writing wednesday

I Completed NaNoWriMo for the first time…and won!

Happy one-month-till-NaNoWriMo! This is a post I wrote for my former writing website last year.

Yes, guys, I did it. I wrote a novel in 30 days.

And you know what? It was much more manageable than I thought. Some days I would cruise along. Other days, especially near the end, it would be hard to generate enough material. I would try to get it done as early as I could. I usually get inspired in the evening, so I would often continue then as well. Nevertheless, I pulled through and ended up with something that resembles a novel. That’s still weird to say: I’ve written a novel! I am not a published writer, but a novice who writes for fun; most of my published things being in a literary magazine, Wattpad, fanfiction.net, or my blog. And I did it.

So what’s my advice? I don’t have anything be-all-end-all, but I thought I’d share just a few thoughts on my experience to help you see if it’s right for you.

title: I Completed NaNoWriMo for the first time!

Pin me for later!

Tip 1: Get experience with larger projects.

In college, I learned that a good way to write a paper without being overwhelmed was to do a page a day- most of them were no more than 6 to 8 pages, so pretty simple. If I was inspired, I could write more, but I did at least one page a day. When I wrote my supah-long paper in senior year, I did two pages a day (and started early). I also wrote a novella, Twelve Days Till Dating. This took a long time, mostly because I procrastinated and wanted to wait to edit until spring so I could put it on Wattpad for Christmas in July. It made me look forward to doing other projects. I also realized that it was doable.

Tip 2: You don’t need a “reason.”

Much like hiking, you can just do it because it’s there. It’s also great motivation if you want to start writing and there’s a great community behind you. That alone is a great reason! More on the community…

Tip 3: Utilize your resources.

You can declare your novel on the official National Novel Writing Month website. You will then have access to forums filled with writers to talk to. You’ll also be able to connect to writers from your area, who may even have a Facebook group. Mine did meet-ups all the time, or gatherings where you could get together and write. I didn’t get to any of those, but hey, that’s just motivation to do this again! You can also shop from their store, earn badges for completing various tasks, and compete in “word sprint” challenges.

Speaking of community, social media can actually be great. Instagram is always a good place for writers to begin with. But in November, you can easily connect with and see what other writers are up to by searching for hashtags likes #nanowrimo or #writersofinstagram, among many more. I participated in a 30-day challenge that had the unique tag #nanothatwrimo so I could be connected to other writers doing the same challenge. I should mention that “challenges” consist of taking a photo of something, or posting a text graphic in response to the question. It was fun!

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to plan. Actually, you should plan.

I’ve found a few great ways of planning. One is a chapter outline, or an outline of what should be accomplished in each chapter. Another is a scene-by-scene list. Of course you may deviate from this as you go, but they are a great start.

For a novel, you should at least do some planning. Knowing what you’re going to write about that day makes it so much easier, as is knowing who your characters are and what any plot twists are going to be–for me, the twist was the hardest part. If you don’t have any plan for a novel when you start, it’s going to be much harder for you. Once you’ve figured out the basics, all you have to do is write.

Tip 5: Write 1,667 words a day, no excuses, and try for more.

This is likely not going to be a problem for you if you breezed through papers in college. It really only takes 1-2 hours at absolute most if you keep at it. If you get inspired, don’t stop there. You never know when you’ll need to take a day off, or when something will pop up. I had a massive headache one day that prevented me from doing anything, but since I was ahead of schedule there was nothing for me to worry about. Keep in mind that Thanksgiving also falls in the same month as NaNoWriMo, so you’re probably looking at writing a novel in 29 days if you’re from the U.S., and that doesn’t count any surprise “off days” like mine.

You should really try for more than 50k. I had a word count mishap where I came up with 3 different word counts near the end…one in OneDrive, one in Word, and the other for the NaNoWriMo word counter. Just to be safe, write more! It turned out I would need almost 1,000 words on the last day rather than the 300 I was planning on.

Tip 6: Keep track of your writing.

