The Story Journal: A How-To

The Story Journal

If you’ve read any of my previous posts on the Bullet Journal®, you’ve seen me frame this awesome productivity method in relation to being a writer. I love how adaptable it is to the needs of individual users.

However, this isn’t a Bullet Journal post.

This post is about something a writer may want to use in addition to their Bullet Journal. What I like to call The Project Journal or story Journal.

What Is A Project Journal?

Any notebook related to a specific writing project. A  hardbound or softbound notebook. A  Traveler’s Notebook. A binder system of some sort etc.

My current Project Journal is a simple notebook. So don’t be afraid to go with what works for you. Including adding some of these principals in this post to your Bullet Journal® if that is what suits your needs as a writer.

Why Use A Project Journal?

A Project Journal keeps all the information related to one of more projects in a central location. This means no worrying about losing worldbuilding and research if your computer crashes. Your story may get taken down in the crossfire, which really sucks. But at least you haven’t lost everything, even if the story itself isn’t backed up in multiple locations.

More than that, studies have suggested people process information differently when it is written vs. typed. For notetaking, what these studies show is the information is retained more if it is written down. When it comes to writing fiction, this would mean a small bit of a character’s backstory. Some random story note. A bit of research etc. may all be retained better.

This means less flipping between project notes and the project itself, whether on the computer of in another notebook. And as a result, we as writers can get more work done without feeling stressed about it.

Setting Up A Project Journal

This brings us to how to set up a Project Journal in the first place. Because there’s no use extolling the virtues of using one if I’m not going to tell you how to set one up.

1) Create an index.

Take you notebook and label a couple of pages with the title Index. Like with a Bullet Journal® or commonplace book, the index allows you to find specific things later. A character profile. List of research questions you wanted to answer. Your outline etc.

If you worry about running out of space in your index, start it from the back of the notebook. That way both the index and content of your Project Journal will meet up when the notebook is filled.

Story Information

2) Create a page for project information.

In reality, the only thing you need to set up in order to keep a Project Journal is the index. Anything else is optional.

But I like to set up a page of basic information I already know about a story. It lets me see what my vision for the story at the start was. And it is something I’ve done for years. Longhand, computer, or both I write up a page of basic story information. Sometimes it is digital and sometimes, like with the Project Journal, it is analog.

3) Create other pages as needed.

A Project Journal can have a myriad of, for lack of a better word, collections. And there’s no standard for what a writer can and can’t use in their Project Journal.

That said, there are some basic collections I like to use:

A collection of research questions means anything that comes up during the course of planning or writing can be easily found later. I don’t have to scour the Project Journal looking for these questions in my story ideas or scribbled onto a piece of paper.

Character profiles give me a place to get to know my characters before I start writing. This means my outlines are more organic and I’m not worried about their actions seeming out of place when I write the story. A valuable thing for a writer, regardless of how experienced or inexperienced they are.

Outlines help me visualize things as I’m writing. I’m a planner or story architect and tend to get lost if I don’t have at least some basic understanding of the plot.

However, I really suggest letting things appear organically in your Project Journal. As much as I love the things I include as almost a given in my own Project Journals, a Project Journal is a reflection of the writer who uses it. Some people don’t outline. Their Project Journal may have story ideas, research ideas, rants about how badly the project is going that day etc. Someone else may need a very detailed outline with gradient levels in their Project Journal. And some others may only need one type of collection, categorizing things by month instead.

Spread your wings and find what works for you.

Until next time. I can be found on Facebook, Twiter, and Pinterest. Feel free to strike up a conversation, recommend a book to read, request topics etc.

Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: Between Women by Sharon Marcus

Watching: Turn: Washington’s Spies|Season 1

Listening To: Vienna Tang| My Medea 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!


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