Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing Tip: Keep A Journal

Although I have a BA in English, in college I took a grand total of ONE creative writing class.  I never thought I'd be writing fiction.  In fact, the one smallish attempt I made (out of duty-- in my class we had to submit something to be published as part of our grade) was very pathetic.  I tried to write a short story about a girl who didn't make the cheerleading squad and her friend that brought her cookies to make her feel better.  I knew it wasn't very original, especially when my roommate reminded me that somebody had just told us that story a few weeks before.

But the one thing I did have going for me was that I was an extensive journal writer.  I was surprised to find out that this is actually a great skill to have as a fiction writer.  In fact, it's so important that we even had a whole section on it in my creative writing class.

Journals help us remember the crucial things in our lives and teach us to put words to our feelings.  Just like books, they often leave out the smaller day to day details and force us to focus on the larger events.  Reading multiple passages can sometimes help us recognize recurring themes.

In addition to all these things, if you're a fiction writer it can help you keep track of the stories that are always running around in your head.  If you have a notebook by your bed, you can record those midnight revelations that come when you're half asleep.  Orson Scott Card even said that every night he journals what he's written that day so that he can skim it the next morning and pick up where he left off.  He uses a journal to write the personal descriptions of his characters too.

So that's my tip today.  Keep a journal.  If you're a writer, do it for the craft.  If you're not, do it for yourself.  You (and your posterity) will be glad you did.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh. This post could be MY life. How funny! No creative writing class, English BA, never thought I'd write fiction, etc. Journals, yes! I do this too--mine my old journals for emotion and drama. Oh, found one from jr hi (right after I didn't make the cheer squad, ha ha, but no one brought me cookies) where I told the girl who DID make cheer (and yes, I actually recorded this for posterity) "I hate your guts and I hope you die." Just the chance to remember how wildly passionate a 13 year old girl can be over the lamest thing...good info. So I totally agree. Journals are gold!