There’s a technique for book writers (both fiction and non-fiction) called book journalling. David Hewson calls it a book diary in his Writing A Book in Ulysses. The idea is simple: any thoughts relating to your book are entered into one journal for that book. That could be a physical notebook, or it could be a file on your computer. (I create a file in my Research folder in Scrivener.)
So, what do you record in it?
Anything you like: any thoughts that crop up, whenever they occur.
Imagine you’re writing a scene and realise that you need to change some action or point in an earlier scene. Instead of stopping writing, and going back to that scene to rectify it, you can simply go to your book journal, enter today’s date, make a note of the issue and carry on.
Doing this creates a log of your query, but allows you to continue with the scene you’re currently writing. Alternatively, on those occasions when you feel stuck, or blocked, use the book journal to produce some stream on consciousness writing, to get those juices flowing again. Sometimes there can be a kernel of an idea that seeds itself here, which may not shoot until you look back on what you’ve written many months later.
Non-fiction book writers can do something similar, recording ideas for new chapters, or sections, as they arise. But it can also be a good place to jot down research notes – including links to websites you want to look at in more detail at a later date. (Not only that, but if anyone later queries your source, you’ll have a record of it here.)
By collecting this information, it’s worth reviewing it on a regular basis – depending upon how frequently you are writing. If you get stuck, reviewing your last few entries in your journal may remind you of changes you need to make earlier in your book. That could be enough to get you going again.
It can also be an interesting exercise to read through the whole book journal when you’ve completed your first draft. You may suddenly discover that the direction of your book changed drastically during the writing process. That could be a good thing. If not, well, you’re only at the first draft stage, so there’s still an opportunity to make changes to get back on track.
Journalling is a good idea for all writers, but for those working on a big project, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, having a single, specific place for all of these thoughts can help you complete the work. It also becomes a living, working document and, ultimately, a record of your efforts.