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Agatha Christie’s Notebooks

When I first started writing one of the pieces of conventional wisdom for writers was to keep a journal. Well, I tried–many times in fact. I purchased books on journaling. I purchased blank journals of all descriptions, from the everyday schoolbook to the fancy leather covered works of art.

The results were uniform. I’d write in them for a few days, and then quickly tapper off to nothing.

The reasons?

• I wasn’t happy with my cursive handwriting.
• I tried too hard to make nice sentences.
• I stopped frequently to lookup words.
• What I was writing in the journal provided little help for my current WIP.
• And the worst? I tried writing as though someone else would read my entries.

What a revelation then to read ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran. The 73 notebooks were discovered after the death of Agatha Christie’s daughter. They are plain school composition workbooks. Her handwriting described as ‘chicken scratches’, and she miss-spelled many words without bothering to look them up. She rarely bothered to write in complete sentences.

What she did do is use the notebooks as a sounding board. She worked out plots, characters, settings, etc., frequently arguing with herself about the merits of various ideas. She used them to work out scene outlines as well as details such as the effects of various poisons.

She apparently never figured anyone would ever read the notebooks, so felt free to let her thoughts roam where they would.

It is interesting to see how her stories developed from a simple fragment/thought to a well plotted, character rich story.

Bottom line?

I’m going to give journaling another shot with some cheap composition books using her approach to thought collecting. And, of course, I’m recommending John Curran’s book to anyone interested in the subject.

If it works out for me, I’ll report back in the future. If it doesn’t…

Smokey Dwarf

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