A friend recently asked me how I got started on my book. And keeping a journal was the answer.
I've started writing in a journal many times throughout my life and know its benefits - especially as a way to deal with life's hard times. Back in the 1970s when we first moved to the South Pacific and I felt lonely and upset about my new surroundings, I wrote in a journal every morning -- mostly about life on the Marshall Island, Kwajalein, where we lived. Then after we returned home and I went back to work, my journal entries became the basis for an article in my company magazine. That was my first published work.
I again started journaling full force when my son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Writing helped me stay sane while going through that huge stress in my life. And of course I continued -- after his death and into my present life. The material I wrote from the mid 1990s to just recently became material for my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, to be published by Lucky Press LLC. Look for it on the shelves around Mother's Day 2011.
At first I wrote by hand in notebooks. I have a slew of them. Then in 2002, after I left one of my journals on an airplane. I switched over to computer journaling. The computer actually works very well for me because I can type as fast as I think. When I wrote my hand I couldn’t keep my hand moving fast enough to capture all my thoughts. With the computer I write fast and before I know it I’ve input about 1000 words in about 30 minutes. Phew! That’s fast.
Of course I don’t stop to edit. If one of my journal entries becomes the source of another piece, then I’ll edit. Like today. This journal entry will go into this blog post about journaling. And since I’m writing all over the place it will take a lot of editing before I actually post it.
Also it’s best not to stop writing until the journal entry is complete -- or you've come to a stopping point. I was advised early on to keep my fingers moving. If I have nothing to say I write over and over, "I’m keeping my fingers moving," and pretty soon I have something more to say.
When I realized I had enough material for a book I began compiling it by reading through my journals, underlining everything I thought applicable, and then transferring that stuff into a book file on my computer. It was an especially grueling process when I worked with my handwritten material because I had to input the handwritten material into my computer. Once in a file I moved pieces around according to my outline, and then edited, revised, edited, revised until Voila, a book. Believe me, it wasn't as easy as it sounds.
This process, probably very unconventional, worked for me. I'd love to hear how you got started with your books.
By the way, even though my journal entries are not geared to becoming a book right now, I use them as a resource for blog posts, poems, and other writing products. There is always some wonderful little nugget in a journal entry that you can use for one of your writing creations.