ppw writing tip 9

It’s finally time. Only took 9 posts for me to get to the subject that started it all for me – making my writing better by keeping a journal. Are you ready to hear this writer and bookbinder’s take? Of course you are.

Writing Tip #9 – Keeping A Writing Journal

Since May 15, 2013, I have written in a journal every day. And I mean every day. Travel, food poisoning, the flu–none of those things have stopped me yet. Even when I could barely stay awake for more than a few minutes I managed to get a few words out. Good words? Maybe not. But that’s hardly the point.

I have made writing every day, even if it’s just a line or two, part of my necessary routine. If I can hold a pen, I will write. I’m not breaking my streak for anything.

The majority of those thousands of entries aren’t accounts of my day-to-day life. No, I write about the day-to-day lives of my characters. I note the shorter stories that popped into my dreams. I wander around in the plots and details of my storylines until I have a sense of what’s going on.

It’s been more helpful to my writing than I ever could’ve imagined. All of those tips that say to write every day to improve? They aren’t kidding. I look back on my early entries and I can’t believe I wrote so poorly.

I mean, in my defense, I was 13 and mostly recording the surprisingly dramatic adventures of my toys, heavily featuring all the rubber ducks I had in the tub. The content was always going to be a little iffy. Still, there’s gold in there.

I can look at old entries and find character details buried in the action and words that I love and never would’ve been able to express back then. Even if I never use the characters again, it makes me wildly happy to read their old stories.

In more recent years, my journal has been a fantastic way to keep notes for later. A good chunk of the dialogue in the novel I wrote over the summer came almost directly from what I had written in my journal the year before.

My favorite part is always when I find something I wrote and go, “Wow, I totally forgot about that.” That’s how I know writing every night is worth it.

Why you should journal too

I’ll keep this simple. There’s a ton of reasons why you should journal, and not all of them are just regarding writing. Here’s a few:

  • Writing more = better writing (usually)
  • It’s a great way to keep writing if you have a day job that prevents you from having the time or energy to write.
  • It keeps a record of tiny details about your stories for you to find later – continuity is helpful, y’all.
  • The more you write the more you have to read a year or two down the line – reading my old journals is almost like reading a book, and it never fails to keep me entertained.
  • Someday some ancestor of yours will get to read your notebook and find out what you were like. This may or may not be a bad thing, that’s up to you.
  • When you’re famous and dead your family can sell your books for lots of money or make some literature scholars very happy.
  • Journalling, regardless of what you write, has massive potential for positive mental health benefits.

The Writer’s Journal, The Possum Paper Works Way

Step #1 – Find a notebook you can’t wait to write in.

my journals
Four years’ worth of my journals – including the first book I ever made!

Go into Barnes & Noble (or their website) and find the leather journal that makes you swoon. Hunt down 20 cent composition books during the back-to-school season of sales. Find a journal software or app you can jive with. If you’re feeling extra awesome, order a snazzy Possum Paper Works book or a custom journal from another bookbinder!

Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy. At all. My first one was a $10 Spider-man journal from Walmart, and I got similar style books for most of the first 6 or 7 journals I filled.

Now, I love the Barnes & Noble books. I had two that I got as gifts, and my current journal is another one from their line. I spent $35 for a journal that will last me over a year now that I don’t always write a full page. It’s basically the only thing I’m willing to buy from B&N.

I like lined paper books, because I tend to write linearly when I use pen and I sometimes write more when I use paper. You might be more of a blank-page bullet journalling type (see the end of this post for more resources about that!), or your journalling might be sporadic and on-the-go and need to stay on your phone. Find the book (or app) that sounds like it’ll fill your needs the best.

You can also always make your own book. Just be aware that if you do that…you might not ever want to stop making books…

Step #2 – Figure out what time of day you’re most likely to write during.

This is dependent on a couple of factors. Mostly, you want to figure out when you’ve got at least five or ten minutes of free time, and when you’re most motivated to sit down and focus for a little bit.

