All great writers absorb the particles of life and re-resent them to readers with fresh and concise clarity. One way to improve the quality of your fiction is to create a Writing Journal.
This is not our average “I had soup and read a book today” journal. No. This is so much more. For starters, this journal is actually organized into sections. You can take a notebook or a binder with built in dividers, but I prefer a smallish writing journal to which I just add adhesive tabs. Small is good, because the journal needs to go wherever you go.
Why the dividers? Because you are going to have different sections that you will constantly be adding to. You should be able to quickly locate a given heading and add to it, or use it for inspiration, like when doing timed writing prompt exercises. These sections will read like lists and include:
– A list of sensory observations. Great novelists remember to encompass sensory information in their writings, because it grounds the fiction in reality, and can also be used to trigger memories within the reader. For this list, you should break it down into sub-sections, allotting a page or two for each of the individual senses: smells, sights, tastes, sounds, tactile sensations (touch). You don’t have to write down everything you see or hear, just jot down the ones that make an impression, particularly if you think of an interesting way to say it. Under sounds you could put “tires crunching gravel” or under smells you could put “dog coming in out of the rain.”
– A list of overheard items. You can further subdivide this list into sub-categories like snippets of overheard conversations, odd expressions of speech, weird proclivities, and odd stories. I once heard someone say, “She’s a nice as pie” with a long “I” in pie, and I wrote it down immediately. I saw a young couple goofing around on the beach, he apparently trying to get her forcefully in the water, finally proclaimed, “I’ve got more body parts than you can fight off!”
– A list of What-If’s. This should include random musings of the what-if variety. What if you woke up one morning deaf? What if you witness a man beating a woman? What if the sun failed to rise one morning? What if you stated writing a book and everything you wrote began to come true? This list alone will come to inspire many a story.
– A list of titles. Have you every heard a phrase, or thought of a song, and with a little rearranging it would make a killer title for a story? Write these ideas here. They may one day become the basis for a story or the perfect title for a story already written. Examples from my titles list include, When the Wind Blows, Tickle-Me Ellie, Dawn’s Early Light, and so on. Come up with your own.
– A list of first lines. Like the titles, these may come to you at any time, attached or not to a story. “The shack is cupped in a hollow by the surrounding land, where frogs rise up from the earth, born of its bog” and “Love me or hate me, console me or ostracize me, but please believe me when I say that I never meant to hurt anyone” are both opening lines that went into my Writing Journal.
Why is all this important? Well, like I’ve said before, great writers take the fragments of their lives and mould them into something original. The purpose of creating a Writing Journal is to train your brain to think creatively, and to become more cognizant of the tiny sensory details that enliven life and fiction.
So what are you waiting for? Go get started!