I keep a notebook as a sort of journal for every book I write. This is apart from the writing I do to lay out the plot basics. The picture above is a sample of them. The fancy leather bound one was a gift. The small one is what I carry in my purse. My husband picked up the one with the pen attached at a business conference he went to. If I buy the notebook myself, I get the simple 5×8 spiral bound one.
A notebook serves a number of purposes for me, including character analysis and management of writing anxiety.
I carry it with me everywhere. At first, I use it to think about character analysis or plot ideas. For instance, I’ve occasionally had my prospective characters answer questions from Jerome Wagner’s An Introduction to the Enneagram. Enneagrams analyze personality styles. Any such system would probably work, but I like this one because it provides me with questions that serve as prompts. The picture below shows a page of answers from a character in Finders Keepers, my middle grade fantasy.
I also muse on characterization without prompts. The next picture shows me trying to work out the central motives for Doniver and Jarka, two characters in The Wind Reader.
Managing writing anxiety
I continue to use the notebook as I move on to drafting a book. At each writing session, I start by recording my goal for the day and how I’m feeling. I record the feeling because with every book, there comes point (or two or three) when I feel I can’t do this. It helps me to remember that I felt that way with previous books too.
The page below is the first entry I made when I started drafting a book about Dilly, the third of the three friends in The Wind Reader. It’s dated January 24, 2018, and starts, “I’m afraid I can’t write anything new. I haven’t done that in a long time, just revised and edited.” I’m now on the other side of that draft and know that I did what I was afraid of.
Writing journals are a useful part of my writing process. Give them a try!