On keeping a writing journal

On keeping a writing journal

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.

Character analysis

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.

enneagram
A character answers questions

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.

analyze a character's goal
Analyzing a character’s goal

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.

writer anxiety
A first entry on writer anxiety

Writing journals are a useful part of my writing process. Give them a try!


Finders Keepers (Zharmae 2015) by Dorothy A. Winsor is available in e-book and paperback.
Amazon       Barnes and Noble        Indiebound

“I’m not a thief. Not really. The thing I steal doesn’t belong to the people I take it from. Of course, it doesn’t belong to the people I take it for either.”

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4 thoughts on “On keeping a writing journal

  1. Great article, Dorothy! I don’t keep a writing journal, but practice more of a free-thought journal every morning before I get to work. It helps so much to write out my fears, doubts, joys, and gratitude for accomplishments and/or blessings in my life. It helps me work through the problems, asking for God’s help in overcoming them throughout the day. When finished, my creativity is flowing and I find myself very productive. Journalling is such a useful tool to get the thoughts out of my head and out of the way, allowing creativity to surge!

    1. Hey, Julie! Good to hear from you. I think that when we wake up, our brains are full of that kind of creativity you get in dreams. I get all kinds of ideas then but if I don’t write them down, they’re gone.

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