A Glimpse at Bullet Journals and Writing

I love to plan. I’ve been a planner since I can remember. I used to fall asleep as a child planning my future.

My first planner? A cordovan Franklin Covey A5 binder. Zip. (You planner nerds will be able to translate.)

Now, I use a Moleskine grid notebook, and I do a loose version of bullet journaling.

What is Bullet Journaling?

A man named Ryder Carroll turned this into a thing. You can read more about the system here.

The thing is, I don’t use all those different symbols. I’m more of a list-maker, but then I organize those lists.

And better yet? I can even organize my stories.

How Do I Use a Bullet Journal for Organizing a Story?

Granted, I’ve only organized a short story of about 6,000 words so far, from start to finish, in a journal. But it was nice to have the story in my bullet journal as I toted it around town. I could flip to it and brainstorm whenever I wanted to.

I also typed and pasted revision notes into the bullet journal. Again, it was nice to tote around in a journal I was already carrying.

The biggest take-away point? You want to have immediate access to your story. I’ve tried Evernote, but I’m not much of a digital girl when it comes to revision and massaging a story. I need to write and highlight and doodle.

And that’s how my bullet journal fits in.

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Sydney Strand is a fiction writer who has published two young adult books through New York and another six books via self-publishing. Over the last two years, she has focused on writing fun romances, but not of the Red Room of Pain variety. More like the Dan and Roseanne/Sam and Diane variety–humor is sexy, dontcha know. You can follow Sydney on Instagram (1st Favorite), Twitter (2nd Favorite), and Facebook (Not a Favorite). She’s also at www.sydneystrand.com. (Her favoritest of favorites.)

5 Ideas for Your Writing Bullet Journal

For a couple of years now, I’ve been (inconsistently) keeping a bullet journal to help organize my day-to-day tasks, to-do’s, and appointments. I keep track of all kinds of things in there, including chore schedules, exercise tracking, goal lists, and writing tasks. Since writing is such a large part of my daily life, however, trying to keep track of it in the same place that I keep track of everything else has become a bit overwhelming. So this year, I’ve decided to create a separate journal just for writing.

Before I go any further, if you don’t know what a bullet journal is, I’d suggest you watch this quick video by the system’s creator, explaining how it all works.

If you’re in a hurry and you’d rather not though, I’ll sum it up for you: it’s a simplified, yet fully customizable planner where you use various checkboxes and bullet points to keep track of your monthly and daily tasks. That’s it in its most basic form, yet if you do a search online, you’ll find all kinds of tips, tricks, and ideas to help you expand on that and make your journal as complex as you want. Some people get artistic with their pages. You can even find printable inserts online, some free, some . . . not. I like to keep it simple though. For me, that’s the entire point. Simple, yet versatile.
If you’d like to keep a writing-specific bullet journal as well, here are some of the things I’m doing with mine:

1. Sticker Calendar / Word Tracker

Each month, I draw out a basic calendar over a two-page spread. On days that I write, I add a sticker for every 300 words written. I also write the exact number of words when I’m finished, because sometimes it’s, say, 324 words, or maybe 560 – each of which is only one sticker’s worth of words. I write down the initials of the project that those words belong to as well, because sometimes I’ll write, for example, 200 words for one project and 400 for another. On the right side of the calendar, I’ve added a space to add up a weekly tally of words per project, and at the end of the month, I’ll add up everything and write that down in a yearly log that I keep on another page.

2. Project To-Dos

For each project that I’m working on, I keep a page or two where I can write down anything that I want to remember to add or fix while I’m drafting or revising. I use open box bullet points for these so I can check each thing off as it gets done.

3. Plot Bunnies

I keep another section to corral any plot ideas that come my way—just a short sentence describing the idea, and maybe a URL if the idea came from a news article or a picture that I saw online.

4. Blog Post Ideas

Similar to my Plot Bunny page, I keep a page for blog post ideas, because unfortunately, whenever a blog deadline is looming, my mind goes blank and I forget all the post ideas I’ve come up with over the last few months. So now I’m trying to be better about writing these ideas down as soon as I think of them.

5. Inspiration

Randomly littered throughout my journal are inspiring writing quotes, sketches, doodles, lines of dialogue that have entered my head, but don’t yet have a place in my drafts. Anything that inspires me and keeps me excited to write. In fact, this part has been so fun, I’m considering starting a separate journal for each project to be used like more like a scrapbook than a bullet journal, where I can paste character pictures, article clippings from any research I’ve done, and anything else relevant to what I’m working on.

And that’s it! The point is to keep it simple, but also to have fun with it. If it’s both simple AND fun, you’ll be more likely to keep it up.

Do you keep a writing journal? How do you use yours? Please share in the comments!

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When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.