My Experience on Writing a Diary Style Book

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Growing Up Wilder, my first completed and published book, was written in diary style. It wasn’t my favorite style, I think I prefer third person the most, but I had heard that it was best to start out writing in first person to help with character development. Being fond of diary styled books, I decided to go that way, plus I figured it would be pretty simple, almost like writing in my own journal except I get to make everything up (How cool is that?!). A lot of what went into the book I actually did experience, though. And, for the most part, the writing was easy.

Except….when it came to dates and the historical aspect. Because it was a diary, every date had to be correct. Sometimes I would accidentally miss a day or put the wrong date on the entry. That wasn’t most of the trouble though. It seems like I should be able to go back and just change the numbers, no problem. But no, changing the date meant changing the day of the week, meant changing what they did because of the different day of the week. And then you have birthdays, and holidays, and baby due dates! Yeah! I had to go back and fix things when I realized one of the babies was several months overdue and the other extremely premature. (Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, and even though I vowed not to do another diary book it is actually coming into a good light in my mind again.)

The historical part…every month, day, hour had to be accurate. Ahh! So yeah, researching followed.

For the writing part, what I missed with writing a diary book was putting in dialogue. I tried adding all I could. My favorite part was that it was pretty easy – like writing your own diary. I felt it was a pretty good choice for my first book.

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Character Interviews

 

Are you trying to jump into a story but you can’t figure out exactly what each character’s personalities are? Are your characters sometimes inconsistent? Do you know their hopes, hurts, fears, dreams? How about a heart to heart interview with each of your wonderful  penned-up friends and learn more about them…and you! You can start simple; it’ll get fun as you go along. Think your characters are boring? Let them speak for themselves! Stick yourself in their shoes and you’ll learn things about them you never knew. You can make the interview as simple or complex as you want. Here are a few starter questions:

What’s your name and how old are you?

What annoys you more than anything else?

What is your greatest fear?

Who do you hold dearest?

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Seriously try this! It’s like meeting the creative side of you all over again.

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Organic writing vs. Outlining

Which is the way to go?

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There is a lot of debate about whether to write an outline or not. Organic writers like to just “go ahead and write.” Outliners like to figure out what happens in every chapter and plan each one carefully. The question? Which is the way to go?

As for me, I started out with organic writing. I didn’t like being told what to write, and wanted to just write out what came into my mind. Halfway through, I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere with the story, no matter how interesting it may be. I didn’t have a set plan on where the story was going. I tried outlining next, and I liked it, but outlining isn’t for everyone. So…here is the answer:

Organic writing and outlining are both great ways to write, it just depends on what kind of writer you are. But what every interesting story must have is architecture, a plot or point you want to get across, a beginning that leads to the ending. You don’t start a road trip without knowing where you’re going, you don’t start a story without knowing what you’re writing. First, decide what your object is, then figure out how you’re going to get there.

So before you start the first chapter, pen out a sheet of paper that gives a brief summary of what happens in the book. Figure out what your plot/purpose is and make sure it gets played out. Start with a significant beginning and finish with a memorable ending.  Add exciting and compelling road stops along the way.

Once you have perfected the architecture of your story, then start writing. Please don’t neglect the importance of this. Having a basic plan of your story will save you from a lot of writer’s block later.

© Hannah Loviisa