The notebook won't be the novel---nope, it's for holding all the debris that surrounds the making of any complicated object. Think of it like the dumpster parked outside a house under construction. Everything in that dumpster was once necessary to the building of that house, right down to the wrappings from the fast food that nourished the workers each day.
There will be a date on every entry. Some entries will be two words. Some will be four or five pages. In all of them, the handwriting will be unbelievably messy.
There will be lists. Many, many lists, many of them mostly questions. There will be questionings of those question lists. There will be lists of 20-30 concrete nouns---objects or people or places that occur over and over. My puzzle pieces. I will bump them all against each other, to see what fits.
(If you really want to see my ramblings,
click on the picture to enlarge it.)
I will draw arrows. I will doodle weird symbols in the margins. There will be word counts, jotted at random like graffiti. I will surprise myself with at least one real drawing, which will be labeled with helpful clues.
I will mention other books I'm reading, or TV shows/movies I'm watching, and what they help me see about my own narrative struggles. I will take notes when I need to research something, like "Jet-powered outhouse: Standard port-o-john w/ 1000 hp jet engine. Speeds of 70 mph. Flames spew from jet exhaust and potty vent." (No I'm not 'splaining this. Not yet.)
I will summarize the work I've done elsewhere, on the computer, to prove to myself that I am making progress. "Worked on opening scene." "Wrote 500 words." "Figured out where main character lives."
I will generally try to use only an encouraging tone of voice towards myself. I will write things like: "Focus on the pages you need to write today. Write them. Quit. Repeat." But some days I will come out with: "Trying to write, but my brain is not here."
I will, at some point, write the words: "This book is about... " I will probably write that phrase ten or fifteen times. I will get the answer wrong, oh so wrong, many, many times.
Honestly, when I look back over my last two novel notebooks, I'm not sure how I managed to write two books from such junk.
But then, if I looked in a construction dumpster, I might wonder about the grease-stained napkins and the little rubber doodads and the metal staples and--- oh, my! is that something growing in there???