Why I Journal + A Peek Into My Journal

Hey, warriors! How are you doing today? I’m excited, since I get to talk about a big change I recently made in my life in today’s post! I’m going to tell you the reasons I journal, show you my journal, and give you my best journaling tips. Let’s dive in!


Why I Journal

On May 18 this year, I made a choice. I was already planning on launching my blog on May 20th, the nine year anniversary of the tornado that changed my young life, so, after reading an inspirational magazine(don’t judge ok? Magnolia Journal is helpful) I decided to call the day my new year. Kaley’s New Year. You may already know the details of that from this post on my private blog (sorry if I don’t let you in; it’s private for a reason. Still, I might if you request it.) but one of the changes I decided to make was to start journaling.
So I did; on May 19th I was so excited I wrote an introduction and from May 20th on I’ve written an entry every day possible. I try to start each day with the date, a word of the day, and the time my first entry starts. Inside I list what needs done and, at the end of my day, I recap just a little and rate my day. Some days I’ve had insanely short entries and skipped several parts but I’ve tried my best to write one every day. I’ve only missed two days this far and I’m at over 50 pages.
But why do I journal? Because I need to be freely confined. I need a plan each day, but I also love to be creative and able to do whatever I feel like doing. I have certain things that need done, but I also try to have fun and chill time. I journal to remember, to mark my growth. I journal to process what’s happening to me and I journal to vent feelings and thoughts I just don’t need in my way. I journal to figure out why I’m doing what I’m doing and I journal to figure myself out. It’s been amazing.

A Peek in My Journal

Here’s a snippet of my journal…. It might not all make sense and it might be a little weird but it’s who I am. I like it. (Click on the pictures to see them better.)

So You Want To Journal?

  • Here are some things to keep in mind if you journal or want to start journaling:
  • Journaling isn’t hard! You don’t need to write five pages every day. Last night I wrote less than five sentences. That’s fine! If you need to skip a day, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay.
  • You don’t need a fancy journal. I’m using a fairly small one that fits in my back pack by Soul Scripts, my favorite journal brand, but it was a gift. Any journal works fine!
  • Try and make a set time to journal each morning and evening if you can. It’s good to start the day with goals and end with reflection time. But if you only have ten minutes to journal a day and it’s at lunch time, that’s still fine!
  • If you didn’t notice, journaling is forgiving. Why? Because a book can’t talk back and it’s whole job is to help you learn and grow into a healthier, stronger, wiser person. It isn’t very healthy or wise to beat yourself up.
  • I love to start each entry with a word and its definition when possible because it gives me something to think about as I dive into my day.
  • I also love to end the day with a rating and a short bit about why I rated it that way. It shows me what I like and what I don’t like and I get to know myself even better.
  • A journal with blank spaces for page numbers is amazing because you can fill them in as you reach them. It’s so thrilling to realize, “hey! I’ve written twenty pages!”
  • Be honest with yourself. Some days aren’t good days and you don’t need to pretend they were. But often, bad days have some highlights. Don’t drop the good all together, but know that there’s a little light even in the rain and that it’s going to rain sometimes.
  • I took notes from a conference in my journal at one point and wrote twenty pages in two days. Your journal doesn’t just have to be for to-do lists and reflections. It holds anything and everything!
  • I try to bring my journal with me when I go places because sometimes you need to calm down even in public and a journal is a place for silent ranting. It’s also a continuous check-list with things you need to do and things you want to do, as well as dates of when things happened. It’s a great thing to have on hand at any time.
  • A journal is great inspiration and practice for authors, too! If you keep one, don’t slack on your writing skills because this is a place where you want to put words on a page daily. Make it worth it!

I hope this post was helpful! Do you journal? Do you want to try? What journals do you like? How do you journal? Let me know in the comments!

How I Write: 26+ Things You Should Know About Your Main Characters

Hello again, everyone! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today’s How I Write post is on characters. In my experience as a reader, characters are more important than plot, because if we don’t care about the characters, we won’t care about the plot. You need both the person and the journey: without a person we care about, the journey doesn’t matter to us. I’ve been researching characters over the past few months and here’s some of what I’ve found. Here’s how I plan out my characters. (You can always read the other How I Write posts here.)


