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15 Journaling Questions for Fiction and Life

When I was in middle school, I started keeping a journal where I wrote about my life, pretty much daily, and kept record of the things that happened to me and my thoughts and feelings about all of it. I did this my entire life on and off, and still to this day I have all of my old journals from growing up. (I don’t know if I’ll ever read them again, but I love having them.)

Keeping a journal is something I do now too. I don’t always detail what’s happening in my life. Sometimes I do. Other times I’m freestyle journaling on questions about life or my dreams or beliefs or purpose or whatever bigger questions are on my mind that day.

And it turns out journaling is not only a great way to document your thoughts and feelings about life, but it’s also great for problem-solving and coming up with ideas.

I now use journaling for pretty much EVERYTHING—from thinking through life to planning out stories to documenting what’s going on to writing my reality to coming up with new products and workshops, and more.

So I thought I’d share 15 of my favorite journaling prompts for writing fictional stories and for life. My recommendation is to do freestyle writing on each of these questions, just to see what bubbles up. Write them by hand if at all possible.

For Fictional Stories

1. What is this story about?

I love this question because it cuts right to the core and doesn’t mess around.

2. Who is this person, really? 

When it comes to developing characters, the more real and three-dimensional you can make them, the better. Asking questions like this will help you do that.

3. What made this person who they are today?

Backstory is an important part of creating a strong character. This question is great for digging deep into that.

4. Why does this scene need to be in the story? 

Scene writing is the actual execution of a story on the page. A question like this will help you ensure your scenes are mission-driven and have a purpose that moves the story forward.

5. What happens in this story?

Another question that points to the plot of the story and figuring out what it is. A story must has something specific happening—an opportunity, a problem to resolve, etc.—otherwise it will become episodic.

For Generating Ideas 

I LOVE journaling for uncovering ideas that are already inside me, I just have to get the junk out of the way first. I recommend doing these prompts as either freestyle writing or as a list.

1. What should I call this book?

Book titles can be challenging to come up with because you need to get one that will tell the reader what to expect while leaving some intrigue. Write down as many ideas as you can think of, even if you think the idea sucks and you’d never in a million years call your book that. By writing every idea down, you’ll get the sucky or crap ideas out of the way so the good and great ones can come through.

2. What should my next book be about?

I love to brainstorm and I’m constantly writing down ideas for books, blog posts, guest posts, products, workshops, you name it. I don’t create everything that I write down, but by generating ideas on a regular basis, I’m able to tap into my creativity and uncover gems that I do create and put out into the world.

3. What do I want to create right now?

Whenever I’m in the mood to be creative but don’t know what I feel like creating, I’ll ask myself this question. Whatever pops out that feels like a HELL YES is what I choose. Sometimes that’s baking a dessert or making a craft or writing a short story or drawing or creating a new product or workshop… whatever I feel in the moment.

4. What book could I write right now?

This one is similar to number 2, I just like this wording and feel it brings out a totally different response in me. So I use this question all the time to brainstorm my next book idea. And I often get multiple ideas that I really like, so I’ll add them all to my running ‘write this’ list. It’s impossible to run out of ideas when you’re constantly generating them.

5. How can I make this better?

Whenever I ask this question it always takes the thing I’m asking it about to the next level, whether that’s a scene in my story, a product I’ve created, a workshop I’m teaching or a book I’m writing. Ask this question. Ask it often.

For Life 

And now the journaling prompts that relates to life. I love these because they force you to see the issues or areas of life that you’ve been ignoring or pushing away. Confronting at times? Sure. But worth it.

I recommend you freestyle write these as well.

1. What do I want?

You can’t get what you want in your life if you don’t know what you want. This question will get you clear on exactly what you want, so you can start going after it.

2. Why do I want it?

This question is super important! Because you can’t just want something just to want it. Well, OK, technically you can, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it. You need to have a reason for why you want it. The “why” behind the things you want will be the driving force for you actually getting them.

3. What do I need to be doing in my life every day that I’m not doing right now?

I told you it was a little confronting, but it’s also a great way to recalibrate your life on a regular basis. I’m always asking myself this question and adjusting course where necessary.

Alignment is important when it comes to achieving your goals and the success you want in your writing life. If you’re not aligned—for example, if you want something, but you’re not taking the actions required to get it—then it won’t happen. Alignment is everything.

4. How can I take better care of myself right now?

I like this question because as a writer, your body and your mind are your tools for doing your work in the world. And it’s hard to do your writing consistently or at the level you want to do it at when you’re not taking care of yourself.

This will help you identify the places where you could be doing a better job.

5. What does my dream life look and feel like? 

One of my all-time favorite questions and one that I ask myself almost daily. Not just in my journaling but in my visualization practice too. Because the more I know about what my dream life looks and feels like, the easier it is for my to picture it and feel it as real.

Give one or more of these a try and if you get something really good out of it, I’d love to hear about it.

Write with a purpose, live with intention,

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. Are you currently revising a story or getting ready to? I’ve got something awesome coming later this week that will give you a process and a strategy for getting your story revised and ready to send to an editor and Beta Readers. 

More details soon… Get on my email list so you’re the first to know when it goes live and you’ll also get my free training + workbook–From ‘Eh’ to ‘Awesome’: 9 Questions to Turn Your Idea Into an Actual Story. 

