Friday, 3 February 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Day 3

This is the sort of thing which reminds you of the importance of citing sources.  Over the years, I have tried to impress on beginning genealogists how important it is to note down the source of any fact that they discover; I wish I had done it when I had started to research my family tree yada yada yada.  But I thought I was getting better (there goes that smug attitude again) - much better.

Until I started writing "Faith and Silk" for the Family History Writing Challenge.  Suddenly, facts which I had absorbed over the years, but not documented because I knew about them anyway, are looming large and unfinished in my book.  For instance: "The Great Sweat".  Now, I know it was something horrendous like influenza which spread to epidemic proportions like the Black Death - but when exactly did it happen? And what exactly was it? Have I remembered right?  Oh, that's easy, I'll just look it up in my software - er, no, perhaps I won't.  Why? Because I forgot to write down not only what it was and when it was - but where I found the information in the first place. 

Right then, I thought, I'll have to go back to the Internet and put "Great Sweat" into a search engine.  I have now officially given up on ALL search engines. They return stupid results like "Great Sweat from leading men's fashion retailer...", "Great Sweat and Odor Laundry Round Up", "Painting - great sweat equity or pain in the neck?", and "if you are trying to lose weight quickly and get a great sweat, using a sweatshirt is a good idea".  I despair.

Now - the Black Death was when? where?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Day 2

I feel a little better about achieving this challenge - hey, I even feel better about participating.

Today I found a file of mine where I started to write the book as a story, rather than as a timeline of precise facts with no actual social history behind them.  It gave me new courage to write.  You see, I had been thinking that my book absolutely had to be one of the 'precise timeline' sort, and yet part of me was yearning to write sentences like "Robert carried his baby daughter down the steep hill from the church where she had just been christened'.  (And yes, I know the hill is steep.  I've been there and walked it.)  But another part of me - the rather severe sort of person who has her hair scraped back in a bun and looks at you over half-rimmed glasses perched permanently on the end of her nose - tut-tutted at the very thought of such whimsy.

But then I remembered how this is a first draft, and how they stress in NaNoWriMo that you can write complete and utter rubbish at first, with typos and grammar mistakes galore - as long as you write.  So I will take that approach with this family history book.  Maybe I just need to get the 'steep hills' out of my system first, and the 'precise timeline' will creep in later.  And if I reach the end and hate the lot, I can always rewrite it.  that's what second drafts are for.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Day 1

Day 1 of the Family History Writing Challenge I posted about a few days ago.  Now that it is actually here, I feel a sense of deep foreboding (as they say in the novels).  I had been feeling rather smug, thinking of all that lovely research I had so painstakingly done over the past few years, and all those month-long novel-challenges I had already participated in (and achieved the goal set).

And now here is another challenge, but this time it is different.  I am so used to writing fiction, where you make up what you want to make up - and here is a set of people who actually lived, with events which actually happened.  There can't be a 'deus ex machina' in this book - because there wasn't one in the real lives of the people it concerns.

I am finding it much more difficult to sit down and write the opening sentence.  Much more.  I am really rather glad for Scrivener, which splits up your book into chapters and scenes and pages.  Maybe I'll start somewhere near the middle of the book instead.  I'm not going to give in, though.


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