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What to do with Your Dear Diary Project

Now that you’ve finished your Dear Diary Project, there are several things you can do with it. They range from hiding it in a corner in your basement to trying to turn it into something publishable. But before you do anything with the file or manuscript itself, you need to properly extract all the valuable information from it for later use.

Extracting Information for your Dear Diary Project

Now, I don’t know about you, but my character profiles are pretty messy and I usually don’t have much room left on the page by the time I’ve written a Dear Diary Project for that character. So I like to create a fact sheet, which is a simple list of facts about my character. Things like their favourite colour, what kinds of animals they like, and experiences that changed their life that either weren’t important enough to be included in the profile itself or that hadn’t been thought of when you made it.

Reread your Dear Diary Project. Scan it for the things that are most important. Write down all the things you’ve learned about your character over the course of the month.

Once you’ve finished that, take a separate piece of paper and write down any new stories you might have gotten from writing or rereading your Dear Diary Project. Make note of any moments you think it might be important for your character to remember during the main project you’re working on. Pick out ones you might be able to turn into short stories. Write down as much about these ideas as you can, but try not to spend more than fifteen minutes on that.

Now you should be ready to start thinking about what to do with the project itself.

What can I do with my finished product?

There are a few things you can do with your Dear Diary Project. It’s possible that there are a few I haven’t thought of. In fact, writing that sentence I thought of something I’ve never considered before. I’ve created a list of things you should be able to do with your Dear Diary Project. Some are harder than others.

Leave it in a corner in your basement
Or in my case, a corner on my computer. I’ve never done much with my Dear Diary Projects. I’ve posted a few entries on my blog every year, but I’ve never done anything more than take knowledge from my Dear Diary Projects. I’ve thought about doing character blogs and all kinds of exciting things with them. But to be honest, other writing projects and school have always taken priority over transforming my Dear Diary Projects.

You know what? It’s all right if you do the same thing. Having a character’s diary stashed somewhere in your basement or your computer is pretty nifty. The important thing is what you’ve learned from working on your Dear Diary Project. Whatever you do with it, you’ll still have learned something about the process itself–and that was the real goal of this project.

Create a Character Blog
There are these nifty little things called character blogs. I don’t know all the history of them and I can’t tell you who wrote the first one, but I know they’ve existed for a few years now with varying success. Your Dear Diary Project can easily be turned into a character blog. At the very least you’ll want to clean up your grammar and spelling–unless you’re OCD and already have–and make sure that each entry shines, that each one is memorable.

If you want to get serious about character blogging, brainstorm what comes after your Dear Diary Project. Create a proper storyline around the Dear Diary Project. Decide how long–not exactly, but generally–you want to write your character blog for. Then go to great pains to make sure your character’s blog looks good and start putting your work up. You can generate quite a following with a character blog, but it’s a long and painful process. Then again, so is building a following in any kind of writing. If you want to do it enough, you should make it. But if you don’t want it bad enough, it’ll never happen.

Book
There are books made up mostly or sometimes entirely out of diary entries. There are tons of them. Most of them are historical novels set in our world during some particularly interesting part of history. There are also books written entirely in letters, and depending on how you wrote your Dear Diary Projects, transforming them into letters and adding some return mail might not be too hard. You’re going to have to polish the crap out of it though.

I don’t know how much of a market there is for this kind of story in genre fiction. I haven’t read or seen too many fantasy novels in the form of diaries, but I’m sure there is a market available for them. A book like this might do better in the ebook publishing world. It’s easier to find a specific group of readers with the internet and there’s an endless supply of people online. With dedication to your work and lots of revision, I’m sure you’d be able to sell a few copies, maybe a few hundred. With a little bit of luck, you might even be able to sell a few thousand. It might be worth a shot–you just have to decide how important this project is to you.

Screenplay
This is the one I thought of while writing this post. To make it into a script would probably take the most work, because your Dear Diary Project is probably mostly exposition rather than dialogue, and scripts are usually mostly dialogue. There’s more room for exposition in a screenplay than in a stageplay, and you can even take the most important parts and make them into a series of scenes for a screenplay. This is probably the hardest option, but it might just be the most entertaining. I, for one, think my Dear Diary Project would be a better movie than book.

