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This morning’s guest post comes from fantasy writer, blogger, and the brains behind Kaizen Journaling, Dolly Garland, who has some tips to show you how you can use journaling to improve your fiction writing.  Take it away, Dolly!

Five Rules for Keeping an Effective Writer’s Journal

Most stories are organic. You might have a few writers who plan with deliberate, military precision, but for most of us, stories grow from seeds of ideas. They merge, they take a shape, they change. Sometimes an original seed remains crystal clear. At other times, its final form is something completely different. A character you thought had potential becomes a minor character and someone else takes the centre stage. You start writing a comedy, and end up with tragedy. It happens because stories, at their best, reflect our humanity. They change with our emotions, and they change as our characters grow into unique individuals.

How do you keep track of this evolving story? And what do you do with the millions of other ideas that keep disturbing you at the same time? Ideas tend to follow the law of quantity, that once you get one good idea, suddenly there is a swarm of them.

Do you end up being distracted by ideas? Do you get confused about which idea you should focus on first?

If so, then for that reason alone it is worth keeping a writer’s journal, though the benefits extend way beyond that.

How Do You Keep an Effective Writer’s Journal?

Rule 1 – Always carry it with you.

The idea is to have one place to write everything related to your writing, but consider your situation. What do you write?

I write both Fiction and Non-Fiction. I keep a separate journal for fiction because that’s long-term seeds, which evolve and grow, and it’s difficult to keep track of everything if it’s spanned across various notebooks or computer files. (I speak from experience).

Currently, I don’t keep a separate journal for non-fiction. All my notes are made directly into my personal journal, or on a computer. I am however, considering a journal, as Kaizen Journaling is going to be filled with content. But I haven’t made up my mind yet.

If you write short stories and novels, you might want one or two journals. It’s entirely up to you, as long as you are going to have a regular access to it.

Rule 2 – Keep an Index

All your brilliant ideas are worth nothing if you can’t find them when you need them, or if you are in writing mood and want to work on that specific thing, and it’s going to take you ages to find it, if you ever do.

Indexing is essential for a writer’s journal. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and there is no need to stress about it. Just leave couple of pages empty in the front or back of the journal. You can also use post-it tabs on the pages instead of keeping a traditional index.

I prefer to keep it at the front. I write a page number, and then either category or the story title. For example:


3           ideas

4           novel x

5           tips for great emotional scene

Rule 3 – Write Daily

Like most things, the principle of “You snooze you lose” applies here too. By using your writing journal regularly, you stay connected to your ideas. They stay fresh in your mind, and even if they are not quite ready yet, they percolate, they expand, they evolve into something else.

Daily writing also helps you to be creative-on-demand, rather than waiting for the muse. Waiting for muses is like waiting for buses. They never come when you want them to. But if you aren’t waiting, they come in succession. So don’t give the muse a chance to be lazy.

Rule 4 – Review it Daily

So you have filled pages. You’ve written ideas, fragments of scenes, random words. Maybe you’ve wrote about the people you meet to get inspiration for your characters.

Now, review it. This relates to Rule 3. The more you write, the more material you have, but the more you review it, the more it gets embedded in your brain so that solutions come to you even when you are not looking for them.

Rule 5 – Do something with it

There is no point in collecting bunch of ideas or scene fragments if you don’t intend to do anything with them. This is a writer’s journal, and what do writers do? We write.

Your journal is a great place to gather stuff, but you need to use it. Work on that novel, or write a short story or a poem. Write an article. Whatever you choose to write, finish it. Make it a habit to apply your ideas. That’s when magic happens. That’s when you end up creating something that is uniquely you.


Start your writer’s journal, and make a schedule to write something in it every day for at least a week. Follow the above five rules, and see if it works for you.

If you need a dose of positive inspiration, you can download a FREE PDF guide, 17 Questions to Find Your Positivity, by going to www.kaizenjournaling.com and entering your email.

Dolly Garland is a writer and founder of Kaizen Journaling, where she helps a community of Kaizen Warriors create their personalised arsenal for success. Find her on Facebook.

Thank you for that, Dolly!  I hope you found it helpful, and that it sparked off some ideas!