A recent trend in book publishing is building writing journals. The idea, as far a I understand it, is to build a journaling system that ties into an online platform. The hope is to build a skill enough where you can achieve a specific goal. Some journals focus on writing prompts while others are introspective (such as “burn after writing”). However, when I look at the preview of these journals via Amazon’s sneak peek, I can’t help but be disappointed. Usually these “books” are single questions filled with lots of free space. I don’t see charts, I don’t see a system, and I don’t see anything more than a marketing ploy. Perhaps I am missing the “system” behind many of these journals. Here are five things I think these journals are missing.
Missing Journal Feature #1: Math and Tables
This is my top compliant. It’s easier to build a product that is pure fiction then it is to build a scientifically useful product. How do you make a scientifically useful product? Include calculations and table lookups. This doesn’t have to be super complex and can even relate to a number of published psychology experiments. By building a quiz, and corresponding table, based upon a scientific article you give your writing more credence. Without this, the questions you quiz people on don’t have direct merit. One example includes children and marshmallows. The study mentioned looks into how people behave with instant gratification. If you build a quiz that outlines a quick “go here for a simple answer vs solve this for a complex answer” then you can have a table based upon gratification. If someone is closer to instant gratification, they might need different tools then someone who is willing to wait or work for results. This can then be referenced to the initial marshmallow experiment, which allows people to not only understand themselves better, but understand those around them better.
Missing Journal Feature #2: Focus
The next big problem with many writing journals is focus. A lot of authors just want to pump up word count, and I can’t really fault them for that. However, the audience wants to be heading towards a story ending, even it the subject is non-fiction. Why are they doing this? What is the purpose behind writing all these questions and answers? What do they gain at the end of this? Many writing journals only offer warm feelings of completion at the end. What if the end of the rainbow had more than feelings? What if you could get specific rewards, discounts, and resources? There has to be more of a point to writing journals than simply a feeling of completion. That’s because less than a day after completion, the book is forgotten. What’s next should always have an answer. That answer should start at the beginning of every journey and culminate at the end of the journey.
Missing Journal Feature #3: Dictionaries
Sometimes there are many answers to a question. This is where dictionaries can help. If a person can resolve a task, then dig through corresponding dictionaries or resources, that can greatly improve the quality of their experience. This can be done with a number of dictionary like entries. One of the best examples I can think of like this is “Strength finder”. This book has you solve a timed quiz that has many “no right answer” questions. By digging through these questions, the quiz shows you a number of core strengths you have. While this can sometimes feel like astrological charts, the beauty of this system is in taking the quiz once every year or every few years. By comparing your results throughout the years, patterns can start to emerge. Sure, some strengths may ebb and flow away, but some may stay with your results every year. The great thing about this book is that it then provides a dictionary of those specific strengths. Furthermore, you can see how those strengths interact with others. The point of this is that building writing journals with further areas to investigate can lead to more gain. If a fan of the journal completes the exercise, they need to have a place to further investigate.
Missing Journal Feature #4: Branching Books
If a dictionary entry is not enough to contain all the information, perhaps writing branching books is the appropriate next move. This allows the completer of the journal to have a more tailored experience. Ultimately, the better you can tailor the experience to the consumer of your work, the more they are going to get from it. Bringing value to each reader is extremely important because that’s what writing is all about. In addition, readers who experience good value will leave positive reviews and will tell others. If a reader has an impersonal, this really isn’t for me, moment… they could experience buyers regret. That could lead to negative reviews or less sales in the future. The closer you can tailor your experience to the individual reader, the better. Sometimes this is best done with writing branching books.
Missing Journal Feature #5: Feedback Loops
Finally, many writing journals are written and then left out in the rain to rust. They don’t have a method of being refreshed on a regular basis. This is extremely unfortunate, as reader feedback can be used immediately to improve the writing journal. By building a feedback loop, the author of the writing journal can make something that gets better and better over time. One of the best resources of knowledge is past success. However, most people throw this away when they don’t capture or reuse this experience. This is a massive source of waste that shouldn’t be allowed to exist.
There may be more items missing then just these five. However, I think if a writing journal had these areas, it might be worth investigating. Until someone can solve these areas, I am not sure I will spend any of my cash buying a writing journal.