The other thing about turning your Dear Diary Project into a script of either kind is that it’s really hard to start producing a play or movie. You have to do a lot of networking and you have to find funding for it. You have to find people willing to help you out on set, and you need to find actors. There are always lots of people wanting to be actors. It will be hard to turn some of them away, but you’ll only get one for each role. Finding people to help create your set, fund your project and film your movie will be much harder. Maybe even harder than getting a book published.

This is just the beginning of your options. With any luck, you’ll have thought of something I haven’t. Think about your options for a while before you do anything with them. You’ll need to get away from the story for a while before you can edit it anyway. Besides, Nanowrimo’s next month. It’s time to start planning–and I’ll talk to you a bit more about that on Friday.

What are you thinking about doing with your Dear Diary Project?

The End of the Dear Diary Project

Today, September thirtieth, marks the end of this month and with it the end of this year’s Dear Diary Project. Hopefully today you’ll be able to give your Dear Diary Project an ending that will tie it up nicely. If not, don’t worry too much about it–after all, it’s not like your character’s life is ending, so why should their diary? If you have the time, you can even keep going with your Dear Diary Project. I won’t stop you, but I will tell you that now is probably a good time to move on to a new project, and unless you have the time to do both, I’d suggest ending your Dear Diary Project now.

What should you do once you’ve finished your Dear Diary Project? First, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing it. Then join me on Wednesday to talk about how to make the most out of your Dear Diary Project. Start something new–a short story, planning for a new novel, a new blog, whatever strikes your fancy. And don’t forget that it’s October now, and Nanowrimo is right around the corner.

Me, I have to work on Moonshadow’s legal code, but I hope to get a little bit more editing done before November starts. And I’ll be pulling out a binder with notes for a story idea I had last year but which I never ended up writing, blowing the dust off of it, and making sure it’s ready to be my Nanovel.

There are going to be some big changes around here, which I’ll talk more about on Monday, but right now what I can promise you for the next month is information on making the most out of your Dear Diary Project, how to prepare for Nanowrimo, and a couple of writing exercises I hope you’ll find useful. In the meantime, there are a couple questions I’d like to ask you:

What did you like about the Dear Diary Project? What do you think would make it better for next year?

How to End Your Dear Diary Project

Whether or not you planned it, some sort of structure and story arc has probably appeared throughout the course of your Dear Diary Project. With only a few days left in the month, it`s time to start thinking about how you`re going to end your Dear Diary Project and finish your story arc. It`s important to write something which will tie up a couple of loose ends and feel satisfying as an ending to both you and your character.

There are lots of ways to end your Dear Diary Project, and what is most effective depends on you, your character, and what you`ve written so far. You should spend at least a little bit of time during the next few days planning and setting up hints for the end of your Dear Diary Project, whatever that is going to look like.

Here are some ideas for ways to end your Dear Diary Project:

1. A New Journey– Over the last thirty days, I am sure your character has changed, and so have the people around them. It can be surprising how rapidly people change, and how rarely somebody you met a month or two ago is the same person when you meet them again. The changes in your character’s life and psyche can be leading them down a new path at the end of your Dear Diary Project. It may be that your character leaves home now for the first time, or that they choose a career path they’d never really thought about. Whatever it is, the introduction of something completely new will both end the story well and show that the character’s life goes on.

2. A New Friend/Lover– Another interesting way to end your Dear Diary Project is with a meeting. Your character might meet someone new, or they might suddenly realize that a person they’ve never talked to is actually really nice. They might have been waiting for something like this to happen all month, but then again, maybe they haven’t been. Writing down the moment in which they truly gain the new friend or lover, and showing their emotional reaction to it both in the moment and afterwards, also rounds off the story nicely.

3. A Great Loss– We’ve all lost somebody at some point in our lives. Your character is much the same–and if they haven’t lost anyone yet, they’re sure to lose someone eventually. Loss can be a powerful moment in your character’s life, and their reaction to it can show you so much character. As a bonus, this ending gives you extra depth, and an opportunity to let your character really grow. What if they actually stop writing their own diary when you do, because they are so depressed from their loss? It happens to lots of people. We all react to grief differently, and from the point of view of characterization, this is one of the best endings.

4. Something Completely Different– Really, you can end your Dear Diary Project however you want. It’s up to you and your character to find the best ending for your Dear Diary Project. Just make sure that the ending makes sense considering your character and the story you’ve been telling.

Personally, this has been the easiest Dear Diary for me to write, and it will be the easiest to end as well–I decided on the ending more than a week ago. That said, I think it’s also the one I’ve learned the most from. I hope you’ve learned a lot so far. Next week I’m going to talk about how to get the most out of your Dear Diary Project, but in the meantime, enjoy the last few days of your Dear Diary Project.

