A Book Diary for WAVERLEY

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been any good at keeping a regular journal. Not that I haven’t tried. When I was in grade school, some well-meaning person gave me one of those small five-year diaries, the kind that has two cute little keys and a lock. I found it quite intriguing, and in a spurt of excitement, immediately filled in the little space allotted for that day.

I can’t remember exactly the course of events after that fateful day, but soon after, I lost the keys that came with the diary. Yes, both of them. And you know I locked the thing, because really, wasn’t that the whole charm of it all?

When I was in my teens, I gave the whole personal journal thing another whirl, this time with a small hardcover journal another well-meaning person had given me.

This is what I discovered back then: I would write consistently whenever I was feeling anguished, and I wouldn’t write at all when I was feeling grand or even partially good.

My problem was that, even during the whole hormonal mess of puberty, the days I felt pretty good outnumbered the days I felt angst by a whole lot. Which usually meant months and months would go by before I picked up my journal again.

Nothing changed since my teen years. The fact is (and I’ve finally accepted this, although very reluctantly), I simply do not have the disposition to keep a personal journal. I’ll only ever write in a personal journal when I’m feeling down, and quite frankly, I’ve always been quite an optimistic person.

Where I’ve had success, though, is with “specialized” journals. For example, I stayed faithful to writing daily “Morning Pages” as outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for eight years. I also have a spiritual journal which I find myself coming back to again and again. And the year after my divorce from my first husband, I kept a Gratitude Journal which helped me to keep my spirits up during a nasty custody battle.

Specialized journals work for me. They’ve proven to be rather magical, in fact.

The other day, I came across the idea of writing a book diary at author David Hewson’s blog.

Now, I’ve come across this idea before – in her book Write Away, Elizabeth George prefaces each chapter with an excerpt from her “Journal of a Novel”.

But it wasn’t until I read David Hewson’s thoughts about keeping a book diary that I felt really inspired to give it a try – the fact that I’m deep into WAVERLEY for NaNoWriMo is probably a factor, too.

Here’s what Hewson does with his book diary (he starts a new one for each book). It’s the place where:

…I note down ideas, concerns and, at the end of every week, a tally of the word count and any general feelings I have about the project. My wake-up thought this morning has gone into that diary already. So I know where to find it and it will stare up at me until I either accept or reject it.

While Hewson recommends the software program he uses, I always like to find free or shareware alternatives whenever possible. After a lot of searching around and trying out several different free and not-so-free programs (it was, after all, a nice way to procrastinate – not to mention, I ended up finding a lot of sweet-looking software that had very little to do with journaling), I decided on Efficient Diary. While there’s a paid version, the free version has all the features that I think I’ll need.

What I was looking for, mainly, was the ability to create several different diaries, the ability to print out my diary, and the ability to search diary entries. I also wanted to be able to add a picture if a diary entry felt like it needed one, as well as links.

What Efficient Diary lacks is the ability to use tags but since it has a search function, I figure I can just manually type in any necessary tags at the end of an entry (like “Revision”, “Edit”, “Chapter 9”) and I’ll find what I want eventually.

I suspect my book diary for WAVERLEY will be a success. I’ve only been doing this for a few days so far, but what I’ve been finding is that at the end of a writing session, the first thing I think of doing is opening up Efficient Diary, and jotting down my thoughts, fresh from the completion of a writing session.

There will, I trust, also be days when I open my book diary to add thoughts that come to me about certain revisions I’d like to make to WAVERLEY.

I may eventually move on to a paid journaling software – there are several on the market, and the company that makes the one that Hewson recommends (a Mac-based one) also makes a Windows-based one that looks pretty good.

But for now, I’m thrilled (and inspired!) by the idea of keeping a book diary of my thoughts while writing WAVERLEY.

What about you? Do you journal about your personal life? If you’re a writer, do you keep a book diary, or “journal of a novel”?

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And now for my NaNoWriMo update: I went for three days without writing, because of the dinner party we had this past Saturday, and then a deadline that ended up dragging into Monday. So I’m about a day behind.

My total word count right now is 28,449 words.

I plan to do two writing sessions tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get all caught up!

