Journaling – The Right (or Wrong) Way to Do It

Journaling for me has always been hard. Not hard as in finding the right journal (there are dozens of pretty choices out there) but hard as in actually writing. I would make a entry, and in three months make another one.

And that’s just not how journaling is supposed to work, right? You’re supposed to journal every day, even if you do something as unromantic as put butter on your toast.

I did that, and the pages of my journal would be so boring IT MADE ME CRY.

Or my journal ended up looking like a scrap book, filled with quotes, word definitions, poems and much more. And dang it, wasn’t journaling about recording when you were in the depths of despair, and when life was a perfect graveyard of buried hopes?

My friend, let me spare you hours of agony and worry and let you in on a secret I wish I had learned years ago.

**beckons you closer**

There isn’t a right or wrong way to journal. There’s only one way:

The way that works for you.

So today, I’m going to show you how I write in my journals, because there are several.

Are you imagining me saying this in a Mr. Collins’ voice, bragging about Rosings’ many staircases? (because I am. Yes, I am a nerd)  


1. The Poem Journal



I was inspired to start this by my friend, Addison. I started it in January of this year. Whenever I feel the Longfellow in me coming out (which believe me, isn’t very often) I just whip out my British journal, and I feel like an Englishman as I write out poems with my fountain pen.


2. The Word Journal


You can see my original post on this journal, here. I love words, and since Ravenclaws are witty and love to learn, this journal is perfect for this.

3. My Life

Isn’t this cover amazing??


This is where I record my frustrations, hurts and disappointments. It’s where I also try to list a few things I’m grateful for, because no matter what I’m going through, there is also something God is blessing me with. 


4. The Bible Journal

This is a journal gifted by a friend, where I record God’s promises, truths, and a thought or two from my Bible study. If I had to pick a favorite, or rescue one from a house fire, this would probably be my choice. 


5. The Quotes Journal

My grandmother bought me this one (doesn’t it look like a letter when you turn it sideways??) This is where I record quotes that stick out to me. Though I must admit, I’m bad about actually writing in this one. It’s easier to just click pins on Pinterest.😊



6. The Ideas Book 

This is where I record book and blog post ideas. Tolkien scribbled down, In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit, on a scrap of paper, but I would have lost that piece of paper, so I have a book to hold those opening lines of books that may one day become famous.

These beauties are here empty, just bursting with potential. That porg one is going to have to be used for something extra special for many reasons, and because, porgs.




There isn’t a right or wrong way to journal. Journaling is about you, recording your life story. It’s about processing your emotions, life, and writing down the beauty you see in the world. 

I like to look at it this way: journey and journal both start with the same five letters: J-O-U-R-N-. 

Journaling is all about the journey.


So how about you ? How do you journal? 

Rebecca Morgan


How to Drive a Story Forward — Follow These 5 Steps – Guest Post by Tessa Emily Hall

I wrote the first version of my debut novel, PURPLE MOON, when I was fifteen years old—and at the time, I wrote the story for fun. For my eyes only. Because of that, I didn’t have much of a plan in place for the plot. When the story was complete, I had a best-selling author review the manuscript—and although she complimented my writing, she told me the plot was lacking. My main character needed a goal.

It was the first time I’d heard of such a thing. Why did Selena need a goal?

I soon discovered that every main character in every good story has a goal. It’s the journey that the character takes in attempt to reach this goal that pushes the story into motion.

I returned to my manuscript and implemented a new goal—and I soon began to see the plot of PURPLE MOON take on its full form. It was no longer a story that followed Selena’s day-to-day adventures; rather, each scene held purpose. Each chapter was built into the framework of this journey toward Selena’s goal and drove the story forward.

So what’s the secret? How can you apply this concept to create stories that your readers won’t want to put down?

Start by following these five steps…

1 – Establish an inner desire and external goal.

If you’re a character-driven novelist like I am, it might be difficult to decide on a plot goal for your main character. But guess what? If you know your character inside and out, then you most likely already have the material necessary to uncover their external goal.

First, pinpoint your character’s inner desire. To find hope? Love? Acceptance?

From there, you’re going to create an external goal that will take her on a journey toward attaining this inner desire.

2 – Pull smaller goals from this over-arching goal.

If you want to keep the momentum flowing, then it’s important that each scene pushes the story forward. It’s difficult to do this throughout the duration of a novel-length project—unless your character has smaller goals to reach that are connected to the over-arching goal.

But don’t make it too easy for your character! It’s the struggle that will spark tension amongst the pages, and it’s this tension that will keep readers sitting on the edge of their seats.

That brings us to our next point…

3 – Make it rain.

Think about it: Do you like to read stories about characters who have everything good going for them? I doubt it.

When the character struggles against forces (and people) that keep her from reaching inner and external goals, then the reader will continue flying through the pages, eager to see if the character survived (figuratively—and literally, too, in some genres!).

