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So How’s that Journaling Working Out?

Well…I have to admit I’m not fully up to speed yet, but I’m working on it. It’s interesting how ideas develop as you talk to yourself on the printed page. Playing what if with pen or pencil is enlightening. When a crap idea pops up, it’s easy enough to either destroy it or ignore it. Scratching lines through it is satisfying.

When the germ of a good idea pops up, it invariably leads to further ideas. Mashing around in ‘idea land’ is much easier than trying to work out the same ideas in your manuscript. It can be a real pain to get 5,000 words down a path and find out it’s not working.

One handy thing I found about keeping a journal is a list of words. Like most writers, I’m constantly coming across words I’d like to use in the future. In the past, I’d always noted the word and committed it to memory. You probably know how well that works. Now, in the back of my current journal, I jot the words down along with various meanings. Haven’t used any yet on my WIP, but I know it will come in handy in the future.

So…journaling is growing on me.

Smokey

Agatha Christie’s Notebooks

When I first started writing one of the pieces of conventional wisdom for writers was to keep a journal. Well, I tried–many times in fact. I purchased books on journaling. I purchased blank journals of all descriptions, from the everyday schoolbook to the fancy leather covered works of art.

The results were uniform. I’d write in them for a few days, and then quickly tapper off to nothing.

The reasons?

• I wasn’t happy with my cursive handwriting.
• I tried too hard to make nice sentences.
• I stopped frequently to lookup words.
• What I was writing in the journal provided little help for my current WIP.
• And the worst? I tried writing as though someone else would read my entries.

What a revelation then to read ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran. The 73 notebooks were discovered after the death of Agatha Christie’s daughter. They are plain school composition workbooks. Her handwriting described as ‘chicken scratches’, and she miss-spelled many words without bothering to look them up. She rarely bothered to write in complete sentences.

What she did do is use the notebooks as a sounding board. She worked out plots, characters, settings, etc., frequently arguing with herself about the merits of various ideas. She used them to work out scene outlines as well as details such as the effects of various poisons.

She apparently never figured anyone would ever read the notebooks, so felt free to let her thoughts roam where they would.

It is interesting to see how her stories developed from a simple fragment/thought to a well plotted, character rich story.

Bottom line?

I’m going to give journaling another shot with some cheap composition books using her approach to thought collecting. And, of course, I’m recommending John Curran’s book to anyone interested in the subject.

If it works out for me, I’ll report back in the future. If it doesn’t…

Smokey Dwarf

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