One of the best ways to practice the craft of writing is to maintain a journal. It’s a good way to develop the habit of writing on a daily basis, which you should do if you want to be a writer. I write every day. I use my journal to develop story ideas, characters and to jot down notes on plots. Once I have recorded them in my journal, I can transfer them to files specific to them as necessary. That works well for me. I can use the journal entry as a backup for the notes, characters and everything else. Sometimes I write fan fiction that is never intended to see the light of day.
That’s important. I don’t own the characters I write about. Since I don’t want to be sued for copyright infringement, I keep my fan fiction to myself. I know there are places where I can post them, but I am just as happy to keep them to myself. They will live in the pages of my journal. I’m happy to leave them there. Mostly, though, I use the journal to write scenarios for my own original fiction. I try out the scenes there and then transfer the ones I like best to the final work. Well, except in November. November brings NaNoWriMo. I write the entire novel in my journal. I transfer the text to its own file in early December. I usually let the story rest for a couple of months before I begin revising them.
That’s my process. I use my journal to write my novels and stories. I also use it to exercise my writing chops. It works for me.
I’m aware it might not work for you. I use my journal to express my thoughts and get stuff out of my head that may be preventing me from writing what I need to write. That’s another benefit to writing in a journal. Not only do you get writing practice, you get a backup and a chance to play around with scenes. Getting a short story out of your head so you can work on something longer is another benefit.
If you don’t write in a journal yourself already, go ahead and try it. You may find it helps you. You can write the worst drivel of your life and get through a writing block. You may even spark a germ of a story idea that grows into something. Mostly, though, you’ll write things that you’d be embarrassed to have anyone else read. That’s OK. That’s what a journal is for.
You could use pen and paper or a word process, as I do. However you do it, you should find it easy to do after you develop the habit. Don’t worry if you don’t write every day in your journal. It takes time to develop the habit. Once you do, the writing will come easier. Just be aware that it might not be the best you’ve ever written in your life. It’s just there for you to make of it what you can.