspired a character in the novel.”

Hoping when she gets home she might send a photo or two.


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Below, from William Alexander. Love what looks like a bone flute on the table.


Below, Carrie Osborne, words and pictures.


For artist and writer’s desks see: The Day of the Desk.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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40 Responses to Writer’s Notebooks

  1. Wonderful. I will share these pictures with the children in the class. Show them how writers work.

  2. Mo Crow says:

    have just sent an e-mail love the photos of Dylan Thomas’s process!

    • dinahmow says:

      I, too, love the Dylan Thomas lists.
      I have started to “do something” with all those passwords/receipt numbers that are mounting up.An anthem of on-line shopping/banking?

      Thanks ,Jackie.

  3. Oh these are awesome. What an inspired idea, I love the insight this gives into such a creative process.

    Must say, it feels very cheeky to be taking a peek!!

  4. Tonia says:

    Oh, I love these! And that everyone seems to, at the start at least, work with pen and paper.

  5. Susie Arnott says:

    Wonderful…thanks for sharing these. Will keep link to show in school 🙂

  6. Tyrean says:

    Thanks for sharing these! It’s great to see work in progress, and know that it doesn’t come from a point by point roman numeral outline.

  7. We shared this post in class this morning. The children were fascinated by the chaos of some of the books, the use of doodles and pictures and the creation of lists. We discussed how I try to encourage them to draw out their ideas in a mix of words and pictures and the joy of banking fabulous words that catch their eyes and fire up their ideas. Thanks for the inspiring ideas.

    • Jackie says:

      Brilliant. So glad this post is growing and inspiring.
      And also so glad it shows that there isn’t a ‘right’ way to write. So many different voices. So many different ways.

  8. Linda Haecker says:

    Thank you, Jackie, and thank you to each of these generous writers, for sharing this taste of their very personal and unique creative process. These journal pages are themselves wonderful works of art!

  9. Julie says:

    Jackie, this is wonderful..

    My sketchbooks and doodling’s are no different to truly amazing creative writers and artists… Hurrah! Well, the messy one’s anyway…

    This post is so good, it tells us ‘all’ that our creative ‘madness’ (for want of better words) is a good thing. And it is.

  10. Christina says:

    Wonderful, I LOVE getting a sneak at writers’ and artists’ notebooks. The question you asked David Almond reminded me of a comment by Nick Cave. A couple years back I went to see an extraordinary exhibition that comprised thousands of bits and bobs he’d collected, notebooks and sketchbooks crammed full of writing, drawing, random stuff stuck in, lists of things that interested him, the evidence of a brain that never stops and is interested in everything. He said that he got a computer once, and used it for a while, but he didn’t like the fact that you could just ‘delete’ anything that you didn’t think was worthy (at the time), and destroy the evidence for how you got somewhere, the mental journey that had to be taken to reach the final song, or book or whatever. So he abandoned the computer and went back to his notebooks.

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  12. barbedwords says:

    Love these pictures, really inspiring! The messy notebooks give me great hope…

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  16. liz doyle says:

    great jackie, love the pictures, great blog!
    Liz Doyle

  17. great blog, and love this notebook one
    Liz Doyle

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  20. Deb says:

    Fantastic post, I love these glimpse into how other people do it! Fascinating.

  21. Gill James says:

    Loved this. And it’s given me an idea of something to do with my students…

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  23. I feel useless. I have no notebooks. No notes.

    • Jackie says:

      Oh my word. So you hold everything in your head?
      That’s amazing.
      I am fascinated by people who are illiterate as this is also what they have to do. They can’t write a narrative or a note. No shopping lists etc. They have to remember everything.

  24. This is very liberating. I’ve kind of always aimed that you have to start at the beginning of a story and write until you get to the end. I feel like I can try different things now!

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  26. Charly Lowndes says:

    Magnificent blog. Thank you

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  28. Thank for this stunning and genius post. I loved SKELLIG, which I found through a review once in Publishers Weekly. Sharing this on FB for many writer friends to see. xo

  29. Ruth Keys says:

    Wonderful, thank you for sharing. I will be sharing and looking at these with some students in the library.

  30. Francesca Perry Carboni says:

    So many of my favourite writers all in one place – and so inspiring to see the notebooks, works of art in themselves. Thank you!

  31. Lina Cuartas says:

    Such an uplifting, mysteriously soul re-affirming exercise: to peek into others ‘ tussles with words, thoughts, ideas, the rivers of creativity that sometimes flood us, sometimes feed us and have a unique way of salt and peppering our lives with meaning and yes, dare I say it; Hope; there are legions of us still toiling, alone, but yet in pensive alliance! Much Love, Lina Cuartas ❤️

  32. M.L. Holton says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

  33. Dee Dickens says:

    Thank you for sharing. I feel less like some compulsive hoarder of scrap paper. I confess, I try to keep my drawers of unfinished dribbles hidden from view and expect my children will certainly have plenty to say about my sanity, when they clear out.

  34. Frank Watson says:

    When “Chateau Noir” was completed in the 1990s I, as is always my custom, destroyed all the notebooks and curled paper bits that had gone into the work.

    It is important to conceal how the conjuration of fiction is accomplished. Reveal the trick, spoil the magic.

    Now, even I cannot remember precisely how it was done.

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