I had a folder labeled “Seeking You” (my novel title) and used a one-document-per-day method, saving each one as you go. Seriously….SAVE SAVE SAVE! In more than one place! Use your computer, use Google Drive, use DropBox, and use Microsoft One Drive. Or use whatever you’d like. The more the better…even flash drives have been known to randomly stop working on me in the past. The NaNoWriMo website will not save your work. Then I entered the total on that day’s document into the NaNoWriMo word counter. (Sometimes it helped to have each document be one chapter, or half a chapter [so two days= 1 chapter], just to keep track of words. This of course can be changed in editing.)

You’ll also want to think of a method to keep track of word count. You could use a new document for each day of writing, and then add that word total to the rest of them, which is usually what I did. (Make sure you do a total count at the end of each day.) NaNoWriMo.org will do a total count for you if you use the word counter on your dashboard to enter the number of words you wrote that day. If you’re writing in one big document, or continuing in an existing one, separate that day’s writing from the rest by coloring that day’s words in a different color. Then highlight the colored text, count the words, and add it to your current total. This is why you should always find a good stopping point rather than leave your last sentence unfinished.

Tip 7: Remember it’s not the end of the world if you don’t win.

Many people don’t win, or finish the full 50k in November. That’s okay. The important thing is that you start a project, or told yourself you can do it, or whatever. Suit your goals to meet your needs.

Tip 8: If you have little going on in your life at the moment and/or considerable time in November, realize that this may be a good year to do it.

That would be me! My current job allows me considerable downtime; something I likely won’t have as much of in the future. It was a great place to get some writing done. How many people could say that?

Tip 9: Get it done as soon as possible.

Me personally, I get inspired at night and that’s when I churn out the most words. But what if I had plans one evening, or just didn’t feel like doing it one night? I tried to have writing be one of the first aspects of my day. Then it was done, and anything else I completed was a bonus and kept me ahead of schedule.

I have no idea what the next step even is. They say that NaNoWriMo is just the first step, but I feel that it is a big one! I do think that this won’t ever be published. Looking back, it may borrow from other novels a bit too much. Of course, I’d need someone to read it to be sure.

Wherever your writing takes you, be bold. Be fearless. Just write, even if it sounds ridiculous. Anybody can do it. Prose can be changed later. Or maybe you’ll look back in revision to see that it didn’t sound so terrible after all. Honestly, NaNoWriMo was just an idea lingering in my head. And then I started doing it, and it became much more real. And now look at me. I have a novel just waiting to be polished! Now that it’s done, the possibilities are endless. The hardest part is getting started.

Update in 2019:

My novel, Seeking You, has sadly been abandoned for the time being. I think I need to figure out how to tackle the editing process for larger projects, and the story itself just seemed messy.

Still, I’m very glad I did it, and it’s there should I want to return. Right now I’m working on a YA thriller and another twisty suspense story, both of which have more promise I think. Ultimately I would like to use NaNoWriMo to either start a children’s series, but either way I look forward to doing it again.

writing wednesday

How to be Funny: 8 1/2 Easy Strategies to Make Readers Laugh

Humor is hard. Even the best comedians have gotten crickets from time to time.

The act of actually writing jokes and words that guarantee a laugh? That’s not so easy. If a teacher were to ask me to write something funny for homework, I’d quiver in my boots. Sometimes you have to wait for a funny moment to write itself. But I can tell you a couple of ways to get there.

Cringe

When a character does something so ridiculous and out of place, it can create a lot of laughs. The Office was notorious for this. Keep in the mind that the ridiculous things being done should make sense somewhat. For example, one of the above best cringeworthy episodes is Phyllis’ Wedding, where Michael constantly tries to helpfully steal the spotlight, including giving a long-winded roast and cheering for the newly married couple before the ceremony is finished. The actions technically make sense and are in character, but they come at the wrong times.

Writing prompt: Consider some moments in your life where you did something cringeworthy. Write one into a scene.

Irony/Coincidence

What happens that’s unexpected? Or what is the opposite of what you think might have happened?

