Fine-Tune Your Writing Series: Journaling

Quill pen and lettersThe fifth thing that greatly improved my writing, without my knowledge of it at the time, was keeping a personal journal. Let me explain something else first. Being a perfectionist, I’ve always had a problem with the age-old advice given by every writing teacher in the universe to separate rough drafting from editing. Start out, they said, by just vomiting words onto the page, completely uninhibited. You can sort out all the words later. My annoying perfectionism made that nearly impossible as I stopped my nicely chugging train of thought to confront and deal with every comma and semi-colon. When I read how we use different sides of our brain to do either rough drafting or editing, and that trying to do both at once jams our gears, I understood the problem but not what to do about it.

Then it hit me like a hammer. The journal I’d been faithfully keeping for years had been teaching me all along. In my journal I write for myself, not editors or publishers. I say things however I want to. I construct sentences however they sound best to me at the time, without a thought to if they are correct or not. I express myself. And I get a lot written in a short time. Journaling has helped me learn to vomit those words.

Think you don’t have much to write about in your own life? Wrong! You’re a storyteller. You have lots of thoughts, all day every day. Start writing them down. Mince no words. Tell what you think of the world and the people in it. Then apply the same uninhibited behavior towards your novels. Write it the first time for yourself, then the second and all subsequent times for agents, editors, publishers, and the readers.

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