National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) and Family History

Last year I found out that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and thought it would be a great idea for someone who is trying to write their family history stories.

The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in a month’s time. Writing a novel is not something many of us are looking to do at the moment but writing family history stories is something that we want to accomplish.

NaNoWriMo could be the impetus we need to get started writing those stories. The idea of writing 50,000 words might be a little daunting but you could make that number 10,000 words. You could start writing your outlines and ideas down now so that you have a starting point for the first of November.

I am working on a local history project that would fit in beautifully with this idea. So that is going to be my focus for the month of November. I am going to write my local history project and get a rough draft done by the end of the month. The idea is not to have a book completed and ready for publishing by the end of the month it is to get the project started.

Writing your family history stories is a great way to find any gaps in your research. You think you have it all done and when you go to write it up you realize that there is some missing information.

I am putting a challenge out there to everyone who wants to write their family history. Use the month of November and NaNoWriMo to get you started. Let me know how you are getting along with the project. I will post updates on the Blair Archival Research Facebook page to let you know how I am getting along.

Now let’s get writing!

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

The Future of Handwriting

CBS Sunday Morning had a piece on September 18th called “Is penmanship being written off? “ It was a repeat of a piece that was first broadcast 23 January 2011 called “A Farewell to Handwriting?

It examines the history of handwriting and looks at graphology which I wrote about in a previous post.

Today’s technology could mean that future generations are probably not going to have the ephemera of past generations. How many of us actually print off emails and other correspondence? Even if it is printed off how long can it last before it starts to fade? Will future generations have the excitement of finding a letter written by an ancestor 200 years before they were born?

The written word has changed so much since the introduction of the printing press. Is there going to be a time when we won’t even need to know how to write with pen and paper?

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

The Lost Art of Penmanship

This week on CBS Sunday Morning there was a segment about penmanship and how the art of handwriting could be lost. While it is a poignant thought there is far more at stake. The onset typewriters and then computers have changed how we communicate by the written word. Two hundred years ago, even with the printing press, the first draft of any written item was by hand.

Will the great grandchildren of the mid 21st century have letters and diaries handwritten by their ancestors? Will they have letters or diaries at all? How many of you print off your emails to save for future generations? It is just not feasible to do and emails these days are small bites of information. People rarely sit down and write a long letter to family that stayed behind when they emigrated. It is easier and less expensive to send an email, telephone or Skype. People are blogging but will the thoughts, sentiment and information in those blogs be available to our ancestors?

I remember in school learning to write and having difficulty writing the capital letters F and J. When we graduated from printing to writing, and could write clearly, we got a BIC pen. That pen was the most coveted item in my grade 4 class. Everyone wanted to move from the pencil to the pen, it was a status symbol.

I remember the excitement of finding a letter written by my 2x Great Grandmother to her soon to be husband in the early 1900s. It is a simple letter saying thank you for a box of chocolates and not being able to meet the next day because of a previous engagement. This is the type of thing that we would send an email or call someone about today. Since there were no computers in the early 1900s I have that letter in the handwriting of my 2x Great Grandmother. There is cookbook written in the hand of my 3x Great Grandmother with little notations and thoughts in the margin. These are items that the future generations will probably not be getting from this generation. They will not get the thrill of finding something in our handwriting.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

National Novel Writing Month

While reading Tumblemoose, one of the writing blogs I follow, I noticed a reference to National Novel Writing Month. The blog entry was called “Time To Get Your NaNo On!”

Apparently every year, in November, aspiring writers decide they are going to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The idea is to write and not edit your work just get the words down on paper.

I thought this might also work for those of us who are procrastinating about writing our family histories. Now I know a lot of detail needs to be included in the family history, especially sources, but this could be a way for us to get the words on the page without thinking about the size of the project. How many of us have a great family story that would make a good novel?

The main idea is to just stop and take time to write without getting caught up in the details. You can not start writing until November 1st but you can start writing outlines, develop characters and story ideas. From a family history point of view you can decide on the family to focus on, write out source lists, plan outlines of what you want to include in the book. Once November 1st rolls around then you can start writing. This would be roughly 1667 words a day.

Are you up for a challenge?

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Blogs about the Art of Writing

Genealogy and writing go hand in hand. It is important to write up your research to see where you have been and where you want to go. Besides writing up your research a lot of family historians want to write their family story or a family history book. It looks like such a huge job even if you have broken it up into little sections. Still it will not get done until you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Writing for me has been a rather daunting process. One thing I have discovered is that the more I write the more I learn about writing and myself.

There are several different blogs that I follow with regards to writing. Some are family story specific and some are general. Here are a few of the ones I like in no particular order.

Tumblemoose is a good blog to help you start writing and to think about your writing style. He provides some excellent tips for overcoming the fear of writing. I think many of us have found the blank page rather daunting.

How Not to Write helps us to think about our writing and why we write. There are articles on publishing and the writing process.

Memoir Mentor is as it says – personal and family related writing. Tips and educational opportunities are provided. Her business is helping others write their memoirs. She reviews books that are memoirs or autobiographical and talks about how the writer approached the memoir format.

The Itch of Writing has the subtitle “Writing, reading writing, teaching writing and sometimes hating writing: a blog by novelist Emma Darwin”. I enjoy the way her blog shows you different ways of writing the same sentence and how the meanings can be different. How a words connotation can change the sentence. The topics of punctuation and grammar are examined. It makes you think about your writing and how you are putting words to the page.

Writing Forward has many creative writing tips and it discusses grammar. There are resources available to help you with your writing. A recent post dealt with The Chicago Manual of Style which described the manual and how it could help you with your writing. A writing exercise post helped you create titles and headlines. The blog encourages you to write and to keep writing.

These blogs are the few that I have found. There are many more out there that can help you with your writing.

What writing blogs do you follow? Leave a comment and let me know.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research