Sunday, 28 February 2010

Guest Blog - Dolly on Journaling!

(Listening to - Who knows? I wrote this post two days ago. We'll assume it's rock.)

Hey hey peeps! How are y'all? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

As promised, here's the guest post from my buddy Dolly of Writer Revealed. It's about journaling, and I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to comment with questions etc!


Hi Everyone,

Great to be here on this blog, and big thanks to Adam for inviting me. Journaling is a topic close to my heart, and usually it’s a very personal thing. Some people swear by it, but for others, it just doesn’t work. But I’m not talking about that kind of journaling.

A writer’s journal can be an essential tool for any writer, at any stage, writing in any genre. I will share my views and experience on it, and I hope you will enjoy the post, perhaps find something useful, and share your views.

The Journal
Depending on your life style, it could either be a notebook, a binder or a computer. Though I think most people, except for the extreme hermits, would need a notebook of some kind when they are away from their computers.

I personally use a moleskine because I love the quality of their pages, sturdy covers, an elastic band around it to keep notes and things from falling out, and a back-pocket to keep more notes which I might have ended up scribbling somewhere else despite the best intentions to keep everything in one place. (When an idea occurs at work, I can’t very well take out my writing journal, so a hasty scribble on a post-it has to suffice)

You have a journal, but you don’t really want to go through the whole thing to find a page, or if you have been keeping them for a while, several of them. So basic organisation is necessary.

If you are using a binder, you can simply have dividers, and label each section – plot ideas, future project ideas, character notes, editing tips, new techniques learned, etc. You can have as many categories as you like. It has to work for you.

If you are using a PC, you can just keep separate files, or using excel, you can have a column where you add tags, so you can find items by that. Using things like y-writer or liquid story binder, you can have separate notes.

I keep two pages free for an Index at the front of my moleskine, and add to it as and when I have time. That way, I know exactly what’s on which page.

You could, in theory, keep separate journals for separate books, but remember that the objective here is flexibility. I don’t know about you, but my mind doesn’t always obey me when I say I want to think only about a specific book. So if I am carrying around a journal for Book 1, but my mind decides to bombard me with ideas for Book 2, then I am buggered. So I find it easier to keep just one writing journal. To make things easier for myself, besides having an Index, I also title each page clearly, usually in large letters, so just by flipping through it, I know what I am looking at.

I am personally of the opinion that keeping a hand-written journal is much better than a computer one. For one thing, you can just flip through your journal during a quiet moment, and might find ideas that you weren’t particular thinking of at the moment, whereas people don’t usually go around opening unneeded files on the PC.

What if you don’t have a journal?

In writing, or in any art, there are no necessities besides basic supplies. People wrote things before computers and type-writers, even before electricity. So obviously you can manage just fine without keeping a journal.

But keeping a journal could make things easier for you – and it could be an excellent record of your growth as a writer. Do you ever look at something what you wrote years ago, and wonder what the hell were you thinking? I certainly do. But what I don’t always remember is what did I know then? What techniques did I learn over time? How did I learn them?

Why is that of any use? You might say, once you know something that’s what matters. How you know it is irrelevant. Perhaps. But besides having a keen interest in understanding my own mind, this recording also tells me what works for me and what doesn’t.

I use my journal essentially to capture or explore ideas, rather than facts. I use it when I am trying to get to know a new character, work out kinks in a plot line, scribble new ideas that occur to me for novels I may or may not write.

I also use it to write things I learn about writing craft that resonate with me. Techniques I would like to refer to later, or inspirational quotes.

It’s my creative soundboard. It’s also something very tangible that shows me how far I have come, and on the days when either inspiration or motivation is low, there are plenty of ideas in there to mine.

How about you? Do you keep a writing journal? Would you give it a go?


Dolly said...

Thanks for doing this Adam. :-) You can see my post-it mania even from one picture.

Adam said...

You're welcome, and yes I can! ;-)

Cuckoo, cuckoo... ;-)


Anonymous said...