4 – Create high stakes—both physical and emotional.

Sure, your character might have a goal—but is it important? Why does it matter to your character? What will she lose if she doesn’t reach this, and what will she gain if she does?

It’s these high stakes that will cause your readers to care for your main character. And when your readers care, then you’ll most likely have them hooked for the rest of the journey.

However, if you create stakes, then you need to understand your character’s motivation…

5 – Understand your character’s motivation.

Your readers will need to know why the character is compelled to reach this inner and external goal.

For example: If your character is a 17-year-old girl who is searching for acceptance, then maybe the external goal could be that she’s hoping to find her first summer romance.

Why is this important to her? What’s the motivation?

Maybe her parents are distant and have never shown her the love that she craves. Plus, if she gets a summer romance, then she could prove to the bullies at school that she isn’t a misfit—and perhaps she could finally make friends during her last year of high school. (Simple story structure, but you get the idea!) It’s this motivation that will create a plot that is realistic rather than simply formulaic.

Now, before I begin on a new project, I do this prep work before writing the entire story rather than afterwards.

Doing this gives me the opportunity to create stories that my readers can’t put down—stories that invite them to join in on an adventure. And no, you don’t have to be a plot-driven novelist to achieve this kind of magic!


# # #

Is it hard for you to develop a plot for your stories? Do you have any other advice for driving a story forward?



Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of Tessa’s first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House in 2018. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website:


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Behind the Scenes of My Writing Day

I don’t know about you, but I love the “behind the scenes” of a movie. It’s fascinating to me to know what went on to make the movie what it was, the makeup, the hair, the props.

I have five of the six movie books for The Hobbit.  And while I was disappointed with the movies, I still love the books, reading what it took to make costumes, the landscape, and best of all, weapons.

Fun fact. Did you know they used yak hair to make the dwarves wigs? Yak hair is stiff and was the consistency they wanted for the dwarves’ hair.

Today, I’m going to give you a behind the scenes look of my writing day — what goes on to make my day successful, and hopefully, productive.  


When do you write?

I usually write in the early morning, about eight to ten o’clock. That is when I’m most alert, energized and ready to pound on my keys.  I can write at night, but by then I’m tired and my writing is not nearly as good — I usually end up erasing it all the next day!

Here is my desk, every square inch covered in writing books. And yes, Rey (my cat), is usually there. I’ve learned to work around her and though she’s always usually in the way, I actually find I write better when she’s around. #mybaby


I rarely write anywhere else other than my room. It stays too hot in the south to write outside, and my house too noisy to write in the living room. 


Paper or computer?

I must admit, I love the idea of writing a book in a journal. The idea of having my story between the covers of a journal is thrilling, but alas, not for me. I know Nadine did it for her upcoming novel, Fawkes, and I found that so cool.

Character sheets, summaries, my synopsis (you, know, all that good stuff) I write on paper,  my actual story I  type on my computer.

Usually while typing, an idea pops into my head, which I frantically write on the first scrap of paper I come across. This has resulted in dozens of small scraps of paper in my story binder, but there is organization in the chaos.


Is there a special ritual you have before you write?

YES! I always (get it? always) take a smell of my House of the Wise candle from In the Wick of Time. Ravenclaw is my house and it’s bookish and writerly and all things me.




Food or drink?


Coffee is definitely a must, and when I sit down to write, l like to have a cup of my favorite flavor, Folgers Simply Vanilla, **whispers, it’s all natural, nothing artificial.** 

Then I pour that vanilla goodness into my favorite coffee cup. 



As far as actual food, I rarely eat a snack while I write. Not only does Rey try to eat it, but eating distracts me from actually writing. And then my fingers get dirty which gets on the keyboards, so yeah, I don’t eat. On the rare occasion I do, I usually eat Lay’s Poppables Honey BBQ Chips.


20180516_101231.jpgI’m insanely happy with how this picture turned out.

After a good writing day, I do reward myself with pizza. Or seafood gumbo. But since pizza is cheaper, it’s usually pizza.



Sometimes the only music I listen to is Rey’s theme on repeat. Other times it’s a mixture of these beauties, the best of best soundtracks. I hope one day to add the Maleficent soundtrack to this collection, because that movie had some awesome music.



Sometimes I even blast Taylor Swift. *runs and hides* Sometimes it’s just a Taylor Swift kind of day and she helps me focus on my writing. You’ve heard writers are weird, I’m living proof.


What is near the place you write?

Besides my writing books and binder, there is distraction in the form of Pinterest. Pinterest is the bane of my existence. I need my story board open to help me write, but having it open is also, as we say down here, giving the devil a foothold.

I’m addicted to Pinterest and love having boards for everything under the sun and making it aesthetically pretty. If I let time get away from me, I can spend hours on it. **epic fail.**

I wonder if the creators of Pinterest knew this way back when and sat around the table laughing through their teeth. Yes, I am a strange person.