I’ve kind of given up on focusing most of the time. I write while scattering back and forth between the TV, my laptop, or whatever else has my attention that night. Sometimes I do actually want to write, and suddenly find myself wishing I had more than 1 page. But I make rules for myself. No more than one page, and these days, no more than 5 entries per 2 pages. It makes sure there’s something written, no matter how short.

A neighbor of mine always writes right after she wakes up. That’s when she’s at her peak. It might work best for you too, writing a few lines before you even get out of bed.

You could write whenever, but I definitely recommend sticking to a set time whenever possible. Making it a daily routine, as regular as your cup of coffee or brushing your teeth, will help you stay with it longer, and thus write more.

Step #3 – Get to it!

Don’t sit there staring at your blank notebook. I know you don’t want to mess up the nice paper or the lovely blank screen. I get that. But come on, dude. You want to write? You’re gonna have to write.

Don’t look at me like that.

This took me nearly a week to write, okay? I get it. Writing sucks. Still. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but…to write, you…have to write.

But it doesn’t have to be all that awful.

Journal to improve your writing – but let yourself write about anything you want.

Write about stories and character ideas. Write tiny sections of dialogue, worldbuilding, that stupid little scene where your characters make a bunch of terrible cow puns.

But write other things too. If you had a crappy day and you can’t think of anything other than whatever drama’s on your mind, write it out. If you need to work through something going on in your life, let your journal be your therapist. There’s a reason journalling is touted for its positive effects on mental health.

Plus, it’s actually a lot of fun to keep a normal “diary” journal too, even if all you write for it is one line at the start of every writing entry like I do. It can show you how far you’ve come as a person and not just as a writer.

If rules help you meet your writing goals, set rules. But don’t be afraid to break them.

Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day.

That’s okay. I promise. You’re not me. I am a dangerously stubborn being. Not everyone works at their best under pressure.

A few years ago, I had to force myself to break my own “one page a day” rule. My mental health was in the toilet, and most nights writing a full page made me feel worse with the stress of trying to come up with enough to fill a page.

One night, I decided I was done. I wrote a few lines, and stopped. I didn’t write again until the next night.

Not once have I regretted it.

Let yourself take breaks. It’s as important in journalling as in everything else in the world. Not every novel has to be a masterpiece, and not every journal entry has to be something you’ll ever look at again. That’s fine.

I promise.

"A writer’s journal must not be judged by the standards of a diary. The notebooks of a writer have a very special function: in them he builds up, piece by piece, the identity of a writer to himself." - Susan Sontag

Have fun with it.

Use your favorite pens. I started with Uniballs I had lying around, then got more as I found out how much I adored them. I used a red pen every fourth night to switch things up.That was the extent of the “fun” of the journal, other than the joy of writing.

About when writing started getting hard, I started using a different kind of Uniball, with a bunch of their colored Signos brightening up my collection. It made a huge difference. One night more recently I was feeling lackluster again and I used a Papermate Flair pen that I’d just gotten. I doodled all over my margins, and while my writing wasn’t as hot, the emotion was there, and I actually managed to get a bit done.

It makes a difference, if you can have a little fun with your journal. It really does. 

Just remember, if it’s hurting you more than helping, stop and re-evaluate. Writing itself isn’t always fun. That doesn’t mean you have to make yourself feel worse by doing it.

Finally, it’s never a bad idea to tag your entries.

Man, I wish I had started doing this as soon as I started writing.

What I mean by tag is have some kind of short word or acronym you can use to show what you wrote about on any given day.

I have dozens and dozens of stories. The shorter ones don’t tend to get tagged, but if it’s taking up more than three nights of writing, I try to always put a little note up by the date of the entry that tells me what the story or universe I’m writing about is.

