Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Lost your Writing Mojo? Try a Writer’s Journal

My first published book wasn’t a Psychological Thriller – it was a self-help book about keeping a journal to build self-esteem, back in 2002! It might seem a million miles away from my current suspense mysteries, but I’ve found keeping a Writer’s Journal has helped me enormously to stay on track in my writing life. Here’s how a simple journal works for me, in the hope that it might help others.
When my writing isn’t going well, if I don’t feel like knuckling down to it, or the book grinds to a complete halt, I go to my Writing Journal and use the following four-step process (using a password-protected file so it’s private and I don’t filter what I express!):

1.    What exactly is wrong? I take a step back and ask myself this question in the most open-ended way possible. In this first stage, I just pour my heart out about how I feel (swearing is allowed, no one is going to see it!) I call this the ‘agony aunt’ method – just spill, moan, complain, thrash out the emotions…

2.    Why do I think I feel like this? I try to isolate the issue in the most accurate way possible to hone it down (there is usually more than one, of course!). Is it about this book? A string of nasty reviews? Submission rejections? Am I run down creatively? Is it about something else: family, domestic, health or money concerns? I just get the problems down on paper, one by one.

3.    Dig deeper. Why is my energy flagging? If it’s the storyline that is the issue, I stand back and try to find out what isn’t working. Are the main plot points strong or original enough? Is the pace wrong? Have I run out of ideas? Is the ending weak? Am I getting confused about my central themes? Is the main character too flat?

4.    What would have to happen for things to get better? How could I get excited about my story again? I brainstorm ideas: Do I need to re-read from the start? Do I need to cut an entire section of the book? Do I need to cut out a certain character? Do I need to try a third-person narrator instead of first? This requires a critical and balanced eye and it might be worth involving a trusted friend or fellow writer to help identify what needs to shift.

I also find it’s useful to have a Writer’s Statement to hand which clarifies why I’m aiming to be an author in the first place and what I want to achieve. Mine is the following:

·        To thoroughly ENJOY the process
·        To earn enough to carry on writing full-time
·        To develop and improve and be the best writer I can be

In times of uncertainty, I return to these core values and check whether I am out of line with them. Ultimately, I reckon it’s important to remember why we put ourselves through all the writing heartache!

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:

  •  Over 180,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • No Longer Safe went straight to Number One 'Crime Noir' (US & UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
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