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    « Family History: “Our Challenge to Pass It On” | Main | You Are Your Gift »

    Ready, Set, Start Writing!

    It's National Novel Writing Month.

    According to the National Association of Memoir Writers it's also National Memoir Writing Month.

    Can you write a book in a month? I once saw the prolific pulp mystery writer Mickey Spillane on the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson asked him how long it took him to write a book.

    “Depends on how bad I need the money,” said Spillane.

    “What's the fastest you ever wrote one,” asked Johnny.

    “I wrote one over a three-day weekend once,” he replied.

    So it can be done, if you're skilled and experienced, not to mention highly motivated.

    However, if you've never written a book, expecting to finish a manuscript in a month might be a tad unrealistic.

    The real message of events like National Novel Writing Month is, I think, a bit more prosaic than hitting the bestseller charts in time for the holiday shopping season. It reminds people to stop talking about writing a book and start actually writing it. You can do it.

    Unfortunately too many people take that message literally. They grab a laptop or a tablet and start banging away at the keys. Unplanned free writing is sometimes a useful tool but, writing without at least a minimal plan often triggers what Nancy and I have come to refer to as the Four Times Rule. As homeowners who engage in too many DIY projects, we spend a lot of time running over to our local Home Depot. Often our plan of exactly what we'll need to complete our project is sketchy. Hence, the Four Times Rule: It will take four times longer than we thought it would to finish the project. The same rule might apply to a writer who begins without a plan for the book she will create.

    Before launching the manuscript, give some thought to what it will take to create the book you have in mind. Do you need to gather stories from friends or family members? Will you include photos? Where will you get them? How do you want to organize your manuscript. Will your memoir be chronological or topical? Would using biographical sketches be a good tool in your family history? Create an outline – which may become a rough table of contents. With a clear plan in mind set a goal date by which you plan to have a draft completed. Then establish a production schedule that will allow you to get your manuscript done on time.

    You probably won't make it in time for Thanksgiving. Start now and you can have your memoir or family history done for Christmas. Next Christmas.


    (photo courtesy of Inky on Creative Commons)


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    Reader Comments (2)

    Excellent advice. Tomorrow I'm publishing a blog post encouraging people to give family members their already-written memoir vignettes for Christmas as a down payment, a promise of a finished memoir--maybe, like you said, in time for next Christmas! Thanks for your inspiration today.

    Nov 11, 2011 at 7:08AM | Unregistered CommenterLinda

    Thanks, Linda. I'll look for your post.
    Biff Barnes

    Nov 11, 2011 at 8:24PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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