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Short Journaling

How a few lines a day can help you finish your novel.

Authors are always told to keep a momentum going. ‘Write every day, even if it’s only a few lines,’ I say to all my clients – and to myself – because writing every day helps keep track of our characters and who does what and why and when, and how the other characters feel about it. How many of us have let ideas and themes slip through our fingers after a few days or weeks away from our novel? I’ve just come back from a fabulous trip to Madrid and I know it will take me a while to get back into my story, sifting through notes and bits of dialogue, unravelling strands of plot, trying to remember what I was going to do with one tricky character before I went away.

Even when I'm not on holiday, there are lots of times I can’t stick to my plan to write every day. I intentionally drop the ball because I need to focus on paid writing and editing jobs, my children and dogs, chores, admin and DIY, and because the need to catch up with real friends is so much more important than keeping abreast of what my imaginary ones are up to.

There is, however, a way to keep my hand in the game and it's short journaling – writing a journal every evening but with entries that are no more than three sentences long. (Quick and easy to commit to.) The sentences can be of any length but they need to be precise and they need to include a simile or metaphor and interesting adjectives, verbs and turns of phrase, so that when I can get back to my novel, I’m already thinking about language and structure and imagery.

Think about short journaling now: What three sentences would you write about today? Would you sum up the entire day or would you focus on one small detail like the beaming woman sitting across from you on the bus, or the way the forget-me-knots are quickly fading in the garden? Would you try to describe your emotions throughout the day? Try to describe exactly how you are feeling – no broad brush strokes, more pointillist precision – in three perfect sentences.

It can be liberating (even more so for those who are committed long-form journal writers) to stick to three sentences. What stands out? What really wasn't that important after all? What would you like to remember from the last 24 hours? Who would you like to capture in words?

Make it more fun by looking up new words to weave into your three lines. Have weekly themes where you write about colours or smells, gardens or movies, lines of dialogue you hear on your commute. If you bump into someone, describe them as you would a character in your novel. If you visit somewhere new, describe it as you would a setting. All in three sentences.

Write your short journal in a way that reminds you that you are a writer who is working on a novel.



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