Monday, January 6, 2014

Do authors journal?

Short answer:  Yes.

Long answer...
James Scott Bell wrote an article for the Writers' Digest website titled 5 Tools For Building Conflict in Your Novel. I found a lot of useful information in this article, such as...

'The best way to use a dream is sparsely (once per novel as a general rule) and then only to give a window into what the character is experiencing, emotionally, at the moment. It is a method to get us inside the character and show us just how the conflict is getting to her.' 


'Try working a background secret of some kind into your story with the end goal of heightening the conflict.'


'Just continue to think trouble, trouble, trouble. Make it worse. Turn up the heat. That's conflict, your best friend as a writer.'


'I picked up one of the best ongoing writing tools for conflict from Sue Grafton. It's the novel journal. This is a document you keep, almost like a diary, jotting things in it every day before you begin to write.'

Now that last point, the one about the journal, that wasn't new to me. I've been keeping one of those for years. Every since, 2009, when I embarked on the journey of writing my first book-length manuscript. I keep a journal just like Sue Grafton. Well, to be honest, not just like Sue Grafton. Because I keep two. One that I write in before, during and after a major writing project. The other about the major writing project. This one holds bites of narration, dialogue, etc. 

Oh, yes, and I also keep a notebook in my purse so that I can write notes on the fly. course I keep this blog--which is on-line journal. So, in some ways, I don't keep a journal--I bath in them. And, well, there's also that journal I keep to record writing advice I find on the internet. And there's...

'Right Brain, my creative part, really isn't interested in working line-by-line. Right Brain sees the whole picture. Left Brain might insist that we start at the beginning and proceed in an orderly fashion right through to the end, but Right Brain has its own way of going about its business. The journal is a place to honor Right Brain's ingenuity and non-conformity.' -writes Sue Grafton in The Completed Handbook of Novel Writing (p. 196)

Do other authors keep journals?

A quick search, using my favourite search engine, revealed...

[T]he habit of writing...for my own eyes only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments...I believe that during the past year I can trace some increase of ease in my professional writing which I attribute to my casual half hour after tea.' -Virginia Woolf

'Keepers of private notebooks are...lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.' -Joan Didion

'In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.' Franz Kafka

'The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather--in many cases--offers an alternative to it. -Susan Sontag

(Quotes found on:

In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron offers Morning Papers as a way 'to retrieve your creativity' (p. 9)

And, in Stop Counting Sheep! an article published in Yarn Market News Magazine, Claire Lui wrote, 'If you're up at night worried about work, try old-fashioned journaling. Jot down your worries in a notebook (not a computer). It sounds simple, but a "worry journal" is an effective way to help clear your mind of a jam-packed to-do list as you attempt slumber.'

Here are two more articles that you may find interesting and helpful...

Keeping a Journal--10 Techniques to Help you in Keeping a Journal

5 Ways a Journal Can Make You More Productive

Let's give Sue Grafton the final word... 'Remember it's your journal and you can do it any way you choose.' -The Completed Handbook of Novel Writing (p. 199)


mooderino said...

I don't keep a journal but I do have a lot of bits of paper all over the place with notes on them. If I put them all together they'd probably fill a notebook, but I'd have to find them all first.

A Writer’s Greatest Crime

Leanne Dyck said...

I'm so familiar with this dilemma. That's why I started my writing journal. My trouble now is that I have so many journals that I have search through them all to find the note I'm looking for. : )

Darlene said...

I keep a journal as well. It keeps me on track. I also reread last years to see how far I have come (if at all) I also keep notebooks handy to jot things down when I think of something. I also have a number of them so I have to search through a few to find what I need. Better than not writing things down and forgetting them. Some great advice from other writers. Thanks!

Leanne Dyck said...

Thanks for your comment, Darlene. Sometimes I raid my old journals, fictionalize what I find and transform it into short stories or novels.
And I can't agree more, writing things now is much better than relying on memory--especially my memory. : )

Laurie Buchanan said...

"I bath in them." Great word picture - it made me laugh! :)

Leanne Dyck said...

: ) But I do. Scrub-a-dub-dub.

identitytheseries said...

I've been addicted to 'morning pages' ever since working through The Artists Way at film school. I find it helps to focus my thoughts, remember all those genius ideas that occurred in the middle of the night, and generally be a gentle gateway into the day's writing. Plus it can be useful to read back later when I'm trying to remember my inspiration or quite where I was going with a particular plot development!

Leanne Dyck said...

To recall the spark of inspiration and the rush of creation, is one of the reasons I like to journal as well. Thank you for contributing to this exchange.