This is the last lesson in the series on Journaling to Become a Better Writer. Here’s the line-up of previous posts, in case you missed the whole shebang:
- Recognizing a Story Worth Telling
- Honing Your Observation Skills
- Getting a Grip on Your Emotions
- Finding Your Voice
Today, while we’re not going to talk very long, we are going to dig pretty deep. Your journal is your heart on paper. And the act of exploring your own heart through words can lead you to surprising revelations. Revelations that could have a significant impact on the direction you take as a novelist.
What Are You Writing About?
After you’ve been journaling for a while, you might notice certain trends–topics that seem to come up again and again for you. Seriously, as if your mind is obsessed with that one thing. As you look back over your journal, you may even realize you’ve spent your whole life trying to sort out one or two key issues. Issues that are close to your heart–because they are your story.
To illustrate what I mean–for me, the key topic in my life has been family relationships. It’s all over my journal. And not surprisingly, it’s all over my novels, too. Near family, extended family, and technically-not-related family. Role-model families, broken families, mended families, blended families. Family is never not a topic–in either my journal, or in my novels.
More specifically, I frequently write about the relationship between a daughter and her dad. I lost my own father at a very young age, and I’ve been haunted by the notion that I missed out on something significant. I’ve spent an astonishing amount of time in my journal trying to sort out broken pieces.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when that same topic–fathers and daughters–became a frequent theme in my novels. I finally drew the conclusion that this theme is my calling as a writer. It dawned on me that I’m not the only fatherless daughter in the world. And that the broken pieces left to other girls strongly resemble mine.
I may never have discovered my particular niche as a novelist if it hadn’t been for the journal I kept over the years. I certainly wouldn’t have been as well-prepared to write the novels. (I recall your attention to the previous lesson, Getting a Grip on Your Emotions.)
No one knows what you’ve been through better than you do. That makes you an expert on your topic, putting you in an excellent position to write novels on the subject. Plus the fact that you’ve been journaling about it for some time only increases your ability to handle the same topic in a fictional setting.
Like discovering your authorial voice, certain truths will eventually come out of the woodwork as you journal. You may eventually decide to write a novel using your own experiences as a model.
As always, homework at this academy is optional.
- For those of you already keeping a journal: Browse through the pages, going back several years. What topics do you keep returning to again and again?
- For those of you who have not been keeping a journal: Think back over your life. If you could name a key topic, what would it be? Now sit down and start journaling about it.
- For both groups: Once you’ve identified your key topic, take a look at your works in progress and your idea file. Do you ever find yourself addressing that same topic in your fictional works? How can you tap your own life to bring authenticity and passion to your novels?
That wraps up our five-week class on Journaling to Become a Better Writer. I hope you found it entertaining and enlightening, and that you’ve been encouraged to follow the same advice I once heard: Good writers keep journals. If you’re just starting a journal, I wish you luck. A journal can turn into a grand adventure! If you’ve already been keeping a journal, I hope I’ve introduced you to some ways to get even more out of your personal ramblings.
Next month starts a new four-week clinic. We’re going to talk about research. You either love it or you hate it. I happen to love it, and I hope to pass on the spirit of fun to you and help you look at research in ways you may never have thought of before. That class starts Wednesday, May 7th, 2014. If you don’t want to miss it, or any other classes hosted by Carrie and me, feel free to subscribe to our blog! All new subscribers have the option to download Carrie’s free ebook, Writing a Novel Is Like Walking a Cat.
Thanks again for following this class on Journaling to Become a Better Writer. Hope to see you next month!
Clinics in This Series:
- Journaling and Basic Story Structure
- Journaling to Become a Better Writer – Recognizing a Story Worth Telling
- Journaling to Become a Better Writer II – Honing Your Observation Skills
- Journaling to Become a Better Writer III – Getting a Grip on Your Emotions
- Journaling to Become a Better Writer IV – Finding Your Voice
- Journaling to Become a Better Writer V – Discovering Your Calling
Check out the Journaling Book!
Journaling to Become a Better Writer by Danielle Hanna
If you like this blog post series, you might like the book, too. What do your novel-in-progress and your journal have in common? Maybe more than you think. Your life, after all, is a story. The tools you need to take your craft to the next level may be hiding right under your nose.