34 thoughts on “A Book Diary for WAVERLEY

  1. Audrey

    I don’t know why, but I think it’s funny that you’ve decided to keep your book journal via the computer.
    All through high school and college and and grad school, I kept a journal religiously – to the point of psychotically. I must have filled up at least 20 books over that time. And for some reason, I have written once in the past 2 years. I don’t know what happened, but it makes me sad.
    Maybe I should try the idea of themed journals, like you are saying.
    Good luck with your writing sessions!
    .-= Audrey´s last blog ..Review Blog Tour: the Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      I wish I’d been able to do that – it would be so nice to be able to look at a stack of journals and know that I only have to dip in to re-live different times in my life!

      It’s actually is kind of funny that I’m using a computer program for my book diary – all of my past journals, whether personal journals or the themed ones, have always been handwritten on paper. I have this addiction to buying pretty blank books, too!

      Reply
    1. Belle

      That’s what I’ve been doing with my Morning Pages – I’ve never reread any of them, since they aren’t meant to be reread. Not that I’ve actually burned them – but I’ve burned out the motor on our personal shredder twice already now, and I still have stacks and stacks of notebooks to shred!

      Reply
  2. Cathryn

    I must be an obsessive record keeper, because I plot out word counts, notes and plans for my novels in spreadsheets. I also have a journal I keep in MS Word. I start a fresh one each year and have kept it for about ten years now. Before that, it was spiral notebooks.

    I also have dream journals, a novel journal, a ‘what I’m reading journal’ and a childhood/teen memories journal. ALL except the annual journal have woefully sporadic entries, but I can’t seem to stop! (Maybe it’s my love of nicely bound blank books with good quality paper!)

    Thanks for the software pointers, I’ll check it out. They sound more appealing than my MS Word docs.
    .-= Cathryn´s last blog ..Astrobiology =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      I’m really liking Essential Diary so far, Cathryn. I’m also starting to think, maybe I should try keeping a regular journal on the computer – that’s something I never did before, because, like you, I am extremely fond of beautiful blank journals and the really wonderful flow-y pens that write so nicely in them!

      Reply
  3. Barbara

    I used to keep a trip diary when we traveled. Recently in a cleaning frenzy I found it, reread it, and was so depressed I threw it out. I too tend to write all the bad things that happen and skip the good. We have such wonderful memories of our travels, but those things weren’t in the diary. I think that’s the end of journaling for me.
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      I know, Barbara – I reread one of the sparse entries I’d made back when I was a teen and it was just so depressing! I don’t know why it is that I only seem able to write about my life when I’m feeling down.

      I do like doing different themed journals though. I usually find them a lot of fun, and it’s nice to have them to go back over!

      Reply
    1. Belle

      The lock thing was very important to me, Jill. I remember when I lost those keys, I couldn’t bear to cut through the little tab so I could keep using the diary!

      I wonder where your teen diary is now … do you think it’s still locked? 😉

      Reply
  4. Amy

    I keep a journal that is really like a mingling of all the types of journals you were mentioning (except the book journal). Some days it is much like morning pages…just spewing it all out, other days a poem or spiritual pondering, some days its just doodling and words dropping on the page here and there. I will write everyday for long periods and then not at all for a few months at a time.

    I’m amazed now when I look in my studio at the journal stack and how big it has grown when all along I’ve been beating myself for not writing enough :-)

    Reply
    1. Belle

      Amy, you know I’d LOVE to be able to peek through your journals. I’m sure they’re all just so gorgeous. Have you ever kept an art journal? I enjoy creating those, only these days, I never seem to have the time.

      Reply
  5. Memory

    I was reading along, thinking about how much I like this idea, when I realized that I already keep a book diary. Many of my personal journal entries deal with my writing; the progress I’ve made, the things I want to smooth over, my fondness for (and occasionally frustration with) the characters, the amount I accomplished… all that stuff. It’s not separate from my other journal-keeping practices, but it’s basically the same thing.
    .-= Memory´s last blog ..156. The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      Have you ever gone back to the writing-related portions of your journal to see what your ideas were for editing a particular manuscript, Memory? That’s the part I’m hoping I’ll be able to capture with this book diary idea.

      Oh, and do you keep your personal journal by hand, in a blank book or notebook, or do you do it on the computer.

      (As I’m writing this, I’m gazing at a small stack of beautiful little Moleskines that I’ve accumulated this past year. They’re just calling to me to come up with a good idea for a themed journal and write in them!)

      Reply
      1. Memory

        I keep it by hand, and I do flip back through it on occasion to check on my ideas at particular stages. Several years ago, when I was still involved with producing zines, (independent magazines, most of which are photocopied & assembled by hand), I actually went through my journals (both my private, handwritten journal and my personal LiveJournal) and compiled all the writing-related entries into a zine. It was interesting to see my thoughts on the WIP in one place like that.
        .-= Memory´s last blog ..156. The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox =-.

