A Challenge Approaches

As November nears, a challenge approaches. It’s for those who want to write, but haven’t set aside the time. For genealogists with stacks of neglected research files – expensive dust-catchers unless data is compiled into something that is more readily digested. And for authors whose sights are set on winning a writing competition. Start winning by writing. Not today. But very soon.


Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

What kind of a challenge?

Every November, National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, becomes a nearly daily exercise in the lives of willing participants. The object is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and 30th. Authors track word count and progress on their NaNoWriMo page. To average 1,667 words a day there is little room for editing as you write. Most participants postpone editing until December or later.

What do novels have to do with genealogy? Why not a novel, if you have one rattling around in your head? The spirit of the month-long writing exercise is to produce a fictional work. I prefer novel writing each November, because I rarely do things that are not genealogy-related. Escape is good.

There is a rebel NaNo group, and while they promote fiction writing, some admit to writing anything from a thesis to a history book. I know participants who produce genealogy works while using the NaNoWriMo site as an area of virtual accountability. It is a place to add writing buddies, encourage one another, or find a gentle reminder to develop a daily habit.

A daily habit that promotes productivity and improves writing skills is good for people engaged in an avocation or a vocation in which clear writing is important.

To participate in NaNoWriMo, visit their website and create a user profile. Create your novel by giving it a title. Writing begins on November 1st. Advance planning is allowed. Choose a project, or even several. Stack needed files nearby. Create an outline. Read relevant writing guidebooks. Watch the clock, and on November 1st, let the words flow. Use a word-processing program, or even pen and paper. The NaNo site provides a tool to update word count at the end of a writing session. Authors are on the honor system. At the end of November, or when the 50,000 word goal is reached, validate word count by pasting the written work into a tool on the site.

Do you have a novel brewing inside? Or are you a rebel who wants to write a month’s worth of blog posts? Does putting together a case study appeal?

Give yourself the gift of a writing month. On average, I spend about an hour per day on NaNo writing. Days get skipped, and others make up for them. Some days are naturally wordier than others.

I am aiming for my fourth year of “pantsing” it, meaning I do not outline in advance. I start with an idea and I see what happens when it flows from my fingertips to the keyboard. A lot of horrible stuff appears. Wonderful things happen, too. Editing is for later. November is for writing. 50,000 words of it.

Are you in?

A variety of writing and genealogy standards books are listed below. Find additional writing guides at your local library.

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case

Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

Outlining Your Novel Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises for Planning Your Best Book

Producing a Quality Family History

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

Structuring Your Novel Workbook: Hands-On Help for Building Strong and Successful Stories

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Happy writing!

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3 Responses to A Challenge Approaches

  1. Jennifer says:

    I LOVE NaNoWriMo. I’ve been doing it (on and off) since 2001. The last novel I wrote on NaNoWriMo, I used my genealogy research to craft the story (bonus–the novel is being published!). Genealogists never have to worry about finding an idea–they can simply look on their family trees. I feel like an evangelist some times, the way I proselytize for NaNoWriMo, but it’s such a great way to get the writing flowing.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      I agree on NaNo! It allows me to give myself that writing time, and if it did not exist I suspect I would fill the time with things I felt I had to do instead. So many stories waiting to be told. Congratulations on your impending publication! Will you market it to genealogists?

  2. Jennifer says:

    That’s a great question. I used my research to write the novel, but the novel has nothing to do with genealogy per se so marketing specifically to genealogists might be difficult. I think it’ll appeal to genealogists who like to read novels in general, beyond just genealogy. It takes place in 1935 and is about an immigrant mother. But I’m hoping to write some articles about how folks could use genealogy in their own writings.

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