The great Shirley Jackson gave fascinating lectures on writing, and specifically how she worked. She left paper and pencils all over the house so she could make notes on her writing wherever thoughts occured to her: “I am apt to find, in the laundry list, a scribble reading, ‘Shirley, don’t forget — no murder before chapter five… or ‘Shirley, have old man fall downstairs.'” When she was ready to write, she’d collect all her little scraps of paper and try to remember what she was thinking when she wrote them.
Making notes like this is enormously helpful. I collect mine in ruled notebooks, which I get really cheap at the end of those Back To School sales. My current one is filled with notes such as “what are the physical symptoms of belladonna poisoning?” and “can arsenic be detected in dead bodies or do the signs disappear?” and “how long does it take someone to die after having ricin introduced into the bloodstream?”
All these notes relate to the book I’m writing, including a list of names headed, “these people need to die.”
I’m terrified that some household emergency will bring the police to my door. One officer, casually picking up a notebook off my desk and browsing through it with increasing horror, will begin to wonder if this explains some dead body found floating in the city fountain.
I know Oscar Wilde wrote a great poem in jail, but still… always keep your notes tucked away in the drawer.