07 February 2019

More on the Benefits of Journaling

by Brian Thornton

I have written before here and much more recently (and tangentially) here, about the benefits to be had from journaling about your writing. I continue to believe in the potency of journaling. Now, more than ever.

Journaling can take a multitude of forms: it can be simply making notes about what you're working on. It can be drafting scenes outside of your plot-line. It can be free-writing.

Journaling has served me incredibly well over the years. Any number of dry spells have been broken by a daily session with the writing journal. And what's more, working daily on your journal can have the added benefit of "priming the pump" for other writing.

When I'm journaling as part of my daily word-count goals, I find I get more and better writing on my main project done, in addition to getting ideas for other, future writing projects. Those get written down, too.

Every piece of fiction I've ever written has come about all or in part because of my commitment to this process. Imagine my surprise when it began to pay dividends in a completely different facet of my writing process.

My editing.

Now, I am no freelancer. I don't do copy-edits. I won't give you a quote. And I'm definitely not for hire.

I don't do any of that kind of editing work. When I edit professionally, it's part of collecting and producing an anthology of thematically linked work.

I've been talking here ad nauseum about the twin themed anthologies I've been working on recently. They're a collection of crime fiction stories inspired by the music of Steely Dan. They are the third and fourth such anthologies I've curated over the course of my career.

This time around I've been working on them concurrently with an unrelated writing project which is due to my publisher later this year. So I've been journaling in addition to all of the editing I've been doing.

And while said journaling has produced terrific results on my other fiction project, I was amazed at how it helped with my productivity on the editing side as well.

For me editing is usually an intensive, exhausting process. It takes a lot out of me to get through a piece, in part because I want to give my best to any project I take on.

And unlike so many of the freelancers and other industry editors I know and count among my friends, it is not a natural fit for me. I know people who can copy edit for hours upon hours, and then go work on their own stuff. Boy, not me. I'm usually pretty fried after a few pages.

Well, that is to say, I was.

But no more. I've found that journaling about what I'm editing has helped me bounce back quicker, focus better, be loads more productive.

Now, when I'm going about my day and working out in the back of my mind plot problems from my own work, I find that because of the work I've done journaling about my editing, what's working with the story, what doesn't, it's keeping that in my head, and giving me ideas about how to fix the things in need of fixing, expand the things in need of expansion, and, of course, cut the things in need of cutting!

I know that we number many editors amongst our readers here at Sleuthsayers. What say you in the peanut gallery? I realize that freelancers need to write up reports and offer feedback to their clients. Does your editing process resemble this? If not, please feel free to share your process with us in the comments.

And on that note:

See you in two weeks!


  1. I journaled once. When I was in college and just starting to write. It became a sad love story. Used some of it in my first attempt at a novel. May go back to it one day. I took a lot of notes as a police officer and used a lot of it in my police novels but I've never kept a journal since then. Looks like you have a good system working for you. Cool. I do make a lot of audio notes on my phone and convert them.

  2. My biggest journey into journaling was when I joined a group who was committed to working through “The Artist’s Way.” I can say those “Morning Pages” did rid me of negative thoughts before I attempted my own writing for the day. It was worthy of my time. Editing for others usually is a good method to jumpstart my mind to write myself, so it’s a good thing for me to do for my friends.

  3. I've kept a journal for almost 50 years now... and it's got everything in it, from daily events to world chaos to = occasionally - an idea for a story. (I've also kept a dream journal for about 30 years now - available to psychologists studying abnormal behavior for a small fee.) Of late, I've also kept a separate "Ideas" folder, where I write down the stray notions I might otherwise lose, and work on odds and ends before making the full commitment to turning them into a story.


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