Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Writing Journal

Confession: This is Vicki's method. After she told me to try it four or five times, I finally did. And it works so well, I'm going to pass it on to you. Try it. Don't make me tell you five times. {g}

After I decided to put TMT under the bed, I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I wanted to try something I was enthusiastic about, something that included all the elements I love. But you've all heard this before. The part I haven't talked about is the Writing Journal.

Yeah, revolutionary, right? A journal. Like no writer has ever tried a journal before...that's what I thought. But then Vic explained that she wasn't just writing her daily life experiences. It's more than that--it's a way of freeing yourself to talk about the character, to get into the character, without worrying about the precious words.

So here's what you do. When you sit down to write, open a journal file. Do a paragraph or so about how you feel, what's going on around you, life. Then just start to type about your character. What is she doing right now? What situation is she stuck in? How is she feeling? Put in any authorial notes you want. Write what you changed last time, thoughts you had about the world/setting, ideas you're thinking about. Jot down those niggly ideas or questions you have. Do you need to expand that scene with Joe? Does this part feel flat? What could happen to make it more interesting? Suggest something off the top of your head, then explain to yourself why that won't work, or is cliche. Suggest something else. Think with your fingers. Then...go write the scene you're thinking about.

This works SO well for me. It allows me to brainstorm and avoid wrong turns before I take them. It allows me to get into the character, to think about all the intertwined threads of what's going on with her so I don't lose track of any. It allows me to work things out without worrying about which words to use.

I also insert pictures all over my writing journal. This is what I think Jenna looks like. This is what I'm imagining Joe looks like. Here are pictures of the setting...and then I can go back to those at any time.

I did this every day for a week or two before I started actual writing on JENNA, but by then I was so itching to start the writing I was ready to go. And I'd already thought of and rejected several possible plot options, in favor of more interesting ones. Now I don't do it every single day, but I do several times a week, and any time I feel stuck on where's the best place to go next. It's a fabulous--and simple--tool.

Ready to try it yet? If you're stuck at all, or you're just ready for a new idea, try it out.

Oh, and did I make anyone curious as to what Jenna looks like? {g}


Sara Howe said...

Hi Suze!
I use a spiral-bound notebook for essentially the same thing, though I never thought of it as a journal before. Each novel has its own notebook in which I make plot notes, character notes, etc. I always get the kind with the pockets in them to store newspaper clippings, wikipedia printings, etc.

I find it helpful.

Susan Adrian said...

Hi Sara!

Actually I had notebooks for my novels before too...but it just didn't work the same way for me as typing it out, and using it as an entry to where I am that day. But then I always write on the computer, so it helps to journal the same way, I think.