Writing Tips: Keep a Reading Journal

journal writing

Journal writing and reading go together!

Journal writing is something I’ve done on and off since I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to keep a reading journal, but usually I inhale books, leaving little time between chapters to jot down my thoughts and reactions.

And by the time I finish reading, it’s often the wee hours of the night and time to fall asleep, which means I’m far too exhausted to post entries in a reading journal.

Next thing I know, I’m on to the next book without a minute to spare.

But lately I’ve been trying to capture my reading experiences by writing down notes about what I’ve read, and I find it incredibly helpful.

The Benefits of a Reading Journal

Keeping a reading journal:

  • Increases retention
  • Pushes you to contemplate the material you’ve read and study it as a writer while broadening your understanding of the material
  • Provides a time and space for writing practice

Most writers already practice regular journal writing. There’s no reason you can’t start including your reading entries there, or if you like to keep things neatly separated, start a separate reading journal. Use a Word document, launch a blog, crack open a notebook. The important thing is that you record your thoughts and your reactions or observations about what you’ve read.

Creative Writing Ideas and Journal Writing

A reading journal can also help you grow as a writer, because you can note what works and what doesn’t. Which scenes in the novel were compelling? What character traits made you fall in love with the protagonist or loathe the villain?

You can keep notes about all your reading, not just books and novels. Jot down your thoughts after reading a magazine article, news story, or blog post. If you really want to get all-inclusive, you can even include music lyrics, movies, and TV shows. All of these are sources of inspiration.

Even if you don’t want to start a whole new reading journal, try writing down your reaction to whatever you read over the weekend. Look for writing techniques, such as plot twists and brain teasers, and make notes on the writer’s style and voice. See if knowing that you’re going to make notes changes the way you read something, and see if those notes benefit your own writing.

Do you keep a reading journal? Is there another genre of journal writing that you prefer? Share your experiences by leaving a comment.

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


8 Responses to “Writing Tips: Keep a Reading Journal”

  1. --Deb says:

    I have to admit that I almost never jot down thoughts about what I’m reading as I’m reading it–I consider it fortunate that I manage to jot down the title and author for future reference. I do add a short description of each book on my monthly reading list (posted on my knitting blog every month), but that’s about it. Because, as you say, it’s all about moving on to the next book, right?

  2. @Deb, One of the reasons I want to start taking better notes is because I’d like to explore writing reviews – books, music, films, and more. Also, sometimes I forget where I read or heard something, probably because I take in too much information every day. I’m always saying “I read somewhere…” I think writing my thoughts and reactions down will help with that. And I know it will inspire me!

  3. Amy Derby says:

    Love your blog, Melissa.

    I used to keep an informal reading journal, but somehow I got out of the practice. I don’t read nearly the amount of novels I used to when I had a train commute, so maybe that’s why. Reading on a train is distracting.

  4. @Amy, I used to keep reading journals back in school. Different English teachers would require journaling our readings, all the way back to grammar school’s book reports. Of course, I used to plow through the reading and then stay up all night journaling like mad before the journal entries were due. I’m a rebel like that.

  5. Amy Derby says:

    Ha! I made one from Cliff’s Notes once when I didn’t read the book.

  6. @Amy, LOL! I once wrote a book report before I ever read the book. I was just a kid. And I know someone who read “The Indian in the Cupboard” once and wrote book reports on it for like five years in a row. That’s leverage!

  7. Tracey says:

    This is why I love my Kindle so much. I can highlight passages and I can write notes and then I can sync all my highlights and notes into Evernote ready for later reflection. I do still find myself getting caught up in a moment and don’t remember to take a note but something is better than nothing.