Your Novel’s Bullet Journal: 10 Easy Tips For Success

Your Novel’s Bullet Journal: 10 Easy Tips For Success

Savvy novelists love using a bullet journal while they’re writing. I’m a keen journal-writer, and started using the bullet journal format for my novels several years ago.

Basically, your novel’s bullet journal is: a book journal, a calendar, and a tracker, combined.

Here’s Ryder Carroll’s quick summary of getting started with a bullet journal.

Your bullet journal is your novel’s Bible

From Bullet Journal Your Novel: Free Up Your Mind, And Write:

When you’re writing a novel, there’s a lot to keep in your mind. Plot, characters, timeline — when you start tinkering with these elements, while you’re writing, the temptation is to go back, and write new scenes, and eliminate scenes. The impulse to fix it NOW is almost irresistible, yet resist it you must.

If you’re keen to try a bullet journal to manage your novel, here are some tips.

1. Use a dedicated journal, paper or digital

I like to use a paper journal for each of my novels, but I’ve also used Evernote. If you’re using Evernote, create a dedicated notebook for each novel. Whatever you use, your aim is to have your journal with you at all times.

2. Create a page for each of your main characters

With a bullet journal, you use one page after another. If you’re using a paper journal, number the pages if they’re not numbered already. Keep the first five pages of your journal to use as an index.

Create a dedicated page for each of your main characters, and for the plot — plus anything else you need to remember.

Enter all your dedicated pages into the index. For example, you might have a page for a character called “Fred”. Later in your journal, you’ll have Fred 2, Fred 3, Fred 4 etc — add those numbers to the index.

One of my main reasons for liking the bullet journal format is that if you choose a journal with blank pages or a dot grid format, you can create mind maps right in the journal.

3. Journal before you begin each writing session

I like to spend five minutes journalling before I start each day’s writing session. This helps me to clear my mind.

When you journal before writing, you can journal about anything you like. You don’t need to journal only about your novel, your goal is to get distracting thoughts out of your head and onto the page.

4. Maintain your index: enter each topic page into your index

Whenever you create a fresh page for a collection of notes on a topic, enter that page into your index.

For example, you might come across some useful information about changes on Amazon’s KDP, or an idea for a new novel. Create a page immediately and enter the page’s title and page number into your index.

5. Enter questions into your bullet journal after each day’s writing

I use paper journals, in the A5 dot grid format. I carry my journals with me, so that I can enter ideas and questions whenever I happen to think of them.

The biggest benefit of using a bullet journal for a novel is that it’s free-form. You can add anything you like at any time. When you get into the habit of creating a bullet journal for each of your novels, you’ll spend less time procrastinating.

The “sagging middle” of a novel is always a challenge. On a recent novel, I got to the 40% point, and panicked. I was sure that I didn’t have enough material to get to the midpoint, and the 80% point; which are the next major plot points.

To steady myself, I created a mind map right in the bullet journal, and soon plotted character changes which would carry me through.

Later, when I was revising the novel, I remembered my panic. Without the bullet journal, I might have floundered for a few days, but the bullet journal enabled me to keep writing without a break.

6. Use your bullet journal to manage your moods if you’re a procrastinator

Do you procrastinate? Here’s what I found useful. Each day, when I enter the date into my novel’s bullet journal, I add a note about my mood. Cheerful, depressed, confident – whatever.

My students have told me that tracking their moods helps them to see how their moods affect their writing; their tracking helps them to avoid procrastination.

7. Capture each important page on your cell phone (for paper journals)

I photograph any important bullet journal page into Evernote.

Think of this as a backup for your journal.

One day I left my bullet journal at a client’s office, and panicked. I picked the journal up next day, but what if I’d lost the journal somewhere else? That’s when I started capturing important pages into Evernote; I commend the process to you.

8. Use your bullet journal as a time log to count words and increase your productivity

One of my 2018 goals was to increase my productivity. I tend to be quite productive. But I waste time, usually on “research.”

I’ve started entering each day’s word count onto a dedicated page in my bullet journal. I can easily check whether I’m on track to meet deadlines.

9. Distracted? Do a brain dump

I write fiction in the early morning. When I’m on deadline for a client project, I write fiction later in the day.

This upsets my routine, so when I get back to working on my novel I’m distracted. Words flow like molasses.

A brain dump, written into my bullet journal, helps.

Try it; it may help you too.

10. Keep your bullet journal: file your journals by year

Your bullet journal contains lots of useful information. So when you’ve completed your novel, file the bullet journal. You never know, you may decide to turn the novel into a series.

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

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Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

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Ultra-Simple Plotting For Pantsers: Focus On 3 Steps

Ultra-Simple Plotting For Pantsers: Focus On 3 Steps

Do you HATE plotting? Many authors do. Others are convinced that they “can’t plot.” Either way, these non-plotting, outline-averse authors are pantsers: authors who write by the seat of their pants.

Plot? Who needs to plot, or outline? Well… maybe you, even if you are a pantser, especially if you habitually start novels you never finish.

Ultra-simple plotting with three steps to success

Last year’s classes on plotting were fun. Amazingly all the pantsers discovered that yes indeed, they could plot, in a fun, minimalist kind of way.

We discovered a fun new way of plotting: I call it the “open the door” method. With this method, you’ve got a clear visual of your plot. It helps.

Look at your plot like this:

  • You’re standing in front of a closed door. Look around… when you open the door, you’ve done the setup of your novel;
  • Next, explore the darkness. Careful — don’t stub your toe!
  • You reach another door. Open it gently (you’ll need to fight to open this door.) Then SLAM the door, and step away.

This method is fun, and helps you to structure your novel.

1. Entry: open the door with the setup

You know that the first 25% or so of your novel is the setup. You get to know the main characters. If you’re writing a mystery, the detective goes to the crime scene, and we learn a little about his (messed up, always) home life.

