How to Turn a Journal Into a Book: From Draft to Published Work

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So you want to know how to turn a journal into a book? Great choice!

Journals often hold our most personal thoughts, memories, and insights. They’re more than just random musings; they can be the foundation of something extraordinary—a published book!

Whether you’re a newbie writer, a dedicated journal-keeper, or someone with the itch to publish a memoir, this guide has got you covered.

We’re going to sift through your journal pages and extract the gems that can make your dream book a reality.

The Pre-Writing Phase: How to Turn a Journal into a Book

how to turn a journal into a book

You might think your journal is just a personal space for your thoughts. But it’s so much more. Each entry is a tiny seed. Plant it, nurture it, and it can grow into a full-fledged book.

Think of your journal as raw material. It’s the clay you can mold into a beautiful sculpture.

Types of Journals That Can Become Books

Not all journals are created equal, and that’s okay! Let’s break down a few types that work great as books:

  • Bullet Journals: Perfect for turning into productivity guides or how-to books.
  • Travel Journals: These can evolve into captivating travel memoirs or guidebooks.
  • Personal Diaries: Ideal for memoirs or self-help books rooted in personal experience.
  • Dream Journals: A unique base for fantasy stories or psychological explorations.
  • Gratitude Journals: These can make uplifting self-help or motivational books.

Your journal type can point you in the right direction. It sets the stage for the book you’ll eventually create.

Self-Assessment Checklist

Before diving in, let’s make sure you’re ready for this journey. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is My Journal Rich in Content?: Look for depth, emotional arcs, and vivid details.
  2. Do I Have a Core Theme?: Identify the central idea that ties your journal entries together.
  3. Am I Willing to Share My Thoughts?: Publishing means opening up your inner world to others.
  4. Do I Have the Time and Energy?: Writing a book is a long-term commitment. Make sure you’re up for it.
  5. Am I Ready to Edit?: You’ll need to trim, refine, and sometimes rewrite your journal content.

If you answered “yes” to most of these, congrats! You’re likely ready to make the leap from journal writer to book author.

The Planning Phase of How to Turn a Journal into a Book

woman planning to write book

Finding Your Narrative Arc

Creating a compelling narrative arc is a bit like piecing together a puzzle. You already have all the pieces—your journal entries—but now you need to find out how they fit.

So start by laying out the entries that struck a chord with you. These could be ones that are highly emotional, exceptionally insightful, or simply darn good storytelling.

Next, arrange these pivotal entries in a way that forms a journey. Is it a journey of personal growth, a thrilling adventure, or maybe a romantic quest?

Your narrative arc should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Think of it as your roadmap.

If your journal entries make up the scenery, the narrative arc is the highway connecting them all.

Defining Your Audience

Don’t underestimate the power of knowing your audience. It informs almost every aspect of your writing, from the language you use to the examples you include.

To really nail this down, create a reader persona. Imagine the ideal reader of your book. How old are they? What’s their lifestyle like? What are their interests?

Now, every time you make a decision about your book, think about this persona. Would they enjoy a humorous tone or prefer something more serious? Do they want detailed, long-form content or quick, snackable insights?

This persona will serve as a guide, helping you make choices that will resonate with your actual readers.

Creating an Outline

An outline serves as your book’s skeleton. Sure, you could dive straight into writing, but without an outline, you risk veering off track. So, how do you create one?

  1. Main Ideas: Start with index cards or a digital note-taking app. Write down the main ideas or chapters your book will cover. These should tie back to your narrative arc.
  2. Sub-points: Under each main idea, add sub-points. These could be specific journal entries, anecdotes, or insights that support the main idea.
  3. Introduction and Conclusion: Plan your book’s opening and closing. The introduction should hook readers, introduce your core theme, and set expectations. The conclusion should wrap things up and perhaps offer a ‘what’s next,’ whether that’s a call to action or food for thought.
  4. Additional Material: As you lay out your outline, you might find gaps. Maybe you need a chapter that doesn’t exist in your journal or additional information to beef up a point. Make note of these.
  5. Review and Rearrange: Once the outline is complete, review it. Read it aloud. Does it make sense? Is it engaging? Do you find areas that need more oomph? Now’s the time to tweak.

Remember, the outline is not your master; you are its. Feel empowered to make changes as you begin the actual writing process. It’s a living document meant to serve you.

The Writing Phase: How to Turn a Journal into a Book

Choosing the Best Entries

You’ve got your outline and you’re revved up. Now comes the fun part: picking which journal entries get to be the stars of your book. Go back to your outline and see where each entry fits.

If an entry aligns with your narrative arc and speaks to your audience, it’s a keeper. And don’t just look for the longest or most detailed entries; sometimes, a brief but impactful line can say more than a whole page.

Filling in the Gaps

Even the most meticulous journals have gaps. Maybe you forgot to jot down your feelings about a pivotal event, or perhaps you didn’t have time to capture a critical moment.

This is where your writing skills come into play. Use your outline as a guide and begin writing additional content to fill those gaps. Don’t stress about making it sound exactly like your original entries.

This is a new layer, a sort of connective tissue that brings together all the different parts of your book.