If that tag’s not there, and I’m trying to find a specific bit of information, I’ll fly right by the page and never find it. When you’re dealing with hundreds of entries, that’s not ideal. At all. Trust me on that.

my journal
A set of recent pages from my journal. Note the lines up top with the one word tags! And the way I just kinda gave up on the red entry…

Need more inspiration?

Not enough guidelines? Not the type of journalling you’re interested in? Don’t despair!

My own Pinterest board of journal inspirations has tons of images and how-to guides sure to inspire your own notebooks, so be sure to check it out!

Here’s a couple of writers with their own tips on keeping a journal:

Cole Smith Writes

This post looks at a more traditional style of keeping a writer’s journal – and has free journalling resources.

Nicole C. W.

A collection of 7 categories of things to put in your journal.

TCK Publishing

How to use bullet journalling methods for writing!

Megan Rutell at Page Flutter

A super in-depth look at Megan’s personal writing journal, filled with tips and tricks for you to borrow.

Happy writing!

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Other writing tips can be found here.

Need a place to put your writing? Check out my line of notebooks on Etsy!

For your pinning pleasure:

writing tip 9 journal summary

writing prompt literary list graphic

Howdy! Here we have a new list of writing prompts for your perusal, featuring fantasy-based works. And apparently most of the fantasy and sci-fi books I have hard copies of are by cis white guys… 🙁

We can make it work.

Writing Prompts – White Cis Guys Fantasy Edition

Okay. I do read fantasy and sci-fi written by people other than cis white guys, I promise, I just haven’t bought new books in a while. I don’t have easily accessible copies of the Charlaine Harris, Seanan McGuire , and Kim Harrison books that I’ve enjoyed in the last year, nor can I include Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, having lent my copy to a friend.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t like the books that I selected from. Quite the opposite – the 7 selections here all come from books and authors I love. And one TV show. I have a massive book with all the Firefly scripts.

Although, whenever I read H.G. Wells I can pretend that I’m reading a book by a bad-ass bisexual lady, thanks Warehouse 13. And look, The Invisible Man is just a deliciously creepy book with a strangely sympathetic monster. I do love a good monster.

Anyways, as always, change things up and don’t be a plagiarist.

Actually, that’s your mission for this assignment – mix these prompts up into something new! Fantasy and sci-fi needs more diversity, and it starts with the stories being told. I can’t do it alone, friends.

Alright, so let’s delve into my unfortunately white guys heavy collection of science fiction and fantasy, and use these prompts to make it better. Honestly my brain has started writing a story already just from the prompts I’ve found. I hope they inspire you too.

7 Fantastical Writing Prompts

“Why come to me? Why not a private investigator?”

“Because you know about…” She gestured, fitfully.

“About magic,” I said.

Storm Front, Jim Butcher

“But it gets dark.”


“Aren’t you afraid?”

“Of what?”

“The dark.”

“Why should I be?”

– “Pillar of Fire,” Ray Bradbury

“What happens to the soul of a man who dies between the stars, far from his native world?”

– “The Haunted Space Suit,” Arthur C. Clarke

“The girl is a witch!”

“Yeah. But she’s our witch.”

Firefly Ep. 5, “Safe,” Drew Z. Greenberg

“There have been no wizards since [him], and you would never in this world  have beaten him. But I tell you this – he would never in this world have beaten you.”

“I am ready then.”

The Princess Bride, William Goldman

“I could have swore I heard a voice.”

“Of course you did.”

“It’s there again”

“Don’t be a fool. You think I’m just imagination? Just imagination?”

“What else can you be?”

The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells

“Where is she?”

“Gone. The darkness took her.”

Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

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Other writing tips and prompts can be found here.

Need a place to put your writing? Check out my line of notebooks on Etsy!

For your pinning pleasure:

white guys writing prompts pin

writing tip 8 character sheets graphic

Howdy! Today we’re looking at a tool that has helped me immensely in the past – character sheets. Yes, like the ones you make in D&D campaigns. Sort of. Stick with me here – free stuff on the way!

