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Family History Writing Challenge - Day 2

Don’t Get Caught Up in Grammar and Punctuation!

Writing is really a creative mindset, and grammar and punctuation can really stifle that creative flow especially on the first draft.(Don’t tell my English teachers what I just wrote) You have to rethink the premise learned through your years of schooling and allow the story to flow and save the grammar and punctuation for the revisions. 

I believe when writing a family history you have two priorities at least on the first draft,
  1.      Write accurately, making sure, you’re transcribing all your facts from your documents and sources into your storytelling with accuracy.
  2.      Write creatively, you can’t if you are uptight about sentence structures and punctuation. This was the first thing I learned when I started writing. 
In a creative writing class, my  professor pointed out to me my spelling or sentence structure errors when I submitted an article, and I would be devastated and embarrassed.  I still am pretty freaked out if I find an error after I have posted on my blog.


He told me to get over it. It was his job to point it out, but he was more interested in whether, I understood the assignment and if my writing was creative and engaging.  He didn’t want me to spend all my time editing and revising but writing creatively. As well, the more I wrote, the less the technical stuff became an issue. Now, if you’re submitting it for print, then that is another matter, but this first draft is for your eyes only so write with abandon.

One last suggestion for today, don’t get trapped by going back, reading, and rewriting what you wrote the previous day.  Our natural tendencies will be to read yesterday’s words. The next thing you know your allotted time has passed and your word count is the same. You don’t want to spend the next 27 days rewriting the same 250 words repeatedly. Trust me it happens.  Just write.  You will deal with rewrites, and editing later. The purpose of the 28 day format is too continue moving forward so you have a completed body of work at the end of the month. It may not be polished but at the very least, you will have a beginning, a  middle and an end.  

 As we move forward, I will continue to offer you advice for these first few days to stay in your face and keep you on track, as we get further in I’ll drop in on you a couple of times a week. However, the last week, will give it a big push. (I hope you don’t get tired of me.) If you’re doing just fine , don’t be afraid to check in when you need some motivation.

If you want to discuss any concerns, I've opened a discussion at the Armchair Genealogist facebook page where we can exchange our successes and concerns. Leaving a comment here is just fine too.  

There is still time to join The Family History Writing Challenge click here for more information.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Lynn,
    I'm coming a little late to the party. I was out of town & then the snow hit. I am in total agreement about your exhortation to "just start writing," along with the plan. I took a memoir on-line class (Writers' Digest) about 5 years ago which jumpstarted me, and gave structure. I joined a writing group. I have made outlines, lists, details, etc. I have written at least 500 pages,(my notebook of writing is about 3" thick) but don't like it. I've tried writing individual stories, and the biggie: chronologically starting with my Grandparents (but this was based on family lore--I hadn't deciphered & translated the 100-year old diaries and letters yet, nor visited Romania). I know actual facts now. I have ~250 World War II letters; hundreds of pages of diaries, etc. I want to write something for the general public--my family is tiny. After me, no one will care unless I can make this compelling for the general reader. I'm interested in how to tell a story that will resonate with others--not just my family. I'm trying to start that on my blog, and I'm hoping it will give me the impetus to find a whole new approach. I won't write more here. I'm not sure how to proceed with the daily word count, (I'm writing so much these days I have braces on my hands & wrists!). It's the approach that's stalling me. I could use this month as a way to try a new approach. Any thoughts?

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  2. Hi Linda
    Understanding who your audience is,is very important to the process, family,genealogists, the general public. So when you say general public I am going to conclude you want to write a novel based on your family history, something you want to sell in a bookstore??? If that is the case, then you really need to drill down through all your research and choose the story amongst them all that you feel would make a great novel. Certainly it takes much more then this for a great novel but you have to have a great story to tell. Once you have pinpointed that story gather all your research and start your story plan. The story plan is the best way to organize your thoughts. That story plan is easily your first 250 words. I could discuss this for hours, so let's keep the conversation going, I'm sure plenty of others are experiencing the same struggles.

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  3. Hi,
    Thank you! I'm not sure it would be a novel (though many in my writing group have suggested I try that approach.) It could also be a series of memoirs -- (everyone says they want to see more of me in my writing -- my reaction to finding all these letters, how learning about my family through these discoveries affected me, etc. One thing -- I learned about a grandmother that seemed distant to me, but warm and loving in her letters. So that's another thought rolling around--The Real Lisi, or some such. I'll start trying a new plan later today. thanks for pushing us all!

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  4. Linda, I agree with your writing group. Having followed your blog I understand the amount of treasures you have inherited and your own journey is certainly worthy of being part of a book. I would suggest you read a lot of books similar in story and or style to the kind of book you want to write. This might help you find your voice.

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  5. I'm trying to read a lot of memoir -- you make all good suggestions. My blog is sapping all my time -- especially when the html messes up. Spent about 4 hours yesterday just dealing with that. I'm not sure Feb is going to work out for me for the writing part. Last year I pushed myself from March-April and got 150 pages written, but again, it's not what I want. So...I'm going to use your nudge to start SOMETHING new -- even if I'm late.

    I just love your blog. So clear, consistent, well-written, good info, etc.
    BTW -- what do you think is the best family tree program these days --for a MAC. My bro used the Mormon one (started about 20 years ago) but now so many more. I started with My Heritage, but before I go too far, want to get a sense of other genealogists' faves.

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