Thursday, April 11, 2013

Writing A Novel - Journaling

You may think, as I once did, that writing a novel and journaling are two completely different types of writing. I am here to argue the opposite.

After reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, I began to see my journal in a whole new light. You see, I was raised to think of a journal as a personal diary, a place to write about my innermost thoughts or feelings of the day. I did not see that book as an avenue to creativity.

Your journal is what you make of it, but in the end, I believe whatever it is, it should serve you. If you are working on a novel, or would like to someday write a novel, then you need a journal to help you on your journey. Here's how a journal helps create your novel:

Journaling to come up with your novel's idea.

As a writer you should have a journal or "writer's notebook" that you write in every day. Even if you commit yourself to writing over your lunch, you should do it. Force yourself to write non-stop for a predetermined amount of time. If you do this daily, you will spill so many ideas from your brain (good and bad), that you will eventually unearth the one that deserves novel-length attention. 

Journaling to build characters.

While you are writing your novel, certain scenes and dialogues may reveal ideas about your characters to you that seem abundantly clear, but may not be able to be added into that scene. Keeping your journal on your desk at all times will allow you to jot down all these thoughts about your characters as you go. You would not believe how much useful stuff you forget about in the middle of writing. 

Journaling to write while you are away.

When you are writing a novel, you are always writing that novel no matter what else it may look like you are doing - cooking, working, cleaning, or, as I was yesterday, weeding your backyard. Part of the reason journaling is my topic of the day is because I broke my rule yesterday and I felt the pain last night. What's the rule?  
Have I mentioned how much my hands hurt?

Always have your journal with you.

While I was weeding my backyard by hand (day five of hand-picking weeds from between bricks!!) I was, of course, day dreaming about my current WIP. I came up with a great scene and introduction of a character. Since I spent all afternoon going over it again and again in my brain I thought it was solidly a part of me. WRONG. When I sat down to type it up last night, it was gone.

I'm hoping it comes back to me today. I'm heading back out to the seemingly endless weeds in my backyard (ouch! Blisters forming) and today I am bringing my journal with me. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading!

How do you use your journal for your creative inspiration?
Do you have a separate journal for your creative endeavors, or do you mix it up with your own personal reflections of the day?


  1. I loved Writing down the Bones. I haven't read it in years. It might be time for a refresher. Thanks!

  2. Cynthia/Read is the New BlackApril 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    The other day, I was just going over some of the journals I'd written in back when I was younger, and I was taken back by how young and innocent I was back then. Revisiting my voice of years past can be inspiring.

  3. Emily L. Moir-GentherApril 11, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    This is a great idea. I used to keep my phone handy because it has a record function that allowed me to quickly say what I'd come up with. I have a new phone now and that thing's my enemy, so I I haven't been able to do that in a while.

  4. It's funny you say this. I haven't read it in months and I feel the same way!!

  5. My first novel attempt "Dear 302" had a diary as a major component of the book. As part of my research I pulled out my diaries that started when I was in junior high school and ended when I was a junior in high school. OH MY GOODNESS! Who WAS I?!?! Anyway, I am happy to say that over the course of the writing I finally learned how to spell the word probably (for at least the first two diaries I wrote "probally"!!!). Revisiting my voice of the past wasn't as inspiring as I thought it would be. It was more like TERRIFYING! XD

  6. I use the "notes" function in my phone to jot things down from time to time. I tried using the record thing a couple of times, but it seems my shyness even extends to my personal notes! It is quite interesting to me that I am not always capable of vocally expressing that which I can fluidly express in the written word. Perhaps some day I will get over that.

  7. I have tonnes of journals (aka note books). As an author, it's important to have something on hand to jot down notes whenever inspiration strikes. I also occasionally use the 'notes' function on my phone, which certainly comes in handy!

    Suzy Turner, YA Author

  8. I'm a super fan of that "notes" feature, although at one point I had my settings set up that notes would send me an email EVERY time I added to notes - WHOA! that was hilarious. I didn't realize until then how often I used it for little story ideas and observations throughout the day!