Writing Tip #8 – Character Sheets

I love writing characters. By love, I mean I write stories about characters, not characters within stories. It’s very rare for me that the plot comes before the people that live through it.

Back in the early days of my writing, I wanted to find a way to develop the little things about those people better. Somehow (probably via Springhole), I discovered the all-powerful concept of character questionnaires.

I’m a strong believer that the best characters are the ones who have more aspects than even the writer can ever fully know. Those characters are the ones that seem like humans in their own right.

Like weird magazine interviews, making character sheets can help develop your characters into full fledged people.

Before you know it, you’ll have things to slip in about your characters that surprise even you. You can find out that your quiet middle-aged librarian is really into hockey and EDM. It happens.

Character sheets can also help you keep track of the little things. The stupid tiny details that you forget and make you want to scream. Like what the name of your character’s guinea pigs are. That isn’t something you want to forget.

My list is a combination of multiple different character questionnaires I found around the web. I edited the questions to serve my own purposes. Mostly, I made it easier and faster. Most rows can be filled with only a few words, but there’s lots of sections for creating a detailed portrait of your character.

If my suggestions don’t work for you, I recommend looking up other worksheets. Shorter versions (or longer) might work better for you.

As always, don’t take my word for law! Part of the magic of writing is finding out what works for you.

Start with the basics.

Just beginning? Write down the simple things – what your character might have on their IDs, what they fill out on application forms.

Name, nicknames, gender and pronouns, age (approximate is okay), birthday, height and weight, distinguishing physical features, if they wear glasses or contacts, what languages they speak or otherwise know, and if you want, the MBTI personality type that best describes your character.

These are basic things that you’ll want to keep consistent. Trust me, you don’t want to forget that yes, your character does wear dark glasses so no, you can’t write about what their eyes are up to.

True story.

Move onto the external.

What’s your character’s place in the world? Specifically, look at the relationships they have with other people.

Your character’s family, marital status, sexuality, significant others, pets, closest friend(s), other friends, enemies, other relationships, ethnicity and/or race, and religion are all good things to consider.

If you’re working on two or more characters, keep in mind that the relationships one character values might not be the same as the other person. Just because Person A considers Person B a close friend, Person B might not think of Person A that way.

Play around. Some of the best conflict in stories can come from knowing how your characters interact.

Get physical.

No, I don’t mean fight your characters (unless you want to). I mean dig into their physical presence. You’ve already covered how they look generally. Now you want to look at the other details, the kinds of things a good actor or con artist could change in an instant.

To start, figure out their what their diction (word choice) is like, how fast they talk, if they have any natural accents, and other speech patterns. Do they have any particular mannerisms (behaviors)? What’s their general demeanor like?

You can also look at how they groom themselves, what their usual physical posture is, what gestures they make often (including nervous tics), and what their handwriting looks like.

All of these details can make it easier for you to describe your character, and thus create a stronger image for your reader to imagine.

Work, home, and other fun things.

Find out your character’s education level and any degrees earned. What’s their job? Do they like it? Where have they worked in the past? What’s their financial situation?

Figure out where they live. That can be the country, the city, or right down to the street number, if that’s what you want. Are they an owner or renter? Do they live with anyone else?

What do their main living and working spaces look like? Are there any other places they spend a lot of time? How do they usually get to all these places (car, bus, horse and carriage, private helicopter, etc.)?

I have spent more time than was logical researching tiny details about Baltimore, MD to fill out this section for a set of characters. Don’t do that. Unless you really like figuring out bus routes. In which case. You do you. No judgement.

Likes and dislikes.

This is a fun one. And often quite challenging. Don’t let it fool you. Figuring out what characters like can get hard.

Like hobbies. Some people don’t even consider themselves to have hobbies. It’s your job to figure out what your characters do in their free time. Even if, as a friend of mine said, their hobby is just vibing.

