If you are keeping a journal on a regular or even semi-regular basis, you have made a great step toward developing your skills as a writer. But, you are probably only using a small part of what a journal can be. You need to take the next step in journal writing and make your journal work for you. Here are some practical tips on how to do that.
Your journal is a place where you put down your thoughts and ideas and this is a great way to keep the creativity flowing and to keep you writing on a regular basis. But thoughts and ideas are not the only things that go into writing fiction. Your fiction takes place in a world and it has people in it. In order for you to successfully communicate your story to your reader you have to create a world that is tangible and people that are believable. These aspects of writing are just like any other aspect in that they takes practice and your journal is the perfect place for you to practice. Here are some basic and easy exercises that will develop your skill as a writer through your journal writing.
Add Descriptive Writing to your Journal
Make a concerted attempt to describe things in your environment. This is a good practical exercise that will help you find your voice in your writing. Writing for an audience means being able to describe your created world to them accurately. You should practice this in your journal and it can be as simple as choosing any object and writing about it. Here are several different techniques for descriptive writing.
1. Describe things - This is an important skill because the description of things can enhance your story. And it makes use of one of the most important rules in writing: "Show don't tell" Here is an example of two sentences about a pencil:
The writer held a yellow pencil in his hand.
The faded yellow pencil the writer held in his hand was pockmarked with dozens of bite marks, and its eraser was worn right down to the metal band.
In the first sentence the reader understand the situation. But in the second sentence the reader gets an insight into the writer. This is much better than telling your reader that the writer in the story is a nervous type that frequently erases his work and is prone to biting his pencil.
2. Describe Environments
Choose any environment and describe it. Start with the room you are writing in then move outward. As you move about your daily life take note of the different environments that you pass through. Describe these in your journal. Remember that this is not an exercise in storytelling. It is an exercise in building a believable world with your writing. And you should do this exercise in two different ways. First do it as you look at the environment you are in. Second you should do it from the memory of an environment that you are not currently in. It is amazing how radically different your perspective of an environment can be between your eyes and your memory.
3. Describe people
This is the most important aspect of description. A good description of a person can tell your reader much about the character. Choose a person you know and write a description of him. Don't just describe his face, describe his body and his gait. Describe the mannerisms he has. Does he use his hands when he talks? Do his arms swing when he walks? What other things should you describe? Remember that your description of him will paint a picture in your reader's mind.
Add Dialogue to Your Journal
Another skill that you should develop in your writing is the art of dialogue. What your characters say and how they say it can either enhance a story or confuse it. You should practice writing lots of dialogue. Here are some good techniques for incorporating this painlessly into your journal.
1. You should first practice writing dialogues that you have overheard. Do this from memory. What did each person say? And what were the responses and counter responses.
2. You should also practice making your own conversations. This is what you will do in your writing so you should practice it a lot.
Blend Dialogue and Description Together
Now try to put the techniques together. Imagine two people engaged in a conversation. Tell your reader the conversation and show your reader the mannerisms of each speaker. Use your descriptions of the speakers and their surroundings to enhance the meaning of the conversation.
Remember that the greatest thing a writer has to offer is his ability to observe and then to think about his observations and communicate those thoughts. But the first thing you have to do is observe. Don't just use your journal as a way to put down your thoughts and ideas.
How should you integrate these new techniques into your journal writing?
Don't change your current habit of journal writing. When you take out your journal write in it the same way you always have. Let your thoughts and ideas flow. But, when you feel that you are done with your journal writing for the day go a little bit further and append one of these techniques to it. Add a paragraph describing something or someone or add a paragraph of created conversation. This will add a little bit of time to your journal writing but it will help you quickly develop some new skills as a writer.