Have you thought of an ending for your Dear Diary Project yet?

Dear Diary Entry

Today I would like to share with you one of my own Dear Diary Entries, which I hope you will enjoy. My Dear Diary Project is written by Riana, the main character of Moonshadow’s Guardian. At this time she called herself Naomi, and she lived at Home, the gloomy red caverns where demons are sent when they hit puberty and gain access to their powers. She’s just begun swordplay lessons.

Enjoy.

Day Nineteen
Today began with a long run all around the town. I’m slowly getting used to the atmosphere of darkness, what with almost all the stone being black and the gargoyles hanging onto the corners of every building, and the sick, twisted plants growing in the narrow spaces between houses. I still don’t like it, but I’m getting used to it now. The sights don’t horrify me the way they did when I first arrived. Even though it’s only been a couple of months, I feel like I’ve aged a hundred years—I was just a scared little girl when I got here, but now I’m becoming a woman.
A woman who feels like she is always being watched. I swear sometimes I see yellow orbs like eyeballs lurking in the shadows. Sometimes when I’m going to sleep I hear movements outside the door, but if ever I go to check, there is nobody there. The door is thick and wooden and protected by powerful spells—all the doors here are, to keep demons from being killed in the middle of the night. We like to die in a proper fight, around here. But I suspect that the people who are watching me will never actually seek a physical confrontation. If I am to be punished by them, it will be in the official way, and I’ll never get a chance to truly fight for myself. People aren’t really given trials around here. A ‘trial’ around here is really the Family deciding how to punish people they don’t like.

Then again, in the Magi Plains, people don’t usually get trials either. They just get their limbs or titles removed. Sometimes they get banished to some far away place. If it’s somebody really important, or if the crime was really drastic, they might get a trial. The four families don’t like to kill innocents, so if it’s a crime that people are usually executed for, they like to enforce trials. Of course, the judges are all cousins of one of the four families and they usually rule against the poorer party, but at least it’s some kind of trial.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too worried about it. I’m not Merrique’s lover right now, and they won’t actively try to harm me until I am. For now I just need to focus on my training—several hours of repetitive motions, trying to make each one faster than the last one. I’ll fight those battles when I have to.

It’s Tough to be a Writer

Writing isn’t easy. Or perhaps I should say that writing well isn’t easy, even for those of us who have an instinctive grasp of grammar and spelling. Fiction is particularly difficult, because you’re creating new people and giving them new experiences. A good story is something like a tapestry–made up of many different elements and woven for hours upon hours upon hours.

In order to write an amazing book, you need to have a strong setting, strong characters, and a good, non-stereotypical plot. And you’re going to have to rewrite, because you’ll probably realize that your characters aren’t as tough as you thought they were, and your plot’s got holes in it bigger than your windows. And after that, you’re going to have to rewrite again, because on the first two times through you were focusing on the story, not on the words themselves, so you have to tighten it up.

And that’s being generous–odds are that each of these steps will take two or more new drafts of your novel. Ten years isn’t an unreasonable amount of time to spend writing and rewriting your first novel–I’ve already been working on Moonshadow’s Guardian for six, and I expect to spend another year or so on it before I submit it to any publishers.

The scary thing is that once you’ve got a book published, your publishers expect you to be able to have the next one ready for them in a year or two. For the rest of your writing career, publishers will be giving you deadlines, and you will be struggling to meet them while making your work the best it can be. It doesn’t get any easier after you’re published, except that your family and friends will actually start respecting your writing time.

So if you’re struggling to write your Dear Diary Project, slow down. Remember that right now, the only person who really wants you to write is you. Remember that there’s no need to rush into publication. You can’t hurry a book and expect it to turn out well.

You don’t have to be trying to get published to enjoy writing. And sometimes, the desire for publication can make it less enjoyable. Remember that first and foremost, writing is for you. If it’s not enjoyable, it’s not worth it.

So go out, enjoy yourself, and write up some good times.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Today, or sometime this weekend, I would like you to do something completely different–something I’m trying for the first time, too–and write two Dear Diary entries. The interesting part? One will be the character whose diary you’ve already been working on this month, and the other will be a character of your choosing. It doesn’t have to be somebody who will be in the main story you’re working on. It might be more beneficial to you if it can be, because you’ll get more used to their voice as well, but if it’s not plausible at the time you’re writing in, don’t force it.

