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  • Writer's pictureRachel Paige

Notebook Doodle Stories

Last week, I mentioned a novel I wrote in high school that Sam and Olivia (the main characters of my current project) first appeared in.

In my current project, Sam and Olivia are siblings and they're incredibly close. They are each other's best friend. In the story I first put them in, they weren't related. And initially, they hated each other. Sam was Olivia's childhood bully. Oof.

I remember writing the end of that story. On the last page, Olivia is narrating and speaking directly to the reader with Sam in the background and she's adding his comments to her narration. I finished the page, stopped, and dread washed over me.

The interaction on that one page felt more natural than any other interaction they'd had in the story. And that interaction wasn't two people who had recently reconciled. It was people who knew the other better than they knew themselves.

They were supposed to be siblings.

I groaned, because that meant the entire novel was wrong. Changing their relationship would have wrecked the plot, but I knew it needed to happen. I knew these two had more potential than that story could let them use.

But I was overwhelmed with the idea of starting over, so I scrapped the project Instead, I took some time to get to know Sam and Olivia and eventually, their story became clear to me. I opened a new document and wrote the story they truly belonged in. That would be my current project, Chaos in G Major.

I've looked at that old novel since then. It's a disaster. Sam and Olivia's relationship doesn't feel right. Hazel was a main character when she shouldn't have been (see last week's post about her), and the plot made no sense. Even though I wrote it, I can't explain what was going on.

That particular project as it existed is dead. With no hopes of revival. But I'd spent so long on that story and I felt like I was wasting it.

But I wasn't wasting it. It gave me two of the best characters I've ever created and they gave me a project I'm proud of. That old story is never going to be shared with others, and that's okay.

Here's the thing, guys. There's no such thing as wasted writing. For some reason, we have it in our heads that every idea we have has to have something come from it. But sometimes stories die. Sometimes they're just not good.

But they aren't wasted. From that failed novel, I got two amazing characters. I learned about writing with multiple narrators. I grew as a writer and that growing helped give me the tools I needed to write the novel those characters are in now.

No writing is wasted. Journaling, short stories, novels, nothing. Even if no one reads it. Even if you never read it again. Even if it sits in your computer or desk drawer forever. It isn't wasted.

It's just a practice round. Like an artist's notebook doodles or a pianist playing scales. They aren't wasting their time, they're building the tools to create their masterpiece. Those doodles and scales may not be good enough to show anyone, but they still hold a purpose.

Not all writing needs to be read to fulfill it's purpose. It doesn't need to be good. Sometimes, your novels will be notebook doodles. Sometimes they'll be scales. But if you keep writing, they'll get better. Eventually, you'll have the tools and skills you need to create the story you're meant to tell.

But you can't get there without your notebook doodles. You can't get there without scales.


Do you have "notebook doodle" stories? What did you lean from them?


Next week, I'll be talking more about not letting people read your writing, and when that can be a good thing.

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