        Reply
        1. Belle

          Zines! I used to get quite a few zines, but mostly art zines, Memory. Do you still have that writing-related one still? It must be so nice to have something like that with all your journal entries in it.

          Reply
    1. Belle

      I don’t think your life is dull at all, Kathy! I know I love the occasional blog posts you make about places you’ve gone to.

      Reply
  6. Janel

    I had one of those locking journals when I was a kid. Didn’t use it either! I love the idea of a book diary. It sounds very useful. Good luck with yours and let us know how it works out.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      Now I’m finding I’m pouring all my doubt about my plot into it, Janel! But at least it’s not depressing and angst filled.

      Reply
  7. heidenkind

    I’m like you–I’ve tried to keep a journal a few times, but it just does not happen for me. Reflecting on my day just seems like a waste most of the time. 😛

    If I did keep a journal, though, I probably wouldn’t keep it on a computer–soooo unromantic. A journal should be written out by hand with a fountain pen by candlelight. 😉
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Covet =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      I LOVE fountain pens (and candles, too)! There’s nothing like the feel of a really good fountain pen scribbling across quality paper.

      Using the software for this book diary feels a lot like blogging, actually. Just really, really private for-my-eyes-only blogging!

      Reply
    1. Belle

      That’s a good point, Nicole. In a way, the blogging is almost like a journal. I might tell myself that to ease the writer-guilt of not being a good personal journal keeper!

      Reply
  8. Julie

    I kept diaries all through adolescence. How cool that some people are keeping professional ones and/or using excerpts in novels! I occasionally write in my LiveJournal when I need to vent, but haven’t been great about journalling lately. Great word count!! I’m in the same boat, I need to use this weekend to catch up.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Get the Point? =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      I have a personal blog, too, where I vowed to blog about daily things. But that didn’t work for me either. Good luck this weekend with your word count!

      Reply
  9. Joanne McCall

    I, too, kept journals as a kid. One day, in the not too distant past, I ran across those journals and decided to take a peek. They were filled with the teenage angst that one can imagine, but very few facts and names and context, so while I could read about the emotional turmoil, I really didn’t know what it was all about. Like one of your readers above, I burned them all while sitting before a campfire. Some things should remain in the past.

    Loved this post and will take up your idea of keeping a diary about writing a book. I’m writing one right now so I can easily put this idea to good use. Thanks, too, for the great software suggestions!

    Reply
    1. Belle

      Your journals sound like the few entries I did manage to pen when I was a teenager, Joanne. So filled with angst but without any context! If you start a book diary for your current book, let me know how it goes, especially if you end up finding interesting uses for it. I’m really hoping this will help to both inspire me to keep writing, and give me a place to jot down my thoughts about revisions.

      Reply
    1. Belle

      Your spiritual journal sounds like mine, Margot. And I’ve not written in mine much since I started blogging here, too. But it’s helped me a few times even though I don’t go back to it as often – I’ve reread entries and come away from the reading feeling much better.

      Reply
  10. Mikeachim

    I had a personal journal as a barely-teen, and I put something self-incriminating in it, about a girl I liked. So I decided I had to dispose of it. Went into the garden. Set it alight. All was fine. Put the embers in the outside rubbish bin. Suddenly, not fine – it caught fire, sheet of flame up the side of the house, and melted the plastic guttering off the outside wall which fell and lay against the garden like five meters of hot, sticky licqourice.

    I got into *so much trouble*. :)

    Kinda put me off journals for a long, long time. But recently I’ve come back to the idea. As you’re doing with WAVERLEY, it’s a great way to keep track of your own progress on writing projects. And I could do with some of that.

    But it would have to be hand-written. Typing it would feel…wrong, somehow. And curiously, I don’t know why. But it would.
    .-= Mikeachim´s last blog ..Waiting To Be Replaced =-.

    Reply
    1. Belle

      That is so funny! (Well, I mean right now, from an adult perspective. It probably isn’t funny from either a kid’s perspective or a parent’s perspective!) I can see why it put you off journals.

      All of my journals, specialized and the personal attempts, have been handwritten. I’m not sure why doing this book journal on the computer really fired me up – maybe because it feels more like a work journal than something more personal. I like the idea of being able to search through the entries, too.

      So far, though, I’ve been releasing a lot of doubts about my story line into my entries!

      Reply

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