What Exactly Do I Put in a Writer’s Journal?
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Maybe you’ve figured it out, maybe you haven’t, but I love writing by hand. I’m traditional like that. I mean notebook paper and PENCIL, not pens. I have an electric sharpener and I still believe in #2’s, not mechanical. Yup, I’m a regular OG. Anyway. Because I do a lot of this, I keep around notebooks, one of which is my writing journal.
Now, as a writer, you need to have one.
Just like you should also have a reading journal to help you become a better writer. I’ve gone through Pinterest, and many people say you need to have a writer’s journal/notebook, but no one tells you what to actually put in there. Well, Megan from Page Flutter and Kathy from Idyllic Pursuit give you some good ideas, but there is way more to include.
I went through my writer’s journal from last year and took note of what I tracked and included, as well as what I should have. Here’s a list of what I recommend…
- Character Dossier – This is all the information about your characters. You can find some examples of what to include here. You can, also, access and download a free and detailed character profile when you sign up for my newsletter.
- Mind Maps – Mind maps are like those bubble/spiderweb maps you had to do in class. You put your big idea in the middle, then attach other, branching ideas to it in any layering style you want.
- Plot diagrams – You can get help with this with my workbook. Sign up for my Writer’s Wisdom newsletter to access and download it for free!
- Basic Writing Elements for Review – don’t be embarrassed to include reviews, like the elements of fiction and the literary elements in your book, just as refreshers.
Start with conflict, characterization, and setting basics. I, also, recommend these 7 Rules of Writing, too.
- Contact List – When you join all those writing communities you should be joining for support, people you really connect with can be added to a master list of emails. You can meet up with them or digitally swap work with them as beta readers.
- Timeline – I advise you set deadlines and goals for yourself to keep you motivated in your writing. While free-write works for some, most adult writers are going to procrastinate and push off writing time unless we have a deadline to hold ourselves accountable.
- Outlining – You can get help with this with my workbook. Sign up for my Writer’s Wisdom newsletter to access and download it for free!
- Research – Even if you aren’t doing a special character trait or setting, you should still be doing research on setting, character, and conflict development, taking notes so you don’t forget.
I can think of 5 Ways to Stay Productive with Your Story research.
- Recommendations – Whether it’s movies, books, stories, history or anything else, those in writing communities recommend lots of cool stuff to help you with your writing. Keep a list of it to remind and track what all you check out later.
- To Do Lists – When you’re planning your WIP, there is always a list of things you need to do to make sure you have a clear idea of your story. Don’t even get me started on the lists for language and editing!
- Publishing Info – If you are publishing that year, or thinking about it later on, you can include your notes and to-do lists.
- Inspiration – Images, quotes, stories, songs, whatever inspires you to write.
Keep yourself inspired by creating a Novel Soundtrack.
- Word Count – When I did NaNoWriMo for the first time, I found that tracking my word count is what kept me most motivated. I was seeing the physical progress toward a goal. Even if you don’t know how long your book will be, start tracking the word count to see how much you’re accomplishing as you go.
- Reading Notes – If you read one of the many books about writing that other writing bloggers recommend–like Stephen King’s On Writing–you can jot down the notes your pull from it in your writer’s journal for quick reference later.
- Reflections – Make sure to think about your writing and yourself as a writer. We writer’s struggle with sanity care, and reflections are one way to help with that.
- Writing Prompts – Between conflict, dialogue, and challenge prompts, there are so many ideas for stories out there.
You can find ideas in these 6 Not-So-Obvious Places.
- NaNoWriMo Prep – If you’re doing it that year–which I advise you should every year–include all your prep lists and outlines in its own little section for pressure, crack-down reference.
- Story Ideas and Summaries – You know when you lie down in bed at night and you suddenly get the best story idea in the world right in between the first and second sleeping stages? Yeah, jot those down and any little summaries with it in your journal for later development.
- Scene Organization – There are so many ways to do this–tables, sticky notes (my favorite), maps, etc. When you change your chapters and scenes, delete them or move them around, you can track that with a section in your writer’s journal.
- Writing Events – If you’re really involved in the writing communities, you may even have a calendar with writing events–conferences, write-ins, workshops, classes–for you to track and attend.
So much, right.
You don’t have to get all fancy like other bullet journals, though you surely can. The point is that you have a place for you to compile all your writing processes and expand on the ideas in a free-handed way. Have fun with it; there’s no right or wrong way to do this. You may have all these things, you have 3 of them. No matter what you include, you should have a writer’s journal (and reading and poetry journals)–even if just inspirational pictures of snippets of your story in moments of inspiration.
What else do you think we should be including in our writer’s journal? What struggles and successes have you had when keeping a writer’s journal?
Let us know below and on social media. Again, don’t forget to sign up for my bi-weekly Writer’s Wisdom newsletter for tips, tricks, and common questions regarding writing.