Keeping a Development Journal

A lot of writing advice suggests keeping some kind of journal. I’ve always romanticized the idea of keeping a diary… and never been able to stick with it for more than a day. And while I do keep a small notebook around me for strikes of inspiration, I don’t often need it.

But I do keep what I call a “development journal,” a collection of notes as I work on a project or just on writing in general.

In the past, I’ve always kept a series of messy documents, with unfortunately bland names like “Story Notes [Date]” which is horribly unhelpful when it comes time to go back for them. For the last couple months, I’ve kept all my notes in a single long document, just adding to it each day. It helps that I’ve more or less been circling a single idea, but even when I’m considering other things, I still keep it in this same document. So instead of “notes” I’ve got a “journal.”

What sort of stuff goes into this journal? Well, it’s generally a loose collection of bullet points—about me, about writing, and about stories. It might be an idea for a character, or suggestions for possible plot events, or thoughts on genre. Early sketches of an outline that are quickly abandoned or retouched. Proposed theories on my own writing process and how I might improve it.

My current journal, kept since mid-August, is nearly 50,000 words. In my more narcissistic moments, I imagine being a famous writer whose journal is pored over by scholars or writers-to-be (what I would give to see a detailed process journal for J.K. Rowling!). But in reality it’s a chaotic clash of nothing, useful and interesting only to me, just an excellent way to keep track of my meandering thoughts and process. All of my notes, my random flashes of inspiration, my doubts and hopes—all in one place.

I’ve always kind of shrugged at the advice to keep a journal (or tried for a day and failed). But focusing less on me, and more on writing, has finally taught me the wisdom of such advice. And so I’m passing it on. 🙂


About J. Sevick

Just write.
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