The book of shadows is one of the most important books that every Wicca practitioner uses. In fact many different pagan religions have similar books, with a variety of different names. More than just a book of spells or a diary however, the book of shadows is an expression of the personality of the maker of the book. To this end, every book of shadows is different and as such the methods people use to make them can vary greatly as well. The key is simply to make the book easy to use and so that you can understand it easily.
The stereotypical view most people might have of a spell book is of an ancient leather-bound tome, sitting on a pedestal and only read by equally ancient wizards with waist length beards and robes. The reality however is a lot different, and most spell books more closely resemble either well-made scrapbooks or professionally made diaries. Also the range of different people that make and read them is massive, and certainly not limited to wizened old men.
The first step is to choose what kind of book you are going to use for your book of shadows. The variety of different books that are sometimes used is staggering, although generally the books all tend to be larger in size and decorated according to the beliefs and personality of the maker. So for example someone into the more historic side of Wicca might have magic symbols or writing in the Theban alphabet. Whereas someone more into the nature and earth magic side of Wicca beliefs might have images of nature or leaf pressings as a design.
Some people prefer to use diary type books that ring binders, purely because they often look better. However they tend not to be as good because of the fact that you only have a limited number of pages with these books. Similarly every time you make a mistake and want to start an entry again, you have to remove a page and again reduce the number of pages that you have. It is also harder to make separate sections and there is less scope for gluing in extra pictures or articles with books as opposed to ring binders.
Because of the increasing popularity of Wicca recently there are now readily made books of shadows that can be bought in many stores and websites. These tend to be gothic in design and often have locks on the front to make sure other people cant read them. The only drawback of these books tends to be that they are often fairly small, and that new pages cant be added when the book is filled. Also the fact that they already feature designs on the covers means that they can't be as individual due to the fact that the cover isn't self made.
The most popular and easy type of stationary to use is a large three ring binder, which allows you to easily add new pages and to keep sections separate. The benefit of this is that if you make a mistake you can just remove the page and start again, and also the pages are never filled because you can add extra ones if needed. A large ring binder also allows you lots of space to glue in interesting pictures, articles or even your own writing to the pages. It's also a good idea to have different sections or chapters in your binder to keep different aspects separate and organized.
The different sections of a book of shadows might include a section for spells and another as a diary of different Wicca activities such as coven meetings or spells cast. Also many people find it useful to have a section for upcoming events, and also lists of items needed for different occasions. Many people also tend to find it useful to be able to have a section including pictures of different symbols, and articles about Wicca or magic in general that are interesting or useful. Furthermore being able to have pictures of everything you need for spells next the spells themselves can save a lot of time when trying to remember that the ingredients look like if you haven't used them for a while.
Although most covens have books purely for spells and rituals, personal books can often contain some of these as well. For example rituals that you use regularly but that are too complicated to remember. Having either pictures or drawings of symbols that you commonly use is a good idea as well.
Most books of shadow as well as containing spells might have the tenants of any orders or covens that you belong to as well. Similarly teachings from other Wicca practitioners either throughout history or that you know yourself are also useful to have included. People interested in the development and origin of modern Wicca also sometimes like to have profile pages of some of the more influential Wicca practitioners of modern times. In this way the books can also be a journey of how your own beliefs have developed and where how they change and grow over time.
The fact that a book of shadows is a personal book means that many people prefer that others can't read what they have written easily. To this end some people prefer to make entries in code so that to most people it is unreadable. Most commonly the Theban alphabet is used because it has historically been linked with Wicca and witchcraft for hundreds of years. Also it is the unofficial code that many covens and Wicca organizations use after being adopted by the modern founder of Wicca in the late 1950s.
From a design perspective often using a secondary book to make the book of shadows is a good idea and can give the book a much more professional and neat look. By this the second book is either a lined or plain smaller diary, and is used for the majority of the writing. Then the pages are cut out and glued to the pages of the actual book of shadows, which tends to be a different colour. This not only looks good because of the contrast, but also allows you to put several different pieces on a single page.
Some people like to use locks on the front of their books to make sure others cant read them, and while this might be a good idea in theory, in practise it often doesn't work that well. Firstly if someone sees a locked book then they are bound to be more curious as to what is in the book that if they were to just see a book on a shelf. Also the keys that are supplied with these locks are usually very small and easy to use, meaning being locked out of your own spell book is all too common.