Friday, July 13, 2007

Fiction Writing: Keep a journal, but not the kind you kept when you were 12

Keeping a journal is one of the best ways to come up with new things to write about. It lets you observe the things around you and gives you the opportunity to write things down if they pop into your head at random moments.

Now when I say journal, I don’t mean the kind of journal where you write mundane observations about your day and how cute Timmy looked in his football uniform at the game last weekend. Save that for your livejournal. You will be adding things about your personal life, but the main focus of keeping this journal is to get your creative juices flowing. This writing journal is also a place to keep your private thoughts, but you want to keep in mind that everything that you write down will somehow help your writing.

Write in it whenever you can! The old idea that “the more that you do something, the better you get at it” actually works. Do you think that someone can just start typing out the Great American Novel without any practice or any ideas? That just isn’t the case and it never will be.

I prefer to use a small writer’s journal. It has about 50 lined pages that you can fill with whatever thoughts might pour out of your head. They have them at Barnes & Noble near the calendar and planner section. They should cost you about $5. Trust me, it’s money well spent.

There are a few ways that you can use your journal. Each different technique has its own advantages. Listed below are the two that I have used, you can use your own. Try out a few different things and figure out what is going to work for you best.

- Describe EVERYTHING - This is similar as to what I discussed in yesterday’s entry. Don’t leave any detail out. Not only can you use these ideas in your future writing, but it is good practice in showing your reader what you are talking about rather than simply telling them.

- Write brief snippets of things you see or hear that catch your eye – This is the technique that I use as my journal is smaller and I don’t have that much time to write detailed entries about my day. I carry my journal in my pocket with me everywhere I go (be careful not to run it through the wash. I’ve done that before).

If I overhear someone saying something interesting, I’ll write it down.

If I see someone with a unique character trait, I’ll write down their description.

If I see something on the news that sounds interesting, I’ll write down the story.

If I come across awesome scenery, I’ll describe it.

It might even be more advantageous to you to write in your journal like this because you’ll have simple ideas that you will be able to elaborate more creatively with later on. Sometimes all you need is a swift kick in the butt to get things rolling and something like a simple character or scenery idea can lead to an onslaught of other thoughts.

Thus, journal writing is a fun way to keep track of your thoughts and come up with unique ideas to write about. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll come up with!

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