Mario Villalobos

Journal for My Novel

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” — Douglas Adams

I keep a journal where I write the thoughts and feelings I have about my novel. I’ve been beating myself up over the perceived lack of quality that I’ve been writing in my novel, like how bad I am, how I will never get into grad school because I suck, and how how I’m just wasting my time writing so much. When my writing’s not going well, my mood changes and I lash out at the only person who cares: me. I don’t know how much of what I’m berating myself about is actually true, but it hurts sometimes and motivates me to do better the other times. If I want to be a good writer, I have to do everything I can to make it happen, and I think this journal helps me get there, especially because I’m hard on myself.

Like with most of my paper journals, I limit myself to a page an entry. I do this because it gives me a goal to reach, and it makes it easier for me to peruse later. I’ve done this with most of my Moleskine journals, and since I’m writing this in the bigger Confidant notebook, I’m forced to write more. I date every page because I love knowing when I wrote something, and I number every page in every notebook I’ve ever owned because it makes it easier to reference other entries. Page numbers also provide a visual way to know how many more pages there are left in the notebook or how much I’ve written in it so far. I really like the blank pages of this notebook. Not being constrained by lines gives each page a unique look that I like, and seeing each line written straight as if on some line anyway gives me pride.

This journal didn’t start off so negatively. It held so much promise. I wrote down character sketches and ideas and outlines and anything I thought would help me write my novel better. As its function evolved into a personal journal, my thoughts turned more negatively. I demanded better from myself, so I decided to write another 300 words in the afternoon. My extra output has really helped me realize how quickly I need to write the first draft because that’s the only way I know how to discover the story I want to write about. I’m discovering my story with each scene I write, and that has meant I’ve written some very crappy scenes. It’s these crappy scenes I’m berating myself about. I shouldn’t because I know they’re crappy and I need them to be crappy so I can improve them during the rewrite.

I keep writing in my journal about how much I want to get to the rewrite already. I have ideas on how to make it better, and I want to write them. I also know, however, that I need to get to the end as quickly as possible because I’m afraid I’ll be stuck in rewrite mode forever and never finish the damn thing. I’m planning to finish this first draft within the next month, and even though I shouldn’t care how crappy it becomes, I will care. It’s going to be hard finishing it with this self-imposed deadline, but maybe that’s something I can write about in my journal.

Instead of berating myself over the lack of quality in my work, I could berate myself about meeting this deadline.