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How writers turn journal entries into novels

Writing in a journal is a powerful way to create the bits and pieces that become literature.

Journals serve as workbooks and a place to note descriptions, thoughts, ideas and character sketches.

Graham Greene set two of his novels, “A Burnt out Case” and “The Heart of the Matter” in Africa. The book, In Search of a Character: Two African Journals: Congo Journey and Convoy to West Africa, reveals the raw material — observations about people and the world — that eventually turned into his novels.

Other famous writers who kept journals as workbooks for their works in progress include:

Feodor Dostoyevsky — He maintained three notebooks concurrently with the writing of Crime and Punishment, which he saw itself as a form of diary. He outlined the larger framework of his novel as well as psychological details.

Albert Camus – Notebooks 1935-1951 serves as a sketchbook of future work, insight into his creative mind and reflections on death, loneliness, and art. His journals contained some of the first images and lines that ended up in his books, including the line, “Maman died today,” the opening sentence of The Stranger.

Journals are a more casual forum for writing and experimenting with ideas, outlines, and character notes and can free up ideas and inspiration.

Consider how you can use a journal as your writer’s playground.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I liked this entry quite a bit. I’ve tried keeping journals myself over the years but I can’t seem to keep it going. It seems to become another chore which I don’t have time to do.

    September 6, 2012
    • Hi Doug, glad you liked the post. One of my friends sets a reminder to write a journal entry right before going to sleep at night. She keeps a notebook by her bed and writes at least a few sentences.

      September 6, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How writers turn journal entries into novels « littlewonder2
  2. Writing Journals or Not? | Writing Fiction Blog
  3. Why We Write: Graham Greene | C.T. Westing

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