Friday, September 5, 2008

Making Progress on Your Writing Project

Writing a family history, whether it be one with a genealogical focus or just a compilation of your childhood stories, can take months and even years. How does one endure when the goals look so daunting? Just how do you progress and still keep your sanity?

The answer to these questions and to making progress on your project lies in your desire to meet your goals to a great degree, but also in good planning. Planning begins with breaking your goals into manageable steps, creating a routine, and using all available resources.

Goals Within Goals

When the goal looks very large, break it into smaller goals, smaller steps. If your goal is to complete all your family stories within a year or in time for a certain date as a gift for someone, then organize your tasks into smaller chunks and give yourself deadlines.

Maybe that smaller goal is to write ten stories a month covering a certain time period. In this case, make a list of what those stories will be and break those ten into what you can accomplish in a week. Some stories may be longer than others, so do not commit to three a week, but do work to get ahead of your schedule when possible as you just never know when other events of your life will interfere with your routine. Perhaps your style is to write your first draft for everything and then edit. Edit as many times as needed to make your writing clear for your reader.

Regardless of your plan, allow time between each draft before editing. After you have written, put the story aside for days or weeks before you return to it to edit. By following this plan, you will easily find places to correct. We often think we are writing what is in our mind, but upon closer reading (which cannot be done immediately after writing), you can discover omitted information, unclear sentences, and disorganization.

Pacing Your Work

As we are all creatures of habit, good and bad, finding time to write on a daily basis may cause much strife since adopting new habits is most difficult. Some writers may feel that they would not have enough about which to write during an hour or two daily. However, there is not just story writing to do, but adding to your timeline, rewriting a draft, and polishing the final paper. You may find that you will be writing more than one story at a time, thus having them in different stages of the writing process. Regardless of how much time you spend on writing, whether it is daily or a few times a week, make it a routine.

Getting Ideas From Others

Everywhere we turn there are ideas for stories if we are carefully watching and listening. Various books offer topics for writing our memories, and the Internet is crowded with them. The television or a movie may remind us of a past event. Even in our daily lives we often find a stimulus that takes us back to another time and place. It could be the comment of a friend, the mention of a location or certain event, or some memory that pops to mind while we are deep in our thoughts. Any interaction with people, places, and things can trigger a story from the past.

As these ideas quickly enter our minds, they are also apt to leave just as suddenly. For this reason, carry a notebook and jot down the ideas and the interesting phrases you hear. Keep a notebook beside your bed as ideas may occur as you fall asleep, during the night or just when you awake.

Of course, the ultimate way to find ideas for writing is in a writing class. As people read their papers, you will find some similarities to your life. Sharing stories helps everyone remember more stories from your past, thus giving you more ideas on which to write.

Making the Class Work for You

The old adage, what you put into something is directly proportional to what you get out of it, is also true of a writing class. If you come weekly with a story to share, the group will give you encouragement and help. As stories are read, you may find some clever phrase or a writing style that you wish to emulate thus improving your work.

Writing groups often discuss various aspects of their stories and memories related to a person, object, or event in someone’s paper. Often one topic of discussion leads to another with many people recalling their early days. These wonderful discussions can produce more ideas for your stories. In turn, your stories can provide all this for another writer.

Over time, a writing group bonds and friendships develop. You feel appreciated for your hard work, and, in turn, you receive more ideas for writing stories, learn how to improve your writing, see your writing style develop, and reach your goals. A writing class offers many opportunities to relive your childhood, to work through the tough times with support, and to produce a wonderful legacy for your descendants—even those who may never know you.

Make continual progress on your goals, and reward yourself for meeting those goals. You deserve it!

©Aulicino, July 2008

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