Initially, when I took a look at the cover of The Writing Notebook FAMILY: the notebook for your next book, I didn’t know what to think. I wondered, Is it a workbook? Some sort of writing guide? Is it some kind of part workbook, part writing prompt, part — weird?!
However, anything with the word notebook in it draws my attention. So, I put aside any trepidation and began to “read” this “notebook”.
Almost immediately, I understood that I had lucked into something different that could be an aide to the writing process if started simultaneously with a new writing project. The Writing Notebook FAMILY is quite literally a notebook. It is a soft covered book that actually has pages with lines on it for you to write your notes, observations and <gasp> actual text for your next novel of/about/relating to a family (yours, your main character’s, the president’s, etc.).
Pages 3 – 9 give you a quick ‘what to expect’ rundown of what this ‘book’ is all about. It begins thusly:
You’re about to embark on a book about a family. Your own family or a fictional family, or the biography of a family you’re interested in. You might be planning a novel or a collection of stories, a memoir or a series of poems. Maybe you’ve embarked on this project already, and you’re looking for ideas and suggestions to expand your work. Whatever stage you’re at in your project, The Writing Notebook will provide you with prompts and writing activities to get those stories and ideas onto paper.
As noted above, there are writing prompts and writing exercises liberally sprinkled across the 158 page book that will help you to think abou and see very clearly the family you are writing about. You will know all about their physical appearance(s), their inner workings and their backstory by the time you are finished with this lovely writing journal/writing companion.
For example, one suggestion is to frame your story utilizing time and show a similar event (such as an annual holiday) at two different points in time to reveal something new/different/disturbing/unusual about a character, or a set of characters.
Another thought is to view your characters in terms of dialogue and communication. In addition to the great prompts and exercises, the book’s author, Shaun Levin, includes little hand sketches in the corners, margins and/or the bottom center of some of the pages to emphasis certain exercises, or prompts. In other instances, the sketches are standalone and serve to aide your own imagination to soar along the lines of the family you are writing/researching/thinking about.
So you are not shocked, the majority of the book is indeed — empty pages — these are actually writing maps (see his website here). However, this is also the beauty of it. The author, Shaun Levin, is only guiding writers towards closer communion with their own personal muses rather than being the muse for us! (Psst, Shaun’s an author himself.) I would definitely say that this book is great for those new to the world of writing to help them find their footing. And, it is a great reminder for those who have written many more than one, or two books.
I can very much see how this book will help me tremendously in fleshing out the family in one of my WIPs (a multi-generational story that follows a Black family from slavery times to the modern day). I cannot wait to use this book as I slide my way through the 23 writing prompts which will take me through the past and move me inexorably forward to the present day with grace and elegance! [Some of the prompts are quite deliciously exciting and made me want to stop reviewing this book and start using the notebook right then and there. However, my current novel is keeping me ultra-busy!]
One of the most interesting features in this little notebook is the list of 21 books of interest the author shares on page 157. The books are quite varied and each book, of course, relates directly to a family, or families. Many of the books are best-sellers, and/or from renown authors such as: J.M. Coetzee, Philip Roth, and Sandra Cisneros.
I enjoyed the mild stretch The Writing Notebook FAMILY gave me when I was only reviewing it. Can you imagine what it will be like working through the almost two dozen prompts and exercises? My next book can hardly wait!
Full Disclosure: This book was given to me by the author who did his due diligence and found me online. Then, he promptly inquired if I would be interested in reading his book to which I promptly agreed. I am The NoteBook Blogairy (@NoteBkBlogairy)! 🙂