Great post, and it's making me rethink all these notebooks I've got. It sounds like it would be easier to have just one, instead of one for every work in progress.

Dolly said...


I have had to resist temptation to try different journals too many times. Still do in fact. But keeping it all together in one place certainly works for me as a practical option.

Glad the post made you think :-)

Adam said...

I use one for each project, and only carry whichever I'm working with me when I'm away from the PC. If I have an idea for another project I write in the the back of the pad and rip it out later. :)


Jamie D. said...

You're so organized - you actually leave pages free in the front for an index??? Gah - I wish I'd thought of that when I started the little writing journal I carry with would be *so* much easier to find certain ideas then! Hey wait, what if I just create an index on the back two pages? Yeah...I'll do that. Thanks! :-)

The journal I carry around with me is small enough to fit in my purse, hardcover with an elastic to hold it closed. I use that for writing any and all ideas that come to me while I'm out, or dreams that I can remember right away in the morning. I normally transfer them onto my netbook later, into my "ideas" folder in a more fleshed out version. So I guess you could say that's a writing journal of sorts.

And there's my writing blog, of course - which serves as my progress journal. Handy thing, that. :-)

Great post from the Queen of Journals! :-)

Dolly said...


Ripping out pages from a pad is one thing. Ripping them out of a moleskine would be sacrilage :P

Adam said...

Meh, I've only used dinky Moleskines and I wasn't that impressed. The lines were too close together for my handwriting. ;-)


Dolly said...


Organised is one word for it :P Yes, I also leave index pages for my personal journal. I don't index everything in them, but anything I may write about my books, or nice quotes/poems I might have mentioned.

I keep a seperate dream journal (I am sure that doesn't surprise you).

But yes, your journal sounds pretty similar to mine. And Index at the back is a good idea.

Dolly said...


you can try the plain one

Adam said...

No lines at all?! EEP!

That's worse. ;)


Dolly said...

What's EEP?

Adam said...

Eep = eek = argh = gah = I are distressed in some way. :-)


bettielee said...

omg... journals, let me sing your praises... mine are a mess, but I often find that when I am blindly looking for something, I actually remind myself of something I forgot. Must have journals. As for type - I have every type. Let's just say they know me at Border's bookstore.

Erica said...

I used to keep journals when I was in high school/college and have stopped. I don't have any writing journals, correction - I have them, I don't use them. When I'm at work and have an idea I email myself it...

However, I do like the idea of journaling. Might need to change my mind and get one! You've given me lots of reasons to do it!

Thanks for sharing Dolly! And thanks Adam for having her come over - love both blogs ;o)

C R Ward said...

My journal is pretty sad and neglected right now, but your post has inspired me to try harder.

I have notebooks galore that I could carry with me for writing ideas in, I just have to start remembering to carry them. :-)

And seriously, an index?? I never thought of using an index. I bow to your organizational skills, O Queen of Journalling!

Great post Dolly, and thank you to Adam for hosting it.

Dolly said...


congratulations :-) When they know you at Borders, you know you are addicted. If Amazon or Book Depository keep track of their customers, I am sure they know me too.

At the rate I use journals, too expensive to keep buying them at RRP.

Dolly said...


I email myself a lot of things to - BUT I don't have Internet access 24 hours a day. There are times, like commute, where if something occurs to me, I have to write it down.

Writing journal is bit different than personal - because you don't have to feel obliged to write regularly (you shouldn't in personal either). It's just there to collect ideas in one place as and when they occur to you.

Dolly said...

C R,

Let us know if you get on the journal wagon :-)

"Queen of Journals" I love that - so thanks to you and Jamie. Always wanted to be a Queen something, and I set my sights on buying an island and ruling it ;)

Melanie Avila said...

This is a great post! I'm sorry I'm so tardy.

I love the idea of leaving space for an index at the front of the journal. That's one of the main reasons why I don't have a hand-written notebook for ideas -- I worry I'll never find things. But this could change things...