What are their eating habits and food preferences? What’s their sleep schedule like? What kinds of books, music, TV, and other entertainment do they like? Any specific titles?

You’ll also want to think a little about how they dress. It can be as simple as what kind of shirts and pants they wear, or as detailed as a link to a Pinterest board. If there’s any special accessories that are important, like wedding rings or other mementos, make sure to make a note of that too.

Any quirks? I don’t love that word, because normality is both fake and overrated, but hey. We’ve all got those little things we do that most other humans don’t.

Become a doctor.

Not literally. Just a WebMD doctor, if you get really into it.

What’s the general health status of your character? Are they perfectly dandy, on death’s door, or somewhere in between? Any allergies, chronic conditions (including mental kinds), disabilities, or addictions? Do they take medications – or magic repressant potions? Your call.

If relevant, a detailed medical history might help you keep track of more complex backgrounds.

Just please, please, please, don’t define a character entirely by their mental/physical ability levels. Been there, done that, still mad at my younger self for thinking that was cool. People are complex. Your characters should be too.

Get inside their head.

Time for the fun part. Figure out what it’s like to be inside your character’s brain.

Ask about their fears and their secrets. Find out their general outlook on life and humanity/people, and how they approach both. I write a lot of surly-ass cynics with hearts of gold. Whee.

What makes them the most comfortable? Most uncomfortable? Their greatest wish, greatest fear, greatest strength, greatest weakness? What otherwise stresses them out?

Consider their political/ideological stance, both in relation to specific parties (if applicable) or general ideas. What would they think about welfare programs? Race and gender? Global trading? Go big or dig deep. Ask what they value. Find their prejudices, fair or not. You don’t have to like everything about your character.

That said, other characters won’t love everything about any given person, either. Investigate what other characters think about your character. Discover what your character thinks about themself. Any conflict between the two? Capitalize on it.

I’m fascinated by asking my characters how they feel about free will and fate. It’s rarely a simple answer, but it can define many of their actions and reactions. How does a believer in free will justify bad decisions? How do the faithful hold their faith after tragedy strikes?

If you want to get really deep, ask how your character themself would react to being asked about any of these things. What would they lie about? What do they want to believe about who they are?

Anything else?

If there’s anything else relevant to your character that you haven’t included, write it down!

Remember, character sheets are for your reference. Don’t skimp out. If you couldn’t find another place to detail the wild history of your character’s crocodile-wrestling adventures in Egypt, tack it on.

If you’re lost for plot points later on in your process, character sheets can help you find the little bits of conflict and humanity that make fresh ideas smash into your brain. Those weird hobbies you vaguely mentioned? Well, turns out the heist needs a badminton expert now. Those guinea pigs? Your character has a side gig photographing them for Instagram.

I dunno, man, it’s your character. Go with it. The better you know your character, the easier it is for them to tell you their story.

And isn’t that all we’re trying to do?

Make your own character sheets!

Free PDF file for your own use, based on the details outlined in this post! Just download and print!

Possum Paper Works Character Template

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Other writing tips can be found here.

Need a place to put your writing? Check out my line of notebooks on Etsy!

For your pinning pleasure:

writing tip 8 pin

possum paper works product roundup

Heads up! This post contains affiliate links. For more information about what an affiliate link is and what they mean for you, see my privacy page. I only recommend art I love!

Pencil Product Roundup

I have a love affair with pencils. Most writing implements, actually. Maybe it’s a writer thing (most writers I know hoard stationery, even when writing mostly on the computer). Maybe it’s an engineering thing (I know multiple people in STEM who can rate recommend a pen or pencil as well as any professional website). Could be I just really like stationery. And oh, I do.

I love Ticonderoga wooden pencils. The feel of a new one in my hands is magical. I’ve been lusting after Blackwing Pencils since I found out they exist. I have boxes full of super cheap promotional pencils that I will never use, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get rid of them anytime soon.

