When I started writing my current novel manuscript back at the beginning of June, I also started keeping a writing journal. On the first few pages I scribbled down the basic premise and broad story overview, a preliminary list of major turning points, and a list of major characters.
After that, I started keeping almost daily entries, each one dated, in which I alternately brainstorm ideas, list random thoughts, pose questions that need to be answered, keep notes of things to be followed up on, write-up notes on characters, keep track of wordcount (noting where productivity/efficiency is good and not so good), list writing craft tips to keep in mind, give myself pep talks, purge negative thoughts etc.
Essentially this journal has become a physical manifestation of everything that goes on in my head on a daily basis. Much of it is practical and useful and related to writing the story. Much of it is me talking to myself.
I have to confess it has become a crutch. I can no longer start writing each day without first scrawling a few sentences about what I’m about to write (and often a few words reflecting on the previous day’s effort). And every time I finish a scene, it’s back to the journal to map out the next one before I write it — this is actually proving very effective, because it’s a good way of making sure that a scene has enough conflict and relevance to the story to warrant being written.
I have always been one to write my ideas down on paper, generally preferring to brainstorm with a pen in hand as opposed to typing ideas direct-to-screen — although I’ve been known to practise the latter as well. But, in the past, any notebook or sheet of paper would do, resulting in random notes scattered across various different mediums, or computer files, making it easy to lose track of all my different thoughts.
I’m really liking having all my notes in one place — highlighters and post-it-notes come in handy for marking the truly good ideas and notes I need to refer back to. And I’m really enjoying having a more personal record of my journey as well. Already I can look back over the past 5 weeks (has it really only been that long?) and remind myself of the highs and lows — and feel really satisfied as to progress.