How To Turn A Journal Into A Book
One of the questions I am often asked is how to turn a journal into a book. And it’s a great question. We often see journals as a place where we dump our stuff, but there are many more uses to a journal than to pour our deepest emotions, thoughts and feelings.
One of my pieces of advice to anyone who is about to embark on writing a book is to get a journal for the journey. I also advise anyone who is about to embark on a journey of any kind to get a journal and write everything down.
If you are anything like me you will have loads of journals for the many different times of your life and the question to ask is the content worth converting.
Before we get to the emotion and cathartic stuff let’s look at some different kinds of specific journal that you might have. Here are just 3 examples and I am sure you can think of lots of others.
Let’s say you decided to pack everything up and travel to some far flung place. You could use your journal to create a rough guide combined with your story. You might turn it into a journaling book for other travellers to use. And it could become a memoir.
Food and recipe journal
In this scenario, you will have stored stories and recipes. Perhaps like me, you amend recipes to allow for my food intolerances. What you can do with this is as the name suggests a story recipe book for a particular market. Like the idea about you could create a journal for others to record their stories and recipes.
This will be your experiences with losing weight (I’m assuming losing it could be gaining). Your highs, lows and successes. No doubt you will have a process for your reader to follow.
Ideas and creativity journal
I have a journal full of ideas and plans and these often become blog posts, courses, books and other products. It’s a great idea to keep a separate journal for moments of inspiration because who knows what rewards they will bring.
When you look through your journal, there will be themes that jump out at you that you may want to explore. As you look through your journal there will be one or several of these themes that will leap out at you.
Before you go any further I have a few questions:-
- Of the themes that jump out at you, ask yourself why
- Which of these themes are marketable? What I mean by this is the resulting book is being looked for by your ideal reader
- Who will read your book? Aka your ideal reader
- Why will they read it?
- What outcome will they get?
- What kind of book could this be? A memoir, self-help or a combination?
- What else do you want to create from this journal content and theme? What I mean by this is, will this become a business idea that you can grow?
- If this won’t become your main business idea, could it become a side hustle?
These questions are designed to help you to uncover the purpose of you turning your journal content into a book.
If you don’t want to turn your journal into a book for others to read, you could type up your entries into a series of books which you keep for you and never sell. In which case you would go as far as step 15 in the list below.
A journal I turned into a book
In January 2018, my spine fractured and as I stared at the ceiling in those first few days, my journal became my saviour. Not only did my spine fracture there were other complications. I found myself going from wandering in the hills with my dogs to flat on my back with breathing difficulties.
Two weeks in and I decided I would write a book. My journal not only became my dump space, but it also held my research and thoughts around natural healing. After about a month I started to write the book. At this point, I didn’t know that I could heal myself, but if this makes sense I knew that my body knew how to heal and it would.
As I was writing the book, my journal was invaluable for me to get my facts straight and know the order of events. Without this record, I would have shared faulty memories.
During the process of writing and healing, I decided what the book would focus on and that would be mindset, finding your root cause and creating a natural healing plan. I also decided that although at my next bone density test my density had increased by 2.2% all naturally, I didn’t want to publish until my bone was normal. It’s a big thing for me.
This means that so far this book has taken me 18 months, by the time I do publish it will be 2.5 years. For this book that is ok. This might not be ok for you if you are keen to build a business around your book.
Another journal I turned into a book…
After writing a massively cathartic book called Journey To Self Love, which I decided I didn’t want to publish, I knew I had to do something. Instead, I created a passion project – a journaling and colouring book called Colour My Life, A Journey To Self Love.
Despite me asking if you will build a business around your book, you may just want to turn your journal into a book for cathartic reasons and to inspire others to know what is possible. My only ask is that you are clear about why.
Other things to consider
Your handwriting. You may find it hard to decipher your handwriting in which case you will have to best guess by reading the content around any words you can’t make out. What you will find is that the story that you are rewriting will make more sense the second time around.
What to put in or leave out: Treat this as a professional project and not an opportunity to name and shame. There is an art to writing a well-balanced book. I suggest that you write it all and then edit the superfluous content out.
You may still be in your story. If you find that feelings arise around the content. You could work with a counsellor, talk it through with a friend or partner, journal about what comes up or leave it for now.
Let’s look at the process and hopefully it will inspire you to do the same.
Step 1: Brainstorm ideas
This means reading through your journals and making a list of ideas that come to you. You are looking for recurring themes that resonate with you. Leave them to reflect and start to whittle your ideas down.
Action: Make a list of the ideas and themes that come to you. Do not censor them. When you are ready, pick up to 3 and get clear about why these and then pick the one.
Step 2: What is your story?
As you look at your themes and ideas, what is the story that brings this book idea together? My two themes are healing osteoporosis naturally and a journey to self-love.
Action: Write a short version of your story and get an idea of how this could support your book.
Step 3: What kind of book will you write?
There are many different kinds of books you could write. Will this be memoir, self-help or a combination? What about a book of journal entries with journaling prompts for the reader? Will you want to use this book for something else, such as building a business around this idea?
Think about the kinds of books you enjoy reading and consider how your book could be written in this style. There is little point writing a book you wouldn’t want to read.
Action: Start to think about what kind of book and why. Also, check out your favourite books for ideas.
Step 4: Who is your ideal reader?
Don’t spend long agonising over this. Get an idea of who this is for. Do the demographics, that’s always pretty easy. Then ask:-
- What are their goals?
- What are their values?
- What challenges do they have?
- What are the immediate pain points?
- Where do they normally hang out to get information (books, blogs, magazines, films, gurus, etc.)?
Action: Draw a matchstick person and answer the questions.
Step 5: What questions are they asking?
This is fairly straightforward, grab some post-it notes and brainstorm 20-30 questions they may be asking you. Put them in some kind order and leave them while you grab a cuppa. Map the questions you think they are asking with the questions you were asking in your journal.
Action: Brainstorm questions and lay them out in an order that makes sense.
Step 6: Map the customer journey
Do a quick map of your journey and consider how you would map this so that it could become a customer journey. You have the questions, and your story so start there. Your journey may well have been all over the place, a book is a more linear medium and you will need to map things out so that it makes sense.
Action: Create a customer journey map.
Step 7: Assess the gaps
What else do you need to add in? This might be some evidence to back up your points.
Action: Access the gaps, and work out where they need to go in the customer journey.
Step 8: Create an outline
The outline is where you make sense of everything so far. You are looking to create flow and a solid structure for your book. At this stage what is helpful is to write under each chapter heading – this book is about.
Action: Brainstorm an outline, put in subheadings and add in this chapter is about.
Step 9: Create a chapter framework
A chapter framework gives as you can imagine your chapter a structure. I ask my clients to extend their what is this chapter about to include:-
- What questions does this chapter answer?
- Key messages
- what does my reader get from this?
- Why do they need to learn this?
- How will I transfer learning – think questions, case studies, stories and how to’s
- The benefits of reading this chapter
- Questions for exploration
Action: Design your chapter framework.
Step 10: Write
Now you are at the writing stage. Write each chapter, leaving the introduction to the end. Keep each chapter separate until you are ready to upload. Do a test write to test your chapter framework and tweak as needed. Make a writing schedule and stick to it. If you are struggling consider blogging your book.
Action: Write to the first draft.
Step 11: Edit
Grab your editing plan and start the editing process. Make sure it flows, and there are no mistakes (or as few as possible). I use Grammarly and WORD’s built-in tools, as well as printing it out and proofing it. I will read it silently and aloud to check. I have a process for editing, find yours make it work.
Action: Find your editing process, create an editing plan, put the time aside and edit.
Step 12: Check the formatting
This means that it’s laid out in a pleasant and easy to read way. You have chapter headings and subheadings. Your text is consistent and spaced properly. What you will find is that when you upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing you will see if this has been achieved and can change it during the upload stage.
Action: Check your formatting. Print a page of your formatting out to check spacing, look and feel, flow and margins.
Step 13: Get a cover designed and write your blurb
Create a cover design specification and get this off to your designer. I use this person on Fiverr who has created these covers for me.
The blurb is the bit on the back of the book and the description on Amazon. If you when you get a proof book you do not have to wait for your designer, use the over design tools on Kindle. It won’t be as gorgeous but it will be fast.
Action: Work with your cover designer to get a beautiful cover. Write your blurb and remember it’s not an essay and has to fit on the back of your book.
Step 14: Upload to Kindle Direct Publishing
Go to your bookshelf create a new print book, follow the prompts on the screen; they are self-explanatory and upload your manuscript. You can assign an Amazon ISBN number for ease.
If you don’t have an account, create one and make sure you enter your tax and bank details first.
You will need to launch the previewer, and this is where you can see if your layout works. I find I have to keep going back and forth until everything is in the right place and believe me; it’s weird how WORD does things.
Action: Upload your book and have patience while you get it right for KDP.
Step 15: Order a proof book
You will see an option to order a proof book. Choose that and wait for the email that tells you how to order and pay. Sit back and wait for your book to arrive. When it comes back, edit it again and go through the process of getting another proof for your beta readers and then your proofreader.
Action: Order your proof book and go through the editing process again.
Step 16: Send your book to your proofreader
This is your final eyes. You have what you call your final manuscript and this is the last step. It should take about 2 weeks and make sure you give them a style sheet of names and terms that are unique to this book. Send them both a printed book and your WORD document.
Action: Book your proofreader well in advance and make sure you feel comfortable with their work before going ahead. Stay in touch with them and answer all questions.
Step 17: Publish
Go through the final stages of what’s needed on KDP and publish.
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