Monday, February 20, 2012

Wanted: The ‘Perfect' Journal

Any notebook will do for your writer's journal. You can use a spiral notebook or composition book from the school supplies section a t your favorite store or visit the bookstore for a selection of blank books. The variety is impressive, from lined or unlined sheets to various sizes (and shapes). The important thing is that you feel comfortable with the book so you'll enjoy writing in it often.

You might even prefer to use your computer to journal. Many of my writing friends insist this is the best method because of the "search and find" features on most word processing programs. I prefer a portable, handwritten journal. If this is your choice, too, choose a writing instrument with as much care as the journal itself. Do you want to hear the scratching of a pencil or marker on the page or feel the glide of a gel-ink or fountain pen? I like the feel of smooth, thicker paper and the fast, flowing ink of a Roller Ball. But, I also prefer different colors to help me designate different days at a glance. The choice is yours.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to keep the first few pages blank. Record favorite writing exercises or prompts on those opening pages. You'll be able to quickly find writing prompts whenever you want to write during unexpected spare time. Each time you complete an exercise, you'll gain something more from it. Draw from these completed exercises, just as you'll glean from experiences in each journal entry in developing writing ideas.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Journaling: Writers Basic Training

Keeping a journal is the best way to harness thoughts, memories, ideas and dreams. Those penned experiences will provide plenty of details to add realism to your stories. Journaling also serves as "training," to help you find your writer's voice, among many other writing skills.

You don't need to write daily, and the entries you make could be one page or ten pages. They don't need to make sense as far as transitions or sequence either. I often use // in the margin of my journal to indicate a change in thought or when I've returned later in the day to record a new thought or idea. I put an asterisk next to ideas or dreams that I think have story or article potential. I usually reread entries monthly to add idea notes in the margins or highlight pieces I think may be useful in the near future. 

Sometimes entries during the course of several weeks or a month show an idea slowly developing and I'll start a new entry which comments on those previous ideas, reminding myself how the idea sparked and where I see it possibly leading. It is usually a lack of time that keeps me from outlining or drafting these ideas right away, so using the journal helps me document them for later development.

I also do writing exercises in my journals, practicing different story elements–dialogue, description, sensory details. I find it helpful to clear my mind by writing ideas down before bed-time. When I'm under deadline, journaling helps me clear my thoughts each morning so I'm able to focus on the project at hand. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tuning into Ideas

You've already begun recording ideas as you notice them. Another way to find ideas is to make some lists. It helps to open with questions. What topics interest you? Try to list two or three. What questions are triggered when you watch or read the news? List a few. Collect names for places and characters, too. Use the ideas you gather to fill in the following list. Try to collect ten items in the coming week.


Find and write down inspiring quotes, too. At the end of the week, review your list and write down article ideas or story plots based on merging the bits and pieces you've recorded.
Challenge yourself to expand the list each week, building to 12, 15, 18, or 20 items in the coming weeks.