The setup ends when you open the door. In the Hero’s Journey, the Quest/ Adventure begins.

Getting back to our mystery novel, our detective tries to get someone else to take the case, and fails. He’s stuck with it. Moreover, if he doesn’t solve the case, the results will be dire. The setup ends/ he opens the door when he sets off to hunt for clues and question suspects.

2. Walk around in the dark: nasty surprises

The “walk around around in the dark” phase is the long stretch of the novel from the 25% point (end of the setup) to the roughly 80% point, which is the Dark Moment/ All is Lost/ Ordeal in the Hero’s Journey.

I love the Dark Moment. Prepare for the Dark Moment (80%) as soon as you open the door and start exploring. However, there’s a long stretch between 25% and 80%: this long stretch is often called the “saggy middle.” Your sole aim is to stop the middle sagging. 🙂

Imagine you’re walking around in the dark. Do you:

  • Find a torch?
  • Tumble off a cliff?
  • Meet someone threatening, who injures you?

Pantsers love the idea of walking around in the dark, because they know that the midpoint’s coming up.

At the midpoint — the 50% point of the novel — there’s a BIG change. In our mystery novel, the detective gets fired, and it’s his own fault. He faces his demons. Often, he has a drinking problem, or a drug problem, and he knows he has to overcome this.

In a romance, the hero and heroine make love at the midpoint.

3. Open the door gently, then SLAM it — and step away

As we’ve said, at the 80% point it’s the Dark Moment, or the All is Lost Moment. You’re heading for another door, which is the Climax; the Big Fight at around the 95% point.

At the Dark Moment, your hero loses big: it’s his fault. His negative attribute (carelessness, bad temper, dislike of authority) or whatever it is, means that he knows that there is no way he can win.

Of course he does win… 🙂 However, at this stage, it looks as if he won’t. After the Dark Moment, the hero pulls himself together, and decides that he will win, or die trying.

And it’s onward to…

The Climax: the big fight, or reveal, before your novel is DONE

In a mystery novel, at the Climax, the detective discovers the killer, and captures him. Or, if you’re writing a cozy, your Miss Marples character calls all the suspects into the library, so that she can reveal the killer.

The Open the Door Method helps you to visualize your plotting journey

Students who are pantsers enjoy this method of plotting, because it’s visual. You know where you should be at the 25% point for example: you know that your setup should be done by now.

Give this plotting method a try. It’s sufficiently freestyle to please most pantsers. Have fun with it. 🙂

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Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

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Write A Book: 3 Simple Ways To Get Nonfiction Ideas Readers Love

Write A Book: 3 Simple Ways To Get Nonfiction Ideas Readers Love

You want to write a book. Specifically, you want to write a nonfiction book. Easy — ideas are everywhere.

You’re keen to get started, but every idea you develop seems trite — uninspired. You’re wondering whether you’ll ever come up with something original.

Hey, listen up… “Original” is over-rated. Let’s say you managed to develop a completely different idea for a book… An idea which no one has ever had before.

Amazing, right? A guaranteed bestseller, right? Wrong.

Hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world are cudgeling their brains and looking for ideas too. Not only is it unlikely that you’ll come up with something that no one has ever thought of before, but if you did somehow manage it, chances are that no one would buy your book.

Decide now that you’ll write a book which will sell: the only way to do that is to write what readers want.

Write a book that people want to read

Recall that you’re not just writing a book, you’re writing a book that people will want to read.

When I started my writing career, more years ago than I care to remember, a savvy editor suggested that if I wanted to sell, I write about: diets, romance, and money. That trio of topics will always be popular, because: human nature.

Let’s look at ways you can get ideas and write books that readers will love.

1. Make a list of what fascinates YOU

It’s not what you know, it’s what you love, and want to learn more about.

Before the Kindle and the self-publishing revolution, authors’ research to find ideas for books was time-consuming. Not only did you need to hustle to the library to study databases of books which were already published, you had to source lists of upcoming titles as well.

All that took time, and convincing editors that you’d found a hot topic took a lot of back and forth. Even remembering those long-ago days makes me tired. 🙂

Today, you have millions of potential readers, and those millions of readers have endless interests. No matter how esoteric your own obsessions are, it’s likely that thousands of readers share those obsessions and will want to read about them.

So make a list of what you love (or hate, come to that) and keep adding to it. The list will serve you well in years to come.

2. What problems can you solve?

Everyone is an expert on something, and nothing is ever lost on a writer.

Make a list of what you know. Consider your history, your job history, personal challenges you’ve overcome… You’ll be surprised at the length of the list, no matter how young you are. Of course, if you’re mature, you know even more.

Share your knowledge.

3. What do you do in your spare time? You’re a fan of…

What do you like to do?

Create another list. This list should include everything you’d do if money were no object, as well as your favorite pastimes.

Your three lists: competition analysis

You now have three lists.

Choose five to ten topics, and do a little competition analysis.

From this early-stage analysis, you want to know:

  • The category: how popular is the topic? Do any books covering the topic appear in Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers? Here’s the Top 100 for 2017.
  • Assuming that your category is represented, are the books indie published, or traditionally published? Traditionally published books are a good sign, because publishers have research resources that we don’t. (Don’t take this too seriously — publishers are often wrong. :-))
  • Potential for a shortie title. Can you come up some shortie topics with which you can test the category’s potential? Writing a couple of short titles makes sense, before you spend several months writing.

If you want to write a book, there are a million nonfiction topics

As we’ve said, with millions upon millions of readers, chances are that thousands of them will be interested in any idea you choose.

Have fun. And keep adding to your lists. Then you’ll never run out of great ideas for great books. 🙂

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99
In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams. More info →
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Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
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