Originally published at International Christian Fiction Writers and reprinted with permission.
A vintage shabby-chic trunk in our cozy den holds a menagerie of my fabric-covered and spiral-bound journals. Thirty-two years’ worth of words lay poured onto the private pages of these notebooks. How has journaling been helpful for this author’s heart, soul, and writing?
Journaling sharpens an author’s ability to shape stories and characters. Although I’m new to writing full-length fiction manuscripts, I’ve had much experience dreaming up plot lines without even realizing it. Eighteen months ago my dear husband suggested I start a novel. He said this shaking his head in response to my vivacious imagination.
There are many examples of my exuberant mind written within the pages of my journals, such as the time I stopped my family from eating baked goods that had been given to us because I wondered about the numerous sudden deaths that had occurred in the giver’s social sphere. (I’ve sworn my family to secrecy about this crazy moment of mine.) But that incident helped shape one of my first manuscript’s characters. And I suspect other antagonists will be birthed from incidents saved within my journal.
Journaling improves deep point-of-view writing skills. A diary won’t do. A journal is for recording our inner thoughts and feelings about what has transpired rather than simply documenting events. Pathos, fear, joy, and passion are a few especially helpful emotions to take advantage of. And it’s this depth of articulation that most benefits our fiction work. How can we write effectively about our protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses if we’re not in conscious contact with our own?
Journaling helps us tap into the inner-motivations of our characters. There’s nothing new under the writer’s quill because we all share the same universal issues (love, family, faith, birth, death, and everything in between). Authors generally use the same proven story structure, yet they must still strive to create unique character arcs with one-of-a-kind plots.
The experience of keeping a journal can give our fiction writing a sharper edge when we mine treasures from our characters’ thoughts (as well as from our own). If we can write a story that pulls others into a realistic world shared from the deep recesses of the protagonist’s heart and mind, the reader won’t want to put the book down. There’s something about intimacy that draws us in, much like a campfire does. Entering one’s own thoughts into a journal makes us more self-aware and potentially more observant of our fictional characters’ desires, secrets, and vulnerabilities. And that makes for good writing.
Journaling alleviates stress through the writing pilgrimage. Recording our prayer requests, our praises, and our personal progress keeps us honest and motivated with our current manuscripts and self-care. The stress-reducing effects of journaling kick in when we write poignantly. From what I’ve been reading it’s not just a newbie, like me, who gets overwhelmed and discouraged in this ever-changing literary landscape. Authors we know and admire have had to rethink their strategies, too.
Journaling gives the author permission to leave their concerns within their private pages, go forth, and share their stories. Write. Read. Edit. Query (or Self-Publish). Submit. Repeat. We can trust God to answer our written requests according to his perfect timing while we’re busy doing our part as writers.
Journaling IS good for the author’s heart, soul, and writing! How has it helped you?
About the Author
Wendy L. Macdonald is an inspirational mystery/ romance writer and poet who loves both the Creator and His creation. When she’s not writing she enjoys nature photography, hiking, and gardening. She has been married to her best friend and husband, Ian, for almost 32 years and has homeschooled their three children for over a decade. The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is her home and inspiration for her first novel manuscript—which she is currently seeking to have published. She loves to engage with readers and other writers on all of her sites. Wendy is a member of The Word Guild (Canadian) and American Christian Fiction Writers.