This is a brief and speedily written post based on a conversation with some of my writer friends on Twitter about how I use journals in plotting and outlining my novels. It was just too long to explain on Twitter! : )
In the cute little turquoise notebook, I write and keep loglines for my novel.
I describe it in 10 words, 20 words, 50 words, 100 words.
On other pages, I have notes on the writing process, but also break the journal down into several sections, including the following:
“Character” Here I put notes on characters
“Scenes” Any notes on scenes, but also reminders on what makes great scenes
“To do” For instance, this might say, “add music beats to surfer van scene.”
“Plotting” Ideas for the plot, such as, “Why not make the climatic scene outside the mansion and somewhere more exciting?”
“Research” For instance: Research Tent City in Santa Cruz.
“Revision” This has a lot of notes on revising, such as reminding myself to do a rolling outline, which is essentially a chapter summary after I finish each chapter.
“Voice Journals” These are fun. I talk to my characters and then free write. I like to ask them questions, such as “Why are you even in this story?” “What is your biggest secret?” and so on. Maybe I’m a little out there, but they always answer me. : )
“Themes” I make note of what themes I am developing in my story.
My big black sketch book is where I do my most in-depth character study. This is where I do some of the same things as above, but also can be more creative and do more brainstorming and incorporate tons of visuals. I find pictures of my characters. I list their traits. I list their goals, motivations, and obstacles. I write their backstory. Their quirks and hang ups.
I also sketch my settings or take pictures if I can.
In this black journal, I also look at how my book might mimic the hero’s journey, with the call to adventure, and so on (Christoper Vogel’s Writer’s Journey).
I also outline and dissect similar novels to see just how those authors hit their plot points in their books.
So, most of the work in these books is done before I have really sat down and put much time into my latest novel. After I am deep in writing, I do go back and refresh my memory to some of this stuff later, but really a lot of it is to just see and feel the story in my mind before I put it on paper.
Anyway, hope this helps. It’s just my crazy way of getting what is in my head on the written page.