A writer’s journal is a book of future novels. It contains the dreams, nightmares and inspired ideas of an enthusiastic author. From professional authors to prolific writers, a writer’s journal is a useful tool. Yet, how does one start a writer’s journal? What should be written?
Here are 5 tips for starting your writer’s journal!
1. Colour? Lined?
The first step in starting a writer’s journal is selecting the right journal. For some, it really depends on the cover and feel of the journal. That is in regard to the writer’s taste, but what is a bit more difficult to choose is the paper. Should your journal pages be lined or not?
For the more artistic types who like to keep their ideas through pictures and doodles, this choice might seem obvious. Yet, you need to choose what you are comfortable with and what is better for you. What that means is you need to use your journal to organise your ideas. You need to keep it neat.
Thus, a lined page might be better suited for the more chaotic writer who finds themselves losing their ideas. You want to escape the phase of writing ideas in the odd notebook or on the scrap piece of paper you stumbled along. Perhaps writing on lined paper, neatly and with proper titles could help you turn over a new leaf.
Decide for yourself the size, cover and paper as well as the number of pages. Once you have your journal, you are ready to start using it properly.
2. Character, World, Plot and Scene
There are four major categories for ideas that you need to keep in mind. When you add a new entry, you need a title to establish what it is about. Character, World, Plot and Scene ideas need to stand out, so if you are ever searching for something from one of these categories, you can find them with ease.
Next, make your summaries short. If you feel the need to go into detail, requiring more than a single page, write a short story instead. Put yourself in the writer’s chair, open up your writing software and start writing. It could be an entire scene, perhaps even a prospective chapter in a future novel. Yet, something so large should not be taking up space in your journal.
If you wish to keep this idea with the others, print it out and place it at the back of your journal or in a special folder. You are using your journal to keep ideas for novels, not for writing novels inside. I recommend to properly organise these ideas, pick colours for each of the four major categories.
I personally use colours and symbols in order to save space, using the back of the cover to write a legend to help me decipher them in-case I forget. For example, I use the initials of the genre to define certain ideas further, such as ‘SF’ for science-fiction or ‘HF’ for high-fantasy.
Develop your system, have fun with it and be colourful. Soon these colours will make navigating your maze of ideas much easier than before. Yet, even without colours, having your ideas organised like this is much better than simply trying to remember them all.
3. Keep it Close, Keep it Safe
It goes without saying that we are all unique and inspiration can strike at unexpected times. Supposing you get most of your ideas from your dreams, it would be beneficial to keep your writer’s journal close to where you sleep. That way you can write your idea down before your mind forgets it, especially since dreams are known for fading quickly.
Personally, I recommend keeping your journal with you at all times. Take it to work or on a trip, anywhere you are going to spend enough time for an idea to develop. You might encounter an interesting person, overhear a fascinating conversation or see an amazing place. These incredible moments that could easily become a feature in one of your novels.
To close on this point, ensure you keep your journal close and safe. You never know when you will need it and you don’t want to put it at risk either. For example, if you happen to use your journal as a coaster for your mug of dark coffee, you are testing Murphy’s law.
4. Novels and Detail Keeping
Next, use your journal to keep track of certain details in your novel as you write it. If you are creating a vibrant world, full of life, you have no doubt included many details that could set the scene. Perhaps you include an important detail that you wish to keep track of, use your journal to avoid contradicting yourself later in the novel.
Once more, I would use a specific colour, symbol or stand-out title to separate the pages with these details from your other ideas. Personally, I recommend keeping your collection ideas building at the back of your journal and your detail-keeping at the front.
I tend to keep a lot of details as well as ideas, which can lead to a messy journal if I simply wrote in it from beginning to end. It is this way that if I’m ever working on a novel, I need not flip through a series of ideas before finding my novel details. Yet, you can go one step further and have two journals. One for when you’re writing a novel and another for keeping ideas for future novels.
5. Consistent Journaling
That pretty much covers the details of what your journal is used for and how you can effectively use it. The next step is working on your journal often to turn it into a habit.
There are many advantages that make using a journal easy. You have it there, ready to be written in. An app on your phone or software on your computer cannot compare, especially if you make a mistake. I recommend you take advantage of this benefit by using your journal every day for the first week.
Develop an idea or write something that inspired you down. It can be anything from a funny-looking character to a complex and interesting world. As you grow more comfortable with your journal, you will use it more often and begin writing in it consistently.
A journal for keeping ideas was something I scoffed at initially. I didn’t keep track of any of my ideas, letting them fade with the passage of time. Eventually, while writing a novel, I was racking my brain for an idea and by the time I came up with one I was struck with a dose of déjà vu. I had thought of the idea before, but I didn’t write it down.
I struggled with this block longer than a week before the idea crossed my mind again, a week with plenty of writing time that I didn’t take advantage of. Eventually, I went to the store, bought a small notebook, A5 pages, lined with 120 sheets. Plenty of space for keeping track of ideas and two months later I was buying a second notebook.
The writer’s journal has helped me avoid these blocks many times. Sometimes it couldn’t save me and I required another solution, but otherwise, journaling is definitely worth the time and money. I highly recommend you approach it with an open mind and I can guarantee your writing efficiency will improve.
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
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Thank you for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer
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