Here’s Why Most Story Ideas Are Totally Lame-Ass (And What To Do About It)

How many times have you had a writer-friend (or someone in your writing group, etc.) say to you, “I’ve got the best idea for a story!” but then when they tell you what it is, it leaves you thinking: they need to learn the definition of “best” (and the definition of “story”)?

Welcome to the world of agents, publishers and writing coaches.

There are millions of writers out there who all want to write a story. Problem is, most of them have really lame-ass ideas.

I can’t even tell you how many story ideas I hear on a regular basis that start out with something really generic–I want to write a story about love in the south. Or my story is about a girl who escapes a bad home life. Or it’s a coming-of-age story for a boy who just wants to be in a band.

LAME. AVERAGE. EVERYDAY. And that is NOT what great stories are made of. 

Sure, a great story may start with something kinda lame, average and everyday, but with the right information and creativity injected, it becomes something much better.

Just think if J.K. Rowling came up with the idea to write about a wizard-boy, and then just left it at that. LAME!

Because while the day-to-day life of a wizard-boy may be interesting to you–and maybe even interesting to some–it’s not ever gonna be enough to make your story stand out among the sea of stories about wizard-boys. You need more than that.

You need something high-concept. You need a freaking Concept, period. You need a bad guy and a Premise for the story

And it’s kinda hard to have those things when you’re constantly settling for less-than-average story ideas.

Where the Real Problem Lies

The real problem for most writers isn’t that they have lame, average, everyday ideas (although that is the problem for some of them). The real problem is that most writers aren’t generating enough ideas in order to actually uncover the ones that are worth writing about.

So they settle for some half-baked, lame-ass idea, because it’s all they can come up with.

And that’s what’s really sad. Half-baked, lame-ass ideas are career suicide for writers.

Writers who write and publish ideas like that are the reason so many writers believe that it’s “hard to be a successful fiction writer” and “writing fiction can’t possibly be a full-time career” and “successful self-published novelists just got lucky.”

But the truth is…it’s none of that.

The truth is, those fiction writers who have created success did so because they didn’t settle for the first idea that came to them. (Which is another reason why it’s SO important to plan and develop your story before you write it–but that’s a whole other ball game.)

And if you’ve ever had that experience I just described–where no one is buying your novel, no one is leaving reviews and no one except people related to you are telling you that your story is any good–it’s time to own up to the fact that your story is probably pretty freaking lame (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). 

You Need To Do THIS Instead

If you want to avoid being one of those writers who either spends their life pitching and re-pitching and re-writing pitches and getting rejected by a thousand agents and publishers who all pretty much say the same thing–“this story sucks”–or who self-publishes a novel, only to hear crickets…you have to STOP SETTLING.

Settling is for writers who don’t believe enough in themselves to wait for–or keep digging for–the golden idea that will take their story to a whole new level. (Another reason why planning is so imperative.) Writers who settle do so because they’re afraid that’s the only idea they’ll ever have, so they’ve gotta run with it while they’ve got it. 

And some writers who settle have even convinced themselves that the lame-ass idea is actually pretty good (delusions that will get you no where).

But you’re not a settler, right? Because you know that you want an actual, real shot at having a successful fiction-writing career. 

And to have that actual, real shot at success, you’ve gotta have a kick-ass story. Anything less just won’t cut it.

Here’s How To Cultivate Better Ideas

There’s an exercise that I do on a regular basis to help me generate killer ideas–for fictional stories, for nonfiction eBooks, for blog posts, for video posts, etc. You can do this exercise with pretty much anything you need to generate an idea for.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Get out a notebook or a piece of paper
  2. At the top of the page write an intention for what you want to generate ideas for (for example, “Books I can write” or “Stories I can tell”)
  3. Make a list of 30-50 ideas that fit under whatever you set as the intention (an alternative version would be to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and generate as many ideas as you can ’til it goes off)

Now the point isn’t to come up with 30-50 really awesome ideas. Not at all.

The point is to come up with 30-50 bad or so-so ideas, which then clears a path for a really killer idea to come through. Sometimes it comes though on the actual list. Other times it will come through afterward because your mind is free and clear of all those mediocre ideas.

That’s the thing about the mind–it takes in SO much information on a daily basis and you’ve got SO much going on inside there. It can make it really, really tough to “hear” the great ideas (or even the really good ones) when you mind is clogged with crappy, average, lame-ass ideas and thoughts.

This exercise will help you clear those out so you can finally have access to the ones that are actually worth writing.

You Can’t Just Do It Once

A lot of times after I teach this exercise to writers they’ll try it and then say to me, “I did it, but it didn’t work. Or I didn’t come up with anything great.” To which I respond, “Do it again.”

Generating ideas isn’t something you do once or only when you need an idea. No, idea generation should be something you do on a regular basis.

I have “idea generation” on my to-do list DAILY.

Now I don’t always come up with 30-50 ideas. Sometimes I do 5-10 or sometimes just 5, but the point is, I make a focused, conscious effort to continuously generate ideas every day.

By doing this, I get my mind thinking in the right way and focusing on the right things: better ideas.

Most of what I come up with is total crap that I would never do anything with. But every time I do this exercise, I always come up with 1 or 2 really killer ideas that I can act on right away.

And that’s the whole point.

Share With Us

Give this exercise a try and then come back and report in the comments how it went for you. 

It’s almost time for my sixth-annual fall story planning workshop!!! (Perfect for NaNoWriMo prep.) This year I’ve got the best version of this workshop ever… more details coming later this week. Get on the waitlist right here to be the first to know when the doors open (and to get access to a special Early Bird Bonus).