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?


Faith Van Horne said...

I've just finished the 3rd draft of my first novel, and I sort of kept various journals, but nothing as detailed as yours. I actually have a cheap pad I use for any idea about anything, book related or no, that comes to me. If it's related to my book, I'll circle it. Then I have a separate notebook that's specifically devoted to whatever writing project I'm working on at the time. Once I have my ideas in my mind in a more concrete form, they get organized, after a fashion, in notebook #2. Then I type the actual draft on the computer.

At least, that's how I did it for this book.

Saundra Crum Akers said...

I only write about what I'm doing in my regular journal and that is done on a very irregular basis. Sometimes I write about it on my blog though which is also not done as often as I'd like.
I'm now at work on my 11th novel and working on the 10th chapter.

Anonymous said...

I'm working on my second book right now. I keep a notebook as sort of logbook where I "sign in" and "sign out" at the beginning and end of writing sessions. I also note what I did in that time, such "wrote 2 pages" or "revised part of chapter 3." I use it to track progress and note things I need to do: "Research ______" or "Get such-and-such a book."

Nita said...

Faith, Saundra, and anonymous, thanks for posting your processes. I love to hear how writers work!

Mom of Three said...

No book journal for me. It's difficult enough to find time to write at all let alone writing about writing.

Nita said...

@Mom of Three. I empathize with your plight. Glad you're doing what works for you!