When I first decided to try my hand at this thing we call writing, one of the books I read on the craft of writing when I, was Elizabeth George’s Write Away. I am a huge Elizabeth George fan. (I know her books are way too long, but I keep coming back for more.) It wasn’t until I flipped through the pages of the book again, that I realized how much of her techniques I have incorporated into my own writing practice. George talks about thoroughly getting to know her characters before she starts her first draft. I have come to appreciate the wisdom of that technique. Now when I get to a crossroads in the draft, I feel confident I know what the character will, or won’t, do in that situation.

One thing I thought about, but didn’t absorb, the first time I read Write Away is Elizabeth George’s practice of chronicling the progress of her novels in a journal.  When you are at the beginning of a project, you think you’ll never forget how you came up with a certain idea or how you felt at a specific point in the writing process. Now that I have completed two novels, I see the wisdom in George’s practice. Writing a novel is a long and winding road fraught with setbacks and triumphs. It would nice to occasionally look back to see where you’ve been. Here is an example of one of the excerpts George includes in Write Away.

I’m trying to work for an hour each day. That’s all I can demand of myself … When I was creating For the Sake of Elena, I became so incapacitated by fear that I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I finally resorted to saying, “These are only words and I will not let words defeat me” in order to get up and get to work. Thus I struggled to the end of the novel.

Journal of a Novel,
August 31, 1995
(pg 47, Write Away)

I find it comforting that someone I admire so much doubts herself at times, too. Since I am near the beginning of a new project, I’ve started a journal to keep track of my process. This way, when i am having a tough day at the keyboard, I can look back and see that on other days, the words were flowing out of my fingers.

Do you keep notes on how a project is progressing? Do ever look back at those notes?