My Writing Journal – Tips and Tricks

~ Start with a Journal ~

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to review what one has accomplished and to look forward to what might be one’s goals for the new year. A journal is a great place to start.


My JournalZara West journal tricks and tips

There are many different ways to do this. Since I am a long time journaler, I like to begin the year by starting a new journal (made of recycled paper, of course) and listing my goals and plans at the front.

Throughout the year, I use the journal to jot notes about my current writing projects and accomplishments, my ad campaigns, and character and plot development for my current writing projects.


Making My Journal Useful

Using a trick I learned from bullet journaling, I number the pages so I can create an index at the back. To create the index, I start on the last page and work backwards. That way I can quickly find the information I need.

journal-indexAnother trick I use is to fold over the upper right-hand corner for each new writing project. I color-code the tab to make it easy to find. I also use sticky notes to mark the place I am at in the journal.

Dating everything and recording everything in time order is also journal-tabimportant. Not only does this show me what progress I am making, but later if I am having trouble finding a data file or remembering when I did something I can check my journal.

I Don’t Care How My Journal Looks

What I don’t do is try to make the journal pretty. Time is limited, and I want to spend as much of it as I can on writing. For me, the important thing is to get the information recorded in whatever way I can.

So while I occasionally mark a page with highlight markers, I do not add drawings or journal-indexfancy colors unless I am sketching something to help me picture something in my writing such as a building, an interior, or a map.

I don’t worry about my handwriting. As long as it is legible, that’s all that matters. I cross out, insert, and don’t worry if I am not writing on the lines. It is my journal, and no one else needs to see it.


Advantages of a Handwritten Journal

Now, you are probably wondering why, with all the digital organizers out there, anyone would resort to handwritten notes? I do so for two reasons:

  1. It is much faster to scribble something down on the pad next to my computer or flip through the pages when I am in middle of writing than it is to open a new document, save it, and then find it again.
  2. At the end of December I can look back and have a cohesive picture of my writing year. I can see my struggles and my successes. From there I can easily transfer any important information or knowledge to my computer files or use it to plan my next year’s writing. To make it easy, I often just take a photograph of an important page or drawing and save that as a jpg file.

Learn more

Find more more about my journaling see: Zara West’s Writing Journal

I also offer Bullet Journal Workshops for Readers and Writers. I do not have one currently scheduled, but if you are interested, contact me and I can set one up. For an individual, the cost is $15 for a two-week totally online workshop. You will learn how to set up and organize your journal and make it uniquely your own.


Do you keep a journal? Is it handwritten or digital?

Do you have any tips for keeping a journal?

I love to hear from my readers and fellow writers.

Why NaNoWri fires me up to write faster

NaNoWri or National Novel Writing Month starts on Tuesday. This will be my third year participating. I don’t know why, but somehow tracking words and trying to attain the 50,000 word challenge in 30 days just gets my blood flowing and the creative juices oozing.  So I am getting set for the race to the finish.

NOTE: If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is here’s a brief overview. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. A small group of friends in California got together and challenged each other to write a book in a month and an idea was born. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel during one of the toughest writing months of the year, November. The thought is–that if you can write a book in November, you can write a book at any time of the year.


Nano is also about a group of people participating in this goal all at the same time! There is so much energy in knowing that people all over the world are typing away, struggling to write their story all at the same time. (Though NaNo has the 50k goal, many people use NaNo as a means to move forward with their writing. Some use it to edit, others use it to write multiple short stories, or finish a story they have been working on.) Check out the website at http://nanowrimo.org

So this is how I’m preparing for this year’s challenge.

  1. I took a course in using journaling to develop characters and used my journal entries to dig into the psyches of my main characters. I have many, many pages of notes and a whole lot of tidbits in my head about the strengths and foibles of my people,. And I do mean people. By this piint they are like a real friends and enemies running around in my head.
  2. I wrote a very sloppy synopsis- kind of like telling the story to a friend. This happens and then that happens and so on.
  3. I pasted the synopsis into my NaNo draft and broke the events/actions into pseudo chapters. I can’t seem to get myself to drop the chapter format. But since I alternate POVs in every chapter it does work out okay. And I don’t number them. I make them HEADERS. That way if the find panel is open you can see the chapter and POV and setting right there.
  4. I write the Goal/Motivation/Conflict and the Dilemma for each “chapter” and make those header 2s. Dilemma is really important. That’s the choice the POV character has to make by the end of the chapter/scene. Like – Will I kiss him or not? Will I hide from the bad guy or attack him? That kind of thing.

And that’s it. On November 1 I will sit down and start hitting the keys as fast as I can. If I go blank or get stuck I stick in 4 XXXXs and move on. Later I can search out those XXXX spots when the thought hits on what to do.

So for now. I am dreaming my story and getting my fingers going by writing this post. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know by posting a comment.

Are you doing NaNoWri?