Monday, June 2, 2014


Some aspiring writers have a hard time making the leap of imagination from a journal to a novel.  Yes, it is true that keeping a journal is different than writing a children’s book but the transition shouldn’t be that difficult, should it?  Alas, the gap separating journal from novel sometimes seems wider and more menacing than the Grand Canyon. 

How can you possibly make that leap while holding down a full time job and raising two kids?  Here’s the good news.  The stuff in your journal is quite often brilliant.  You can’t deny that you have talent.  On the other hand, that’s what makes it so frustrating.  You obviously possess the skills required to become a successful children’s author but you just can’t channel that energy into a novel. 
Here’s a suggestion.  Try writing a short story first.
Think about it.  The Brothers Grimm wrote short stories.  So did Hans Christian Anderson.  Most of the classic fairy tales are short stories.  I find it lamentable that the short story is hardly ever discussed in contemporary children’s literature. If you attend an SCBWI conference there probably won’t be a panel titled ‘How To Sell The Movie Rights To Your Short Story’.  I’m not suggesting that we’re about to see a resurgence of the short story.  What am I saying is that a short story can serve as a bridge connecting your journal entries to a completed novel.

For a writer, anytime you can reduce stress and anxiety it increases productivity.  The problem with a novel is that completion often seems too far away, years off in the distance.  It’s like walking from NY to LA.  Is that even possible?  You’d better have a good pair of shoes.  Writing a short story is like walking from NY to NJ.  It may take a while but you’ll get there.

Here’s the magical part.  Through the process of writing a short story you will gain momentum for your novel.  You’ll discover your characters.  You’ll gain confidence and clarity.  Presto, a completed short story may become the first chapter of your novel.  A few interlinked short stories may form the backbone of your book!  By lowering the stakes and taking the pressure off, you may end up tricking yourself into writing an entire novel!  If you end up using this method to become a bestselling author, please send me ten percent of the royalties or a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.  The choice is up to you.


  1. I agree. I haven't really tried short stories, but for me journaling is the lower-stakes writing assignment. Character sketches, drafting a scene, describing a setting - all seem easier to do in a short journal entry.

  2. Great post--but now I'm wondering if my royalties will be equal to a chocolate chip cookie. (Not disparaging cookies, mind you!)

  3. I used my journals from wilderness trips in Prince William Sound as a source of information for a novel.

    I have written one short story that was based on another journal entry from a crazy experience in the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho. At the time I had no idea I'd be writing anything but journal entries....

  4. I keep a research notebook while working on my historical fiction. It's so invaluable, I've written a little love note -- er, ode for it. Come see!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!