Structuring Your Book

You’ve chosen your entries and filled the gaps, so what’s next? Structuring your book. This is like deciding where each room goes in a house. You wouldn’t put the kitchen in the attic, right?

Same goes for your book. Each chapter should flow logically from the one before it. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Opening Chapter: This sets the stage for everything that follows. Use an entry or write new content that grabs attention and introduces your main theme.
  2. Middle Chapters: These form the core of your book. Organize them according to your narrative arc and audience needs. Each chapter should be a stepping stone that moves your story or message forward.
  3. Transitional Elements: You can use short journal excerpts, quotes, or anecdotes as transitional elements between chapters. These give readers a moment to pause and reflect, adding depth to your narrative.
  4. Concluding Chapter: The final chapter should wrap up your journey, offering closure and perhaps even a lesson learned or a call to action for the reader.
  5. Optional – Appendices or Afterword: If you have supplementary material like photos, letters, or postscripts, consider adding these at the end. They can provide extra insight or context to your story.

Remember, the structure is meant to serve your content, not restrict it. Feel free to rearrange chapters or add new ones as you see fit. Your book is a living project, and it’s totally okay for it to evolve as you write.

The Editing Phase: How to Turn a Journal into a Book

old typewriter

The First Draft is Just That—a Draft

Congratulations! You’ve written your first draft. Before you pop the champagne, remember: a first draft is just that—a draft. It’s the raw, uncut version of your book. And like any raw material, it needs refining.

The Self-Edit

Before sending your manuscript off to a professional, it’s a good idea to go through a self-edit. Put on your most critical hat and read the draft as if it were someone else’s work. Here’s how to tackle the self-edit:

  1. Content Review: Check if the narrative flows well and the chapters are coherent. Are there areas that feel forced or redundant? Cut or rewrite them.
  2. Language and Style: Look out for grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and inconsistencies in tone or style. Don’t underestimate the power of good grammar to make your text shine.
  3. Fact-Checking: Especially important if you’re writing non-fiction. Make sure all your facts, dates, and references are accurate.
  4. Read Aloud: Sometimes your ears catch mistakes that your eyes miss. Reading your manuscript aloud can highlight awkward phrasing or run-on sentences.
  5. Get Feedback: Share your self-edited draft with trusted friends or family. Fresh eyes can provide invaluable perspectives.

How to Turn a Journal into a Book and Professionally Edit

Once you’ve self-edited to the best of your ability, it’s time to call in the pros. Professional editors can catch mistakes you might have overlooked and offer constructive criticism to elevate your writing.

Types of professional editing include:

  1. Developmental Editing: This is a deep dive into your book’s structure, content, and style. It’s the most comprehensive form of editing.
  2. Copyediting: This focuses on grammar, punctuation, and syntax. It ensures clarity and consistency in your writing.
  3. Proofreading: This is the final polish, intended to catch any last-minute typos or errors before publishing.

Revision is Key

After you receive feedback from your professional editor, be prepared to revise. Editing is an iterative process; it may take several rounds before your manuscript is ready for publishing.

But remember, each revision brings you closer to a book you’ll be proud to share.

The Publishing and Marketing Phase

Choosing the Right Publishing Route

So, your manuscript is polished and ready to go. What’s next? Deciding how you’re going to publish it. There are generally two routes: traditional publishing and self-publishing.

  1. Traditional Publishing: This involves submitting your manuscript to publishing houses. If accepted, they take care of editing, design, distribution, and marketing. However, it’s a competitive route that can take a long time.
  2. Self-Publishing: This is the DIY option. You handle all the aspects of publishing but have complete control. Platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing make this easier than ever.

Both have pros and cons, so research thoroughly to decide which route suits you best.

How to Turn a Journal into a Book: Design and Formatting

Whether you go traditional or self-publish, your book will need to be designed and formatted. This includes the cover design, layout, and typeface. Some quick tips:

  1. Cover Design: Make sure it’s visually appealing and reflects the tone of your book. If you’re not a designer, consider hiring one.
  2. Interior Layout: Pay attention to margins, line spacing, and font choice. The aim is to make your book easy to read.
  3. Ebook Formatting: If you’re going digital, your book will need to be formatted differently than a print book. There are tools and services to help with this.

Marketing Your Book

A great book deserves to be read, and marketing helps you get it into readers’ hands. Here are some tips to kickstart your marketing:

  1. Social Media: Use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to connect with potential readers. Share snippets, behind-the-scenes content, or even host live Q&A sessions.
  2. Book Reviews: Reviews can boost your book’s visibility. Send advance copies to bloggers, journalists, or anyone interested in your genre.
  3. Book Launch: Organize a launch event, either online or in-person. This could be as simple as a live reading on social media or as elaborate as a themed party.
  4. Email List: An email list allows you to directly reach your audience. Regular updates can keep readers engaged and turn them into loyal fans.
  5. Author Website: Having a professional website gives you a platform to share updates, host a blog, and most importantly, sell your book.

Remember, marketing isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s an ongoing process that starts well before your book is published and continues long after.

Wrap Up to How to Turn a Journal into a Book

how to turn a journal into a book

The process might be long and sometimes challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. So take that journal off your shelf and start crafting your own book. Your story is worth sharing.

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Elizabeth Crane

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