Step One: Meet The Characters

First, I plan them out the first time with just a list. A pantser could stop right here if they wanted. I also try and take some notes as I write about the things I decide along the way. Maybe you insert that they like mint chocolate chip ice cream and had a bad experience with strawberry. That probably won’t change, so remember it. Sometimes I forget to take notes as I write (because who really has time to jot down everything in both the book and the notes?), which is why I’m learning to read through and list that stuff after I write the first draft, too. Here’s what my character list for my book What Matters Most would look like:

  1. Amelia (She’s a scatterbrain, and she loves attention)
  2. Clover (quiet)
  3. Trixie (Not chatty but not silent.)
  4. Noah
  5. Brock (football player)
  6. Ryleigh (insecure; dealing with a lot)
  7. Zara
  8. Wyatt (fallen into peer pressure and seems shallow)

Step Two: Get To Know Them

As I work more, I plan out the key details. Sometimes that’s before the first draft, sometimes it’s during the first draft. But remember: the strongest characters are people we can believe in before we create their journey. The character defines the journey, and it shouldn’t be the other way around, which means you need most of this information before you decide on the plot. These are things that matter to them and what made them who they are. You might be asking “Wait. Don’t I need to find their fear, misbelief, and desire first?” I would say no! Why? Well, do you always know what your own misbeliefs, fears, and desires are when you first embark on a journey? I don’t! But I do know what I care about (which dictates my desires), what I’m passionate about (which has to do with my beliefs), and what I’ve been through (which is the root of my fears). Here’s what one of my character’s brief lists looks like:

Trixie

  1. Art obsessed
  2. Not fake (and proud of it)
  3. Born in Mexico (and proud of it)
  4. Not her mom, sister, or dad. Just Trixie.

If you’re struggling to come up with a list of your own, think about their personality, their skills, their talents, their weaknesses, and their back story. If you could choose only a few things to highlight about this character in your story, what would be most important?


Step Three: Take a Walk In Their Shoes

Some people like details more than others. Some just see where the story takes their characters and others stress about knowing their character’s brain inside and out. Most people agree, though, that you should know their deepest desires, fears, and misbeliefs, as well as what lead to these desires, fears, and misbeliefs. Think of this as stepping into who they are. You can start with the easy questions, and order them so they get harder, forcing you deeper into their heart. Peel back who they are, layer by layer, until you reach their heart. Here are the questions I ask my characters. You can ask them in any order but this order is my favorite.

  1. First and last name
  2. Height
  3. Age
  4. Birthday
  5. Middle name
  6. Ethnicity
  7. Place of birth
  8. Favorite things (this can be a whole list of its own as well)
  9. Happiest memory
  10. Favorite thing about their self
  11. Hobbies
  12. Dream job
  13. Aesthetic
  14. Crush/ romantic partner
  15. Things they’re bad at
  16. Pet peeves
  17. Things they hate (this can be a whole list of its own)
  18. Most embarrassing memory
  19. Biggest secret
  20. Weaknesses (Especially the fatal flaw that causes them the most pain in the story)
  21. Strengths (Especially the one most highlighted in the story)
  22. Smaller desires (eg. to publish an article, to visit Paris, to get a new bike)
  23. Smaller fears (eg. spiders, the dark, heights)
  24. Their deepest desire
  25. Their greatest fear
  26. Misbelief

“What about their appearance?” you might ask. “Don’t I need to know what they look like?” Yes, but you probably already have a picture in your head as soon as your character ventures into being. If you don’t, the best way I’ve found to figure out what they look like is to make a bitmoji or animoji of them. You can also find a face claim online, a picture of a real person that you think looks like your character. But don’t waste time on finding the perfect face for them. The reader will probably imagine them their own way, anyway. A story is about a character’s heart, mind, and life, not their face.

Now, as you dive into writing, remember this: no first draft is perfect, but they often make the best plans ever. If you decide your story is worth the effort and struggle it takes to edit, revise, and even redraft, make sure that you take a break to go through all of the questions you can find because at this point you should have all of the information you will need. If there are any holes you find that seem really important, now’s the time to figure them out before you dive deeper. The biggest problem I had with my first sci-fi fantasy novel was that I didn’t take the time to character build or world build until just before the third draft. This caused a lot of problems; I had many scenes that conflicted each other, and the information wasn’t in one place. You don’t need all the details but you do need to know something and have it in one place so you can add as your characters and story grow. 

My favorite examples of character building in writing that I’ve read thus far is in Gary D. Schmidt’s books. In his Okay For Now, the main character says certain things a lot, and the things he repeatedly says match up with his back story. I won’t spoil it, because you should read it yourself, but an example would be a character saying “I’m serious” all the time because nobody takes them seriously. In his Just Like That, he presents characters with strong backstories that are the basis for every move they make. In his Orbiting Jupiter, the narrative character is not the main character, but the main character is revealed to be not who everyone thinks he is. All three books do have some content warnings and are technically part of a series, so research them before reading them, but they are powerful stories. Why? Because the characters are powerful and we can believe in them as they pursue their dreams.


I hope this helped you! These tips come from experience, as well as Abbie Emmons’s YouTube videos and Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. What are your favorite examples of good character building? What is your own biggest character building tip? What posts would you like to see next? Let me know in the comments!