Wednesday, May 20

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 2 comments
Journaling is a kind of focused freewriting that can be useful for exploring, in a loose and free manner, either a character’s thoughts or your own.

Image: Teo Studio,
Like the childhood diary that could be padlocked, think of journaling exercises as a “for my eyes only” prewriting. As with jots, the goal is to get ideas out as quickly as you can without judgment or revision.

Journaling is especially helpful for voice-driven writers who first need to get inside the protagonist’s head before planning any story events. It can also be a way for you to mentally process key parts of your plot. When preparing for revision, it can be a helpful way to think through what is and isn’t working in a manuscript. It’s also a great warm-up for beginning any writing session, especially if you’ve been away from the manuscript for a period.

Journaling exercises

Journal your key characters’ important memories that shaped them most
Journal about your key characters’ deepest fears
Journal about your key characters’ ambitions and dreams
Journal about your protagonist’s bucket list
Journal your protagonist’s opinions of other characters
Journal your antagonist’s view of the protagonist
Journal about your protagonist from the viewpoint of another key character
Journal a fiasco moment in your character’s voice
Journal about a moment your character would feel empowered
Journal about potential plot events as a character might experience them
Journal about conflicts among characters
Journal your protagonist’s impressions of key settings in your story
Journal a basic arc of your story in your protagonist’s voice
Journal your impressions of each character in your story
Journal about scenes that are almost ready, and how you might polish them
Journal about problem scenes and how you might repair or replace them
Journal your hopes about this manuscript
Journal your concerns about this manuscript

How might journaling help you keep moving forward with a project?


  1. Great idea. Some of those thoughts in a journal might definitely help get through stuck spots in a manuscript, but at the very least they'll keep the words flowing. Super warm up exercise.

    1. Indeed, it is a great way to get going in a writing session. I've found journaling especially helpful when approaching revisions and I have several equally good ideas--I "talk them out" to myself on paper, weighing pros and cons. Sometimes I journal as the protagonist, and let her opinions guide the direction of the revision.