On this particular day in your character’s life, they’ve met somebody new and intriguing. Have them describe in as much detail as they usually would the moment in which they met this person. Notice the way that your character describes their clothes, and pay particular attention to how they feel about the person and why. You can make the meeting as simple or as complicated as you want. Focus on the emotions of the moment. Don’t forget to have some fun with it.

Then you’re going to write an entry about the exact same meeting from the other character’s point of view. They’ve just met your character for the very first time–how does that character come across? Odds are, what your character thinks about themselves and what other people think of them will be pretty different. Pay attention to what they think of your character and why. It’ll come in handy when writing about them from other PoVs in the future, and when writing interactions between them and other characters in the future.

Have a great weekend, and please share the first sentence from each of these entries.

Staying Motivated When Life Interrupts

The last couple of weeks have marked the beginning of school for many of us. Personally I’m very excited to begin the new school year, knowing that it moves me one step closer to graduation and from there I can begin the rest of my life. I’m also excited because I’ve got some great classes this semester–particularly Aboriginal Studies and Law–but all the excitement in the world doesn’t stop me from catching sick. Which is, unfortunately, what happened to me last week. I spent most of the weekend in bed, so this is a very short post.

Despite my sickness and not getting much done–I managed to forget my school binder at a friend’s house on Friday evening because I was so out of it–I did manage to write a Dear Diary entry each day this weekend. I didn’t do any editing and I did only a little bit of reading, but I managed to accomplish those 250 words of my character’s diary each and every day. I picked 250 as my word goal because it’s not too challenging for me–it still allows me to have time to write other things and to work on my homework–and because it makes the most sense for my character, who would write fairly brief diary entries.

I hope that you’ve picked a similarly easily achievable goal. Just remember each day when you sit down at your computer that you don’t have to write an epic. Your goal isn’t to write a novel this month, and it’s certainly not to drain yourself entirely writing extremely long diary entries. I’ve made the mistake of making the word count goal too high–1, 000 words–for this challenge before, and learned that long winded diary entries don’t really help characterization, they just get boring after a while. Each day is different, but there’s only so much in any given day that’s worth writing about.

Remember that while you are challenging yourself, it’s more important to learn about your character than it is to write x number of words. The goal is to learn a little something about your character each day and to get a little more used to their voice each day. Even if you can only push out one or two paragraphs on any given day, that’s okay. You can still learn something from those one or two paragraphs about your character. And no matter how sick or busy you are, you can always write those one or two paragraphs.

What is the biggest obstacle between you and your writing time?

Journalling Prompt #1

A journal does not need to be simply a recital of facts. Your character’s journal should include facts, some every day things and some unusual events, but it should also include many other things. It’s your character’s space to explore who they are and what they want. Journals can be very therapeutic and can help us all discover ourselves and reach our goals.

Sometimes, when we’re having a hard time, we need to sit down and really think about what’s causing our problems. Not just the surface of it, but what’s really behind it–our own deeper issues. Asking ourselves on paper and then responding honestly can help us reach the heart of the problem and find a solution. Your character might not be the type to do this, but then again, they might be. So I’ve come up with a few basic questions that your character should ask themselves each week, and decided to give you a choice between two every Wednesday. Take each of the questions and modify the pronouns a bit to make them character-specific if you want to write them on the page. If your character isn’t the type to write the question itself on the page, have them writing the entry with that question in mind.

Today’s potential questions are:

What does your character truly want out of life, and what’s stopping them from achieving it?
OR
Does your character get enjoyment out of their life as it is? Why or why not?

And my question for you:

Have you ever journalled your way through a problem?

Picking a Character, Format and Word Count for your Dear Diary Project

There are some important decisions that you have to make before starting your Dear Diary Project. The first, and the most important, is to pick the character that you’re going to use for your Dear Diary Project. After that you have to decide what format you’re going to use for your Dear Diary Project, and what your word count goal for each entry will be. Usually I spend a whole week on the preparation process and write a separate post for each, but this time around I’m in a bit of a hurry so we’ll cover all three today

Picking a Character

This is the most important decision for you to make about your Dear Diary Project because all the other decisions will be based on the character you choose. It’s important to pick a character that you’ll be able to live with for thirty days–kudos to you if you can do this exercise for your villain–and a character who you feel the need to develop more. Remember that you’re going to be working on this for thirty days, and that the odds are you’re not going to ever see this published except maybe on your blog. You want to get the most out of it, so make sure that you choose a major character.

