It works out perfectly for me that Adriana asked us to share our journaling techniques just as CCOM is starting The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The beginning of a new book is a great time to reflect on the details of this DIY Master’s program.
- Keep a Character List: I use an index card as a character list bookmark. I find that if I write the names of new characters in my chapter summaries, I lose them. For example, when we read Crime and Punishment, I added each new character to my chapter summaries. I completely lost Kitty’s friend Varenka. Later when she returned to the story and there was that almost proposal from Koznyshev, I was utterly confused. Sometimes I toy with SWB’s idea of a family tree for novels that have lots of related characters, but for now my index card technique lets me easily refer back to my list for those minor characters who keep popping in and out of a story.
- Mark Up Your Book: I write in my book. Gasp! I know! It does takes some getting used to. I underline, bracket, and circle. I draw smiley faces and jot down notes. I write “Ha-ha!” and “Gasp!” and “Boring!” Sometimes I’ll write “Reminds me of….. (a character or scene from another book).” I refer back to these markings when I’m answering WEM wrap-up questions and when I’m blogging.
- Summarize Chapters: I take notes in my journal as I read. A three-page-long Huck Finn chapter isn’t a problem for me to summarize, but those twenty and thirty page chapters from some of our tomes have me scratching my head, trying to remember all that happened, so I read and write, and write and read. What do I write? Factual things such as a sequence of events or a description of a character. I list the page number of great quotes. What else do I write? I make note of words I don’t know and want to look up later. I ask myself questions: things I’m wondering or things I need to reasearch (which I may or may not do). Sometime I take note of events I suspect are foreshadowing. I make connections between the current book and previous novels. I praise, and I complain. “Such witty dialogue!” “So boring! When do authors get editors?”
- Disclaimer:I always take notes in pen, and my paper must have lines. That being said, I am a messy note-taker. I scratch things out. I misspell things. I abbreviate words all the time. I’m sure I’ll never write out the name Huckleberry Finn but instead the boy will be “HF” in my notes. That’s okay because this is a DIY Master’s program with the focus on the DIY!
It’s fun to see how other approach the WEM program. Check out Adriana’s blog for a listing of other WEM students who are tackling the topic of journaling today.