Finding Comfort in Tracking my Reading

I’m sure you’re as tired as I am of hearing about all the “uncertainty” in the world today. Let’s face it, the world has always been uncertain. Excluding the flabbergasting impact the pandemic has had on the total unpreparedness of the United States, 2020 is different only because there is more visibility on issues that already existed. Not to be a total downer here, but these issues aren’t going to go away in 2021 unless we all choose to do something about it.

All that said, I’ve been looking for things that bring a feeling of stability and predictability, such as revisiting favorite books from my personal library. Even if these are re-reads, I keep track of them in my reading journal.

Why keep a reading journal?

I have kept a reading journal since 2006. There’s something oddly comforting about looking over the years at the types of books I read. Some years, it’s clear I was doing research for a new novel. Some years, I was pushing my reader horizons by picking up a lot of fantasy or literary fiction. And some years, like this one, I revisited favorites either to dissect the narrative, or just to have something at hand that I knew I’d enjoy.

My journal follows a light version of bullet journal techniques, meaning I include a:

  • Key to indicate my opinion of the book
  • Index to locate each year (some years span multiple pages/spreads)

Journal key

Photo of my reading journal's "key"

In my reading journal’s key, I have special symbols for the following reading statuses:

  • Started or in-progress
  • “Meh” as in, it was OK but I’d probably not read it again
  • Disliked or hated
  • Liked
  • Quit
  • Loved
  • Try again, as in migrate this title to next year’s list because I didn’t get to it by the new year

And then I have two symbols for the format of the book, because I noticed that I started reading eBooks out of nowhere in 2011, with 2015 being the first year where I read more eBooks than print books.

  • Print book
  • eBook

Noticing reading trends

Photo of my 2006 reading list

This year, I’m back to only reading print books because I’ve been full-time work from home due to the pandemic. I have more than enough screen time with the job and doing DIY home improvement research on my phone, I just have no interest in reading books on my phone or tablet.

I wish I had started this journal back in high school instead of halfway through college. I’ve been seeking out books I liked at the time but didn’t have the money to buy, such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Some books I purchased in college, such as the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, and some I’m now collecting through eBay to avoid spending too much money.

Photo of my 2020 reading list

Of course, I also have been relying on the local library for newer books, but the new books have been such a hit-or-miss that I’ve given up on new fiction for a while. If you’re concerned about the virus transmitting on shared materials like library books, check out the REALM project from OCLC, which is a study tracking how long the coronavirus lives on such items.

What is something you’ve done recently for comfort?

Some friends keep a daily journal, just jotting notes about what happened that day. Some are keeping a specific gratitude journal. For me, it’s my reading and writing journals. Anything to keep me off another screen! I’m even considering going back to writing on legal pads since the thought of opening a word processor makes my skin crawl.

Best,
Belinda

Editing Bullet Journal Tracking for Fiction Writers

Updated November 2020

If you missed it on Instagram (Facebook, Twitter), I completed the first draft of my novella last week and dove right into editing! I’m so excited, that I’m breaking my monthly posting schedule to share the happy news! Now onto my favorite part: editing.

I love editing because there is material to work with. I can print things out, cut them up, move them around. For this novella, I’m doing a combination of analog and digital editing techniques.

Digital Editing Tools

I keep the manuscript in Microsoft Word and sync it across devices using Google Drive. I edit for passive voice, readability (grade level), and adverbs using the Hemingway App. I bought the desktop version, but it’s very buggy, so if you need an editor I’d use the free online version. This will allow me to submit a manuscript edit to my editor, who will find things I couldn’t, even with the digital tools.

Caveat: Digital editors will never replace a human. I use Hemingway to help find my blind spots. I default to passive voice and adverbs, so luckily, this tool helps me. If you have different writing crutches, you might need to look elsewhere for help.

Analog Editing Tools

I have my little desk calendar to tell me how many days in a month I spend on writing (first image in this post). I also created a bullet journal tracker for editing each chapter. Details below!

Typically, habit trackers are for days, weeks, or months. Whatever the unit of time, assign it as your table column headings. For editing, my columns are each chapter, 1 – 33. So it’s almost like a month anyway.

The rows are the habits you’re tracking, or for editing, the lenses you use to edit your work. I have rows for:

  • Plot holes
  • Research
  • No prose contractions i.e. narrative should not have contractions but dialogue can
  • Ready for editor
  • Ready for beta readers

I have space on the page to add more lenses as they come up. I’m through chapter 6 and haven’t thought of anything yet. I have a list of questions I need to address before the book ends, or little reminders I forgot because it took me three years to write the first draft. For instance, by the last chapter, one of the rooms in the house no longer exists. So half of the chapters I’ve touched included me removing that room and shifting where the characters are interacting.

I shared this with the Bullet Journal Writers Facebook group and got a positive response, so I wanted to share in case it might help you with your writing!

Tomorrow, we’ll return to my regular monthly blog post: I participated in a monthly writing challenge (six word stories for thirty-one days). With the release of this book coming in April, I expect to break my monthly posting schedule quite a bit.

Here are some additional resources that can help you: