Using Your Writers Bullet Journal to Write Romance

All the month of February, in honor of Valentines Day, we will be discussing how to write Romance!

Now, while that automatically calls to mind Romance Novels and possibly Erotica, we are not going to be talking much about that. Mostly because I don't read it.

What we will mostly talk about is Romance as a subgenre and as a side quest or side story. Chances are unless you are writing very specific genres, like Grade School chapter books or very specialized literary fiction, you are gonna want to write a romance thread in your story.

Now, I bet you didn't know that your writer's bullet journal could help?

Or maybe you did and didn't know how and that's why you ran the Google search and found me!

You can use your bullet journal while you are writing to keep track of writing romance in your book or you can' use it to untangle the complex romantic plot threads you've already made or you can use it to form an unexpected ship that your readers will be addicted to!

Let's get started!

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Keep Track of Your Novel

You need to develop a couple of ways of outlining, whether that's after your first draft or months before, you need to make sure you have a few of the best tricks up your sleeve to keep track of what you are writing about.

Trick 1: Use a Tracker to Keep Track of Your Word Count

I use these all the time and have one for each of the word counts on my current novels. I've posted quite a few pictures of these, including when I was working on NaNoWriMo. But here it is again!

 My Word Count Tracker in My Bullet Journal

My Word Count Tracker in My Bullet Journal

Basically, you need to have room for your target word count and all the days you're going to write. Now, if you do a monthly, set it up like a monthly tracker with the dates at the bottom. However, I've been moving into a new system over the last couple of weeks, and I'm just going to track the days that I work on this particular project.

It doesn't have to be fancy.

It doesn't have to be perfect.

It just has to WORK.

Trick 2: Use Character Sheets to Keep Track of Characters

I have a more extensive blog post on WHY this is important and which one you should pick. You can find it by clicking on the image!

Also, if you're interested in using the character sheet that I've made, just for my bullet journal, then you need to JOIN THE RANKS OF THE ELITE!

Sign up for my email list, where I will never spam you, and you can snag my freebie and use it in your bullet journal just like I do.

 My Post for my Bullet Journal!

My Post for my Bullet Journal!

Trick 3: Plot Using the Landmarks Method

This is a GREAT way to plot, especially if you're a Pantser like me and the word outline makes you want to scream and run away.

It allows for the freedom of discovery writing with the direction of outlining. It's the way I've been working for a while and it's a GREAT way to keep track of your novel in your Bullet Journal!

Simply take each event that you want to happen in your story and give it a "task" marker. If you're using the traditional Bullet Journal key, then you'll be using a simple dot marker.

Once it has a marker, write no more than ONE sentence about what you want to happen. This should give you enough space to tell yourself what happens next in your novel.

I suggest doing this free form, on a piece of scrap paper with a pencil, before inking it in your journal. This way, you can rearrange it before it's locked into your bujo.

If you need more information on how I use this method, hit the picture so you can go and check out how I did this for NaNo.

Untangle the Web

Sometimes, you just flat out paint yourself into a corner with that romance thread and you just can't get yourself out.

It's gonna be okay! We are gonna get you out of there so you can keep writing the story! It'll be okay!

Trick 5: Make a Pro-Con Spread for the Character

This is really good if you have a Love Triangle and you don't even know who the character should end up with. These are probably the questions running through your character's head!

Hehehehehe, this is such a good trick guys. I'm so glad I came up with this!

 The Character Romance Thread Pro/Con Spread!

The Character Romance Thread Pro/Con Spread!

You can click on the image to enlarge it and even fucking download it if you want. I don't care. Just don't share it without tagging me, kay?

But, I'll explain it's set up in detail.

I suggest using a pencil. I can't give exact dimensions in cells because you probably use a different notebook than I do. This notebook is from Etsy, and even though it says that it's an a5 with 5mm dot grid and SHOULD be the same as a Leuchtturm1917, it's not. At all... So, I've had to rework a few of my spreads. I'm pretty annoyed by it, but I'm making the best of it.

First, we are gonna start with the protagonist's page. So we write their name at the top. Like your teacher begged you to during grade school.

Then we set up nine smaller boxes. These are going to hold some surface information about your protagonists.

  1. gender
  2. age
  3. height
  4. hair
  5. skin
  6. eyes
  7. build
  8. job

The box to the left of that is for a picture. If you are an artist and have one, put it here. It can be a picture of all three together if you have drawn that picture. Or you can steal a cool photo from Pinterest that has inspired, you. Either way, I'd encourage you to pick a photo that at least looks somewhat like the character. It will help you visualize their actions just a little better.

Below that, we have a motive/need portion of the sheet. This you should take some time on. If your character isn't fully fleshed out with a character sheet, take the time to fill that out completely, now. Otherwise, no motive will make a REAAALLLLY boring character.

The next box is for their abilities and their skills. The reason these are separated is, if you're writing sci-fi or fantasy, abilities could be magical or supernatural. So the two should be thought of as separate.

Below that, slightly longer, is the box for their interests. 

Then, I've split the page in half, and I've made a box for each love interest. Each of those boxes is divided in two again, one side for pros and one side for cons. This should take up the remaining length of the page.

Next page, you need to divide in half, lengthwise. One side will be for one love interest and one for the other. You will set up each side exactly the same.

First, we make a box for the name, taking up the whole top of its side.

Below that, we make the same eight cells at the top of the page, all the same size. These will be filled with the same eight categories as the main character, above.

Next, we make the abilities/skills box. This will take up a little less than a third of the remaining length. 

Below that is the Interests box. This should be slightly smaller than the abilities/skills box. If it isn't, don't worry about it.

Last, we make the motives/need box. This is a little larger than the one for the protagonist because I want you to take some time to flesh all of this out. 

Once you have made the spread, take a while and fill it out. Really take your time on the motives portions and the pro/cons portion.

Trick 6: Descision Trees

This is where we get to make liberal use of "Yes, but; no, and...". Which is a technique we writers use to amp up the tension and conflict in your novels, I use this in list form, most of the time. But a visual decision tree could be a really good way to make sure your character is on the right path.

 Character Decision Tree in my Writer's Bullet Journal

Character Decision Tree in my Writer's Bullet Journal

Start out with the Protagonist's name and make a box around it. Then make two more boxes going in different directions. Add the interests names and then start doing a pro and con list. Then start adding the possibilities of details and problems that could arise. The good things, too! This will help you design the future for the character that you want!

Find a New Angle

You can use any of the six tricks above to find a completely new angle and someone you didn't expect for your readers. You can also use techniques like MindMapping, Simple Pro/Con lists, and the "yes, but; no, and..." technique to find lots of twists and turns for your book. But I have to tackle the "Yes, but; no, and..." on a different day.

I hope all the helps! Remember; the best cure to writer's block is to write the damn book anyway.

Happy Writing!

Zoe Fleischer

-The Ginger Wordsmith