I try to also keep my finished novels in sight, so when I get discouraged, I can see them and say, “it can be done, just push a little harder.” And, you know, close Pinterest. 



**disclaimer. My books are NOT published. I just had LuLu print them for me. Check out Katie Grace’s post on how to do that here.

So there you go. That’s what goes on behind the scenes of writing my book. So how about you? Any special process you do? Anything you eat? Let’s chat in the comments. 

write on, rebecca


How to Organize Your Story World (Even if You Aren’t an Organized Person

Building a story world is hard. You have to create cultures, races, traditions, food, and the list goes on. While many writers (myself included) can find the process fun, keeping up with it all can be overwhelming. Many of my writing friends swear by Scrivener. I tried it, and hated it. I much prefer having it all in a binder, and there is just something so special about holding a binder crammed full of papers in your hand and be able to say, this is my world. 

So today, I’m going to show you how I organize my story world. Do what I do, or shake it up to fit your style. 

****Disclaimer: Please ignore the cat stalking some of the pictures. I couldn’t convince her that the phone was not out for her. 🙂 


This is my baby:


On the front I have notes to myself of things I want said/done that don’t have a place on my scene planner. 



Here I have a outline of what I want to happen in a month’s time. While my world is fantasy and not following a normal calendar, this still gives me a good overview of what I need to happen on a weekly basis. I chose 2016 because I needed Christmas Day to start out the week.


Next, I have a scene chart that I made on Microsoft Excel, showing me what happens, where it happens, the character’s point of view, and the result of the scene.




Next I have my pages of  Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method. That way if I ever get off track or need a reminder of where I want my story to go, my pages are right there.




Next I have my map. You always need your map close at hand so you can remember where everything is.



Then comes the real meat, my characters, places, and other info I need.  For characters, I have descriptions of them and their back story. For places I have descriptions of the landscape: its biome, animals, minerals, etc.

Right now my characters and places aren’t all together. I’ve added the sections as I needed them (for example, a Captain of the Guard just became a major character, and he needed a section of his own, whereas he didn’t before).



In the back I have extra scene charts and empty maps.



So that’s it, that’s my binder! (Look how thick that thing is.) I hope I’ve helped you if you’re struggling to organize your story world. 




Write on,



3 Things I’ve Learned From Writing

Writing is hard. Trying to churn out words to form a plot, characters, and other worlds is draining. It’s not as easy as some think. Doesn’t it just annoy you when people say things like, “You just write don’t you? It’s not that hard,” or, “All you have to do is name people and give them things to do.”

That last one was said to me personally and left me feeling dumbfounded.  Writing is so much more than that. It’s making a character into a real person. Giving him or her feelings, quirks, making them jump off the page till you can believe that they really lived, or leave your heart aching because deep down you know they didn’t.

Writing is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything, because the euphoria of creating a world, people, a whole novel that is completely my own is something I would never trade for anything. *except maybe the library from Beauty and the Beast* 

Today, I want to share with you three things that I’ve learned on my journey. And I hope that it inspires and helps you whatever road you’re on.

3 things.png


When I was twelve years old, due to life circumstances, I had to stop writing. What followed was the hardest four years of my life, till I was sixteen and took up writing again.

For the two years that followed, I dabbled in writing, starting many stories, but never finishing one. Then in 2015 I found the One Year Adventure Novel. That curriculum brought back my joy of writing and in 2016 I finished my novella retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

I went to workshops, met authors and publishers and read writing books. I visited favorite blogs like Tessa Emily Hall’s, reading her posts over and over again.
Then, on August 23, 2017 I finished my first novel. I finished a story, my story. I had setbacks, eight years of them, but I pushed through even when it hurt, when things seemed unsure.

Writing has taught me to persevere, always, to never give up on that dream. Because, as Bilbo so fondly said, “the road goes ever on and on,” and none of us can see what’s ahead.


I had LuLu print the final results. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to hold hard copies of your books……or put them on your head. 


Time Management

Time doesn’t stand still for anyone, so managing it well is important. Maybe you have lots of time, and don’t have to worry about not having time to write.

I’m not one of those people.

I have work, commitments, and am cursed with human limitations by He Who Must Not Be Named. When I was in high school, I realized that if I wanted to write (which in and of itself is time consuming) I would have to make a schedule, and stick to it.

Writing has taught me to have a schedule and stick to it to the best of my ability. Having a set time ensures that in the craziness of life, I have a chance to escape it.

Practice Makes Progress

I know the common saying is “practice makes perfect,” but nobody is ever perfect, neither can they achieve doing something perfectly, especially in the field of writing. Everything I’ve learned from workshops, blog posts, and books has helped me to improve my writing. I’ve noticed and so have others. The more you write, the better you will be.


Write on,


Talk bro,
What have you learned from writing?

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