Today we welcome Lynn Palermo, The Armchair Genealogist and creator of the Family History Writing Challenge, who joins us with a guest post.
- Stop talking about it! Writers have a bad habit of talking about writing rather than actually writing. Stop talking and start writing. You will discover the latter far more rewarding. You’ll have so much more to converse about when your book is done.
- Set a deadline. Few of us have the self-motivation to produce a project without a deadline. Whether imposed on us by an event such as a reunion or anniversary or self-imposed, deadlines are crucial to getting your project completed. Without a deadline, we have this incredible desire to procrastinate and our family history book can sometimes take years longer than is necessary. Make yourself accountable, declare publically a realistic deadline.
- Write. Plain and simple, you must sit your butt in the chair and write. Even if it is crap, you must begin. All writers were beginners once but you must start the journey even if what you are writing is a far from publication ready. It can be a bit like magic, you write, and before long you realize a first draft and the makings of a family history book.
- There’s no correct way. Don’t get caught up in a monstrous tomb of a book, a compilation so overwhelming you’ll give up in frustration. Family history stories come in all shapes and sizes, start small, take a unique approach and don’t fall into the trap that it must be all or nothing.
- Practice your writing skills. Seek out some writing advice and then practice those skills. Reading about writing is great, taking a workshop is wonderful, but practice, great writers become great through the act of writing a lot!
- Join a community of writers. Writers have a tendency to be introverts, but joining a writing community that is eager to help and support your family history writing can really transform your skills and self-confidence. Seek out a writing group or join us in The Family History Writing Challenge, you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn and grow from engaging with others who are on a similar journey.
- Get organized. Writing a family history is a large project that carries with it enormous amounts of data and research. Have an organization plan in place with a prepared work-flow to keep you from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated. You’ll find help in organizing your research and creating a workflow in The Companion Guide to the Family History Writing Challenge.
- Make time in your schedule. A project the size of a book requires time, dedicated time. If you don’t identify allotments of time in your daily schedule, your book simply will never materialize.
- Think like a writer. Create writing habits and rituals that allow the creative process of writing to develop. Designate a writing space in your home; prepare an environment free of distractions that allow you the opportunity to be creative.
- Write what you know. Family historians wait in long pursuit for the day they have all the research in front of them before they begin writing their stories. Write a family history story framed by what you know. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, there are stories already in front of you, focus on them, and set the gaps and missing pieces aside. If you fall into that mindset of needing to have all the answers, you’ll never write.
- Face your fears. For the beginner, writing a family history book is stepping into the unknown. The unknown is always a place of fear. You must allow yourself to be vulnerable, allow others to read your writing, take on critique and grow as a writer. I believe the moment you cross the threshold from family historian to family history writer occurs when you open your words up to critique. Once you allow others into your work, to offer feedback you’ve crossed an important line in developing your craft.
I would love to help you realize your dream of writing your family history book. Join us for our 4th Family History Writing Challenge, a 28-day journey of motivation, education and inspiration in writing family history.
Lynn Palermo is The Armchair Genealogist and founder of The Family History Writing Challenge. She wrote her first family history book in 2007. She has written for various genealogical magazines and continues to offer guidance and support to those looking to write their own stories. In 2011 and 2013, The Armchair Genealogist was named among the top 40 genealogy blogs by Family Tree Magazine. Lynn is currently expanding her writing skills and knowledge as a student at the University of Toronto in creative writing. She writes nonfiction as well as fiction and is currently writing her 3rd family history book as well as a collection of short stories.