A Gallery of Writers’ Journals

RamonaGravitarYesterday, Literary Mama, an online magazine for the maternally inclined, published my guest post, “What in the world is a  sprint journal?” The post appeared as part of LM’s After Page One blog series.

After Page One posts are intended to motivate, encourage and inspire writers on their journeys as mothers who are also write. In addition to its articles and stories on motherhood, Literary Mama offers numerous craft pieces that would aid any writer.

My piece revealed how I–a person who never could keep a diary–learned to adapt a journal to meet my very specific writing needs. In this case, I needed to focus precisely on what to write during my daily one-hour writing sprint.

This, for the visually inclined, is what a page from my sprint journal looks like:

journal - sprint

My sprint journal is neat, orderly, spare and precise.

Check out the contrast to this, which is my book bible. Check back to this blog in a few weeks, when I will post about book bibles:


A step forward on the messier scale would be my short story draft journal. My writing process for short work is to write a quick first draft in longhand. As you can see, neatness is not important to me at this stage:

journal ss

For someone who never kept a diary and could not embrace journaling, I do seem to use a number of journal-like tools in my writing, don’t I? I am not alone. I asked a couple of writers friends to share what their journals looked like.

Edith Maxwell’s writing journal (pictured both closed and opened) is below. Edith is the author of the Local Foods Mysteries (Kensington Publishing), the Lauren Rousseau mysteries (as Tace Baker, from Barking Rain Press), and award-winning short crime fiction. Edith also blogs every week at Wicked Cozy Authors, a group blog featuring cozies with a New England accent.

This lovely cover…

Edith journal 1

…opens to reveal this:

Edith journal 2

 Another journal is from my Pittsburgh friend, Martha Reed, who writes the Nantucket Mystery series. Martha also she serves on the Board of  Sisters in Crime National. She is Chapter Liaison and a very useful person to know. This is what Martha’s writing journal looks like:


Martha journal

Clearly, there is no one way to keep a writing journal.

Do you keep a writing journal? Is it neat or messy? A collection of organized thoughts kept in orderly lists, or a jumble of arrows and highlighted sentences? Somewhere in between?

14 thoughts on “A Gallery of Writers’ Journals

  1. Congratulations on publishing your article on sprint journal. It’s a neat concept. I used to keep a journal but have given up because all it was was an accumulation of notes which I never used. I found it interesting that you write your first draft in long hand. I’ve done that and find it a good exercise not only because it gets other parts of the brain involved in the process but it can be done just about anywhere. I look forward to reading your post on book bibles.


    1. Carol, I only do longhand for short stories, but it is my habit. When I transcribe to my laptop, I edit as I go along, so it is a useful process for me. The caveat is that it takes time, so I save it for my first love–short stories.

      Book bibles should be up in a few weeks. Thanks for commenting!


  2. I wonder if others are keeping their journals as Word documents? Or would they then be considered another sort of tool. I find it convenient to sort ideas as I highlight or include them in my work, as well as to copy, paste, and file the most valuable portions when the journal gets lengthy.


    1. Pat, there is no one way to keep a journal. I posted a question about book bibles on Facebook, and several people responded by noting they used online journals. I have found my cell phone very handy for recording stray thoughts when I am out of the office. The trick to that is remembering to check the notes when I get home!


  3. I keep writing and concept journals in a rather messy fashion–some written (I love physical journals) and some on my computer (not so lovely but easy to search, right Pat?). Recently, I was looking in my computer logs for a short story I was certain I had written, but I couldn’t find it. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I had only written down the concept in my handwritten diary. Sure enough–there it was! It wasn’t much, but I was glad I had it. I’ve now written that story from the few chicken scratches I’d entered in that book!


  4. I keep a notebook per book, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a journal. All notes that relate to the story go in there: research, fragments of dialog, possible plot points, character birthdays, character names, etc. When I’ve used a page up, I fold it in half. By the time a manuscript is finished, hopefully, most of the pages are folded! usually there are a few left, some ideas that never blossomed. But it is far from neat, let me tell you.


    1. Diane, that sounds like what many writers call a book bible. It stores the salient info for your WIP and provides easy access if you need to check a fact. I like the folding the page idea. I usually cross off points, but that contributes to the mess. Folding the page has nice finality to it. Great idea!


  5. Yours is so neat compared to mine – I have a journal I write in back to front (because I am left handed) and in which are voluminous notes, which I wish were more legible!


  6. Evernote and Scrivener are my writing journals. I use Evernote on the fly a lot, when ideas come to me at unexpected times. The Scrivener software is amazing for managing story boards, chapters, scenes, character profiles, pictures, web links, and even music.

    The fact that both of them sync across my various hardware makes life that much sweeter.


  7. I recently started using the notebook.doc option on MS Word. It’s a great organizer and place for notes, drawings, photos, and even audio notes. When I upgraded my Word program, the audio clips feature was very important to me, but now that I am able to type again I love the straight notebook with organizer tabs like an old-fashioned school notebook.

    The greatest thing for me now is to be looking for the type of book journal that I used to write in, because now I can write with pen and paper again. I like to have a book journal for each project. I sometimes draw pictures to get a sense of how I might talk about a scene with words. My writing ideas are visual. I see A character and a story forming. It plays like a little video in my mind. Then I write it down.

    I am also learning Scrivener and love it—especially the corkboard. Right now I am putting up post-its with each having a character description and history. I’m still learning how to do this!

    I have been trying out several note programs on my cell. I spent a lot of time and money checking different writing apps out and have found that the plain ol’ notepad that came with my iPhone is the most usable for me when I have thoughts on the run. When I’m sitting in the garden working on my iPad I like to use Pages. That’s my favorite overall writing app for devices.

    Thanks, Ramona!


    1. I have not tried out Scrivener, but it seems to be a boon to many people. I will have to try out iPad and Pages.

      Most writers who journal do keep one per project. Even the most disorganized can be organized to that degree.

      Thanks for commenting, Reine.


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