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Using a Writing Journal in a New Way

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I am a world class procrastinator. I can usually find something else to occupy my time when I have a mounting list of things that need to get done. Even as I write, this I realize that my to do list has no possible end in sight.

It has been weeks since the last time I worked on my story. I simply cannot find time to fit it into my schedule.  I have toyed with the idea of making myself write for at LEAST 5 minutes a day and no more than 45 minutes.

However, as I stare at my mounting list of things that simply must be done, I cannot force myself to do that.  So the problem continues to exist on how I am ever going to complete at least one of my three or four story lines I have been working on for several years.

I sit here and ponder my choices on these multiple story lines. Do I put them aside and hope that in the near future I will have more time, which is doubtful when I look at my schedule for the upcoming months.

I think what I am going to do is start keeping a writing journal at night. I can write how long I have worked on a story and any new ideas that I might want to introduce to the plot. Usually as I sit in bed and try to relax, I read a few chapters in a novel.  As I read, I usually think about ideas in the novel and how those ideas can be used in my stories.  However, I do not keep a journal (as of yet).

A journal can be a powerful tool though. A few years ago, I had the chance to briefly skim through three of the numerous journals my great grandmother, Margaret, kept during her marriage to my great grandfather, George.  Margaret could have been a wonderful novelist. The letters she frequently wrote to me and the letters she wrote in her journal reflect her values, traditions, her views on raising five children in the middle of the Great Depression and World War II, while living on a small but profitable dairy farm in West Michigan.  She writes as though she is carrying on a conversation with the reader, which is how I inspire to be as a writer.

Her insights can be compared to an author’s thoughts as they try to relax for the night.  An author’s work is often time consuming and not without its toll on the life of the author.  So it is hard for an author to divorce his or her works during the time when they are not working on a novel.  I know that many authors get so many brilliant ideas when they are trying to get a good night’s sleep. I think that those nightly insights make wonderful material. So take a few minutes each night and write those ideas in a notebook along with how many total minutes you got actually work done on your story. Set a weekly goal and use the journal to help yourself keep track.

I plan to do this starting tonight and see how far it gets me to working on my novel each week.

Changing Perceptions

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Changing Perceptions

Like so many authors, I find that when I am writing I pull from the events of my life. I have also found that the events of my life tend to change who I am as a person and who I am as an author. I include the events, my perceptions of the events and how those perceptions changed my outlook on life.

Every event has the potential to change who you are as a person and therefore change who you are as an author. The most efficient way to handle these events is to keep a diary or journal of these events. I have a few things on my computer, some in a notebook that all deal with my feelings regarding particular events in my life.

As I develop my characters, and there is always one character in my stories who is a lot like me, I tend to put events from my life into this character’s life. Part of that character’s personality is my own. Sometimes my character deals with the events the way I would if I could go back and do it all differently and sometimes my character deals with the events in the same way, either with the same outcome or a slightly different one. The other characters in the story tend be less equipped to deal with these events than the character or there maybe characters there that can handle a situation too well and they tend to get in the way and be too much of a help to the other characters.

In a story I am working on right now, I have a young teenager who struggling to deal with the sudden deaths of her twin sister and her paternal grandparents. Another character in the story has dealt with a similar event in the distant past, but refuses to talk to this character about it. Instead she encourages the girl to deal with her own life events and not to go digging around trying to figure out what happened. This other character refuses to acknowledge that she also has a problem and that she was never fully allowed to grieve. In the end both of them are able to pull through the grief and move on with their lives.

So the problem I have stumbled upon is that I know where the story goes, but I have not figured out how to get there. I have spent the last few weeks trying to figure out how to get there and I think what I need to do is bring in another character who more like myself and help the girl deal with her own grief before trying to help the other character. This will allow for some introspection and may change the story as a whole.

Changing the story into something else is okay, too. Several authors start out with one thing in mind and before the story is over, they have changed the story line completely. I think that is part of growing as an author. After all writing should help change you as a person as well. It gives you room to grow as an author, which is exactly what some people need.

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