inspiration / new books / writing

Writing someone else’s diary

“18th January. Got up. Had breakfast. Went to school. Maths test. Raining.”

It’s easy to see why the diaries I began each new year in my schooldays never lasted more than a few weeks. I didn’t need a diary to point up how boring my life was!

It wasn’t just the lack of momentous events to record, it was the false voice that popped up when I tried to put in anything more personal or thoughtful. I sounded so lame, even to myself. Writers are always advised: ‘find your voice’. Mine was never to be discovered lurking in my diaries.

So if I’ve always struggled with diaries, how come I’ve just written a book based on one?*

Because. Oh, because!

Because it’s really good fun writing a diary from the point of view of a fictional character. This is quite, quite different from writing as dull old me.

Because my heroine, Nancy Parker, has been freed from diary tyranny. Because she’s keeping a Journal, not a daily dated diary. As she says, “You don’t have to write in it every day, only when you have something you want to say – something important.”

Because Nancy has lots of MOMENTOUS EVENTS to put in her journal. When they’re really momentous, she puts them in capital letters with lots of exclamation marks. (And adds comments in brackets.) So I can indulge my love of !!! And of ( ).

Because I could really explore the way Nancy expresses herself. She’s had quite a poor education and leaves school on her 14th birthday (it’s 1920). Despite these limitations she is irrepressible, with big dreams and expectations. It’s great to step inside someone at the start of an adventure, and take them through all the ups and downs.

I might have broken away from my aversion to writing diaries with this book, but I still won’t be keeping my own. “Got up. Raining. Had breakfast. Wrote a bit. Had a coffee. Wrote a bit more. Stared out of window. Still raining.”

But I do recommend writing someone else’s diary. If you want some creative inspiration, give it a try.

Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection, Julia Lee, Oxford University Press

*Um – three books. Second in the series is currently being written. The first, Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection, will be out in March.

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