My Pencil: A Love Story

The mechanical pencil I use for most everything came at the recommendation of a fellow engineering student I met in high school. She’s one of the stationery connoisseurs I mentioned earlier. I was always so entranced when she’d pull from her bag a metal mechanical pencil or a working fountain pen, just for everyday note-taking.

I asked all the questions, of course. What the writing implements were, where they came from, how could I find one for myself, what the best kinds were. She recommended the Pentel GraphGear series, probably the most engineering-y pencil to ever exist at a reasonable cost.

The set I bought later that year came in a pack of two. Four years later, I have yet to need the second one. Sure, the first has run out of lead multiple times, and I’ve lost the eraser cap, and I’ve nearly lost the clip, and I have to use a cap eraser now instead of the tiny one that fits into the top – it doesn’t matter. That one pencil has pushed through every challenge of the last 4 years. I will keep using it until it disappears or breaks in half.

I love my pencil.


You probably didn’t need to know that. But now you do! Maybe you feel the same way about a pencil yourself – if so, you’re in the right place. I’ve made a collection of 10 awesome art pieces that honor the mighty pencil for your perusal. They would all make fantastic gifts for your favorite creator (including yourself), and all works directly support the artists who create them!

Without further ado, here’s the pencil product roundup!

pencil art roundup

1) Hive Five Studios, Cross My Art Hope to DIY Enamel Pin

This pin is adorable. I love the tiny flowers mixed in with the hands, and the detail on both the pen and pencil is fantastic.

2) YEAHYELHSA, Holographic Pencil Vinyl Sticker

Psychedelic, man. I dig it. This would look so great on a laptop!

3) Leebobawitz, Keep Creating Pencil Hard Enamel Pin

I love all of these? The black one makes me think of my beloved Ticonderogas. I would put any one of them on a bag or jacket in an instant, though.

4) Amber Pitcher, Blush Pencils Carry-All Pouch and Pencil Mountain Poster

Amber Pitcher’s got multiple snazzy pencil designs that come on all sorts of products at Society6. Most are in these lovely blush palettes, though there’s also some black pencils. I love the bold graphics of the poster, but the little bag would make such a perfect pencil pouch! You know, for all of a fifth of my collection, maybe.

5) Betsy Roo Creations, Resist Pencil Art Print

Beautiful. This stamped print would make a great addition to any desk or workspace. I’d frame it and pop it onto the top of my desk, the perfect reminder that art should always challenge something.

6) Rostislav Kralik, Peace Of Mind Art Print

In a change of direction, I checked out Fine Art America’s selection of prints, and found this gorgeous photograph. I love the intense black and white contrast. It almost feels too fancy…

7) Dollopheaded Merlin, I Can Speak So Much Easier With My Hands Notebook

Same. No, really. Verbal communication? Not my thing. Written? I’m here writing, aren’t I? Chances are, you or a writer you know feels the same way. I love that this design comes on a notebook. Perfect for any verbally-confused writer like me.

8) Picomodi, Never Stop Creating Art Print

This bold design would look amazing over a writing desk. All writers and artists need reminders to create sometimes.

9) Shiny Dangly Bits, Pencil Earrings

There are so many cool pencil earrings out there. This pair is made of resin, but other people use scrap bits of wooden pencils to make their art. I love that concept, but I would never wear them – I don’t need to stab myself on accident. These cute little earrings (with dull points) make much more sense.

10) Pietari Posti, Big Pencil Art Print

The weirdly circus-style colors here make writing and art seem much more fun than they actually are most of the time. Maybe that’s motivational? Yeah, I dunno. But I love this bright design. Almost as much as I love pencils. Almost.

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Check out more product roundups here!

If you’re still hungry for more arts to shop, may I recommend my own lines of notebooks on Etsy and my art on Society6 and Redbubble? Your support is much appreciated and helps keep this blog running!