When you’re picking your character, remember that you’re not just picking a person, you’re picking a time period. You can write about them as a kid or even just the thirty days before your story begins. You can write the first time they fall in love, or the first time they thought they fell in love. (Because everybody believes they’re in love at least once before they really are.) Just pick a time that will be interesting to write and that will show a lot about their character and how they became who they are during your story. I don’t recommend writing a Dear Diary after your story, because it won’t really help show who they are when it begins. I also don’t recommend doing it during the story, because then you might get sick of your story. Besides, you already know what happens during the story.

For my Dear Diary Project I’ve usually chosen major characters in whatever novel I happened to be working on most actively at the time. This time around is no different: I’m choosing the main character of my novel, Riana. I’m going to make it during a difficult, but typical time in her life. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to develop Riana and to develop the customs of the place she came from. You should seriously consider what part of your character’s life would be most useful to you to explore. This is a fun exercise, but at its core we’re trying to learn something useful about character, and that’s what you have to remember.

Picking a Format

Because this is a diary, it can come in all different shapes and sizes. It can be made up entirely of poetry. It can include quotes that are important to your character, life philosophies. It can be written as a letter. Or it can be written as a log, with just the date before every entry. Really, it’s whatever your character’s journal would be like. Make sure that the format really speaks to who your character is.

I named this project the Dear Diary Project because the first one I wrote had ‘Dear Diary’ at the beginning of every entry. If that doesn’t fit with you or your character, there’s no reason to stick with it. You could even have a modern-day character experimenting with journalling for therapy for the first time. This project is whatever you–and your character–want it to be.

Picking a Word Count Goal

This should also be based largely upon who your character is. Some characters like to ramble, and they like to think through all of their problems on the page. Some characters will keep a distance even on the printed page. Some are concise and some like purple prose and run on sentences. This isn’t for publication, so the most important thing is to be true to the character.

A really poetic character who journals entirely in poems might have a one page goal instead of a word count goal. A character who’s really busy might have a 250 or 300 word count goal. A character with lots of time who likes to think about philosophy and write down their thoughts might have a 600 or 700 word goal. Don’t make it too long though, as most people wouldn’t seriously write a 1,000 word diary entry every day, and you might find the word count really hard to meet.

What to Remember

To make the most out of this exercise, you need to pick a character who you’re going to spend some time with, and who you need to get to know better. You also need to pick a time (and possibly place) in their life that you know something about, but not too much. Then you need to ask your character what kind of diary they would write–long, short, prose or poetry? Figure it out with your character, and make sure to always let their voice come through above your own.

On Wednesday I’ll talk about starting your Dear Diary Project, and I hope you’ll start writing your character diaries with me on September first.

What is the Dear Diary Project?

The Dear Diary project originated as a very basic idea I found on the Wriye forums. The idea was to write a character’s journal for thirty days. The idea was originally dubbed ’30 Days in the Life of’ but I liked the sound of the Dear Diary Project. I thought it was a great idea, so I did two by myself and then began turning it into a workshop on my old blog to help other writers. It helped me develop my characters on a deeper level and get used to writing in their PoVs. To top it all off, I had lots of fun.

During the month of September, I will be running the Dear Diary challenge once again. The goal is to write one diary entry–it can be any format or length you choose–each day for a month. It helps you develop your character and get into the habit of writing often. Here on the blog I’ll be posting weekly exercises to help you get even further into the mind of your character, and discussing different ways to create a journal. At the end of the month I’ll start talking about starting your own journal and making the most use out of what you’ve created.

I’ll be writing one short–250 words–entry each day, from the point of view of Riana in Home. Riana is the main character in the novel I’m currently revising. She’s a demon, and Home is where demons live. It’s not a pleasant place, but she’s had some adventures there and I’d like to think about them more. It’s going to be a big learning experience for me because I don’t really know too much about Home–I have a basic image, but that’s about it. It should also help me dig deeper into her character and flesh her out.

Over the weekend, think about your characters. Which ones do you feel the most need to get to know better? Which ones have the most interesting stories? Whose background do you want to explore for a month? On Monday, I’ll give you the run down on picking your character, word goal, and format for the Dear Diary Project. In the meantime, go out and have a great weekend.

What are your favourite characterization exercises?