Monday, February 01, 2010

Do you (book) journal?

They're fancy talkers about themselves, writers. If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talk about writing or themselves. - Lillian Hellman

When you're working on a book, do you keep a journal of your progress? On one of the forums I follow, the topic of book journals decidedly divided the audience. I'm in the pro-journal camp. I keep a separate journal for each book. (Currently three, or is it four?) Each journal consists of loose blank paper kept in a two-pocket folder. I hand number the pages and write what I did each day. When the journal gets too big for the two-pocket folder, the older portion goes into a three-ring binder.

The entires are concise. For the memoir, which has evolved over six years, I record which version I'm working from and what changes I've made to that draft. On the novel, I'm using worksheets and index cards as I revise so I write down how many worksheets I've done that day or what page I'm on or how many index cards I've done. Whatever the project, when I'm stuck, I do timed writing practice or mind-mapping on the issue. I usually do that in a separate place and often on my computer. In the journal for that day I write, "Mind-mapped sub-plot about Sarah's parents moving to WA. See file '2010-01-31 Sarah's Parents'" to reference the computer file.

It doesn't take much time and it feels good to be able to look in the journal and know exactly where I am. I'm kind of OCD that way. A friend of mine does her book journal using a database program and tags each entry so she can easily search them. I still like the feel of real paper and haven't been able to give that up yet.

The hazard, of course, is that I will spend more time writing about writing than actually writing. That's why I keep my entries short. What do you think? Who keeps a journal? Who doesn't?