Suppose your main character is pretending to be someone she’s not online. She discovers someone from her past on a discussion board, her friend Jimmy, and talks to them under the anonymous persona. She then learns that it’s not Jimmy; instead it’s someone pretending to be them. Or she believes it to be a stranger only to see that it is Jimmy later. Maybe the two try to one-up each other without the other realizing.

Writing prompt: Write a couple scenes of the above scenario from both characters’ POVs and see where things go.

Mishaps/Mistakes

This one sounds easy at first glance: have something go completely awry and see how characters respond. The power goes out, leaving a character and their annoying roommate together in the dark for a whole hour. The surprise party recipient is getting back sooner than planned. Situations here are endless, but don’t rely too much on them. An episode of The Office has Michael falling in a koi pond and it manages to create an episode full of jokes revolving around that moment.

Writing prompt: Think of something in the past year that went terribly wrong that wasn’t serious. Write about it from the perspective of a character.

Misunderstanding

Many hysterical moments come from characters’ misunderstandings. Winnie the Pooh uses this technique a LOT. For example, when Pooh and his friends drop a book of Owl’s into water, they fear they have washed the words away. The whole episode is spent with them trying to get the words back only to be revealed at the end that it’s a journal. To sum it up, misunderstandings can happen when:
*A character believes something that’s not true
*A character misinterprets something they see going on
*A character was told the wrong thing

Writing prompt: When did you misinterpret something? Write it into a scene.

Physicality

Pretty descriptive. Have you ever laughed at someone slipping on a banana peel? Then you probably enjoy some physical humor. Granted, it’s not for everyone and works a little better on the screen. But it’s still an option. Back to Winnie the Pooh again; a favorite episode of mine came when someone trips at Thanksgiving dinner and it leads to a chain reaction of spills, falls, and who knows what else to ruin the whole setup. In The Office, it happens during a game of touch football, or during a cold open where some of the characters practice parkour.

Also consider your favorite moments in America’s Funniest Home Videos. Christmas trees falling over, a basketball hoop falling, hitting someone with a plastic baseball bat instead of the pinata…etc. Just don’t rely too heavily on these.

Writing prompt: Write a scene with a comic relief character starting an impromptu football game at a bad time.

Satire

In this case, I’m using the word as a figure of speech. Or not. Many a late-night comedian can tell you that a good way to cope with reality is to laugh. I’m typically talking about the ones who make fun of politicians in order to prove a point. But in our case, this category of humor can consist of “anything that’s funny because it’s true.”

Writing prompt: Write some captions for a political cartoon.

Wordplay

Characters can engage in a battle of the spoken words. Here are a few examples of wordplay at work:

*Comebacks and witty comments. Massie in the Clique series is notorious for these. “Did I invite you to my barbecue? No? Then why are you all up in my grill?”
*Puns.
*Characters being overly honest.
*Characters saying something ridiculous.
*Characters responding or using sarcasm. A favorite Big Bang Theory example is when Sheldon asks Indian friend Raj for an obscure spice and Raj says with sarcasm, “Sorry, I left it in my turban.”

Writing prompt: Brainstorm some puns. Think of words that have double meanings, or figures of speech, or literal/figurative combinations (i.e. a bar of soap singing an aria for “soap opera”). Think of some comebacks, too. You know how the perfect comeback always comes to you hours or days later? Well, know you have some. Think of all the comebacks you’ve wish you’d said and save them for later. And if you ever write a snarky character, there you go.

The Unexpected

When something happens that is completely unexpected, laughs can ensue. A group of kids messing around starts tossing rocks, seeing if they can hit a house. The house, however, clearly must be being built, because as soon as one kid hits the wall and starts celebrating…the entire structure falls down! (This is another one I really did see on AFV.) To keep this a comedy, the answer shouldn’t make or break anyone’s life. Maybe they worry the whole time about being caught only to find that they knocked over a play house, or a flimsy stage set.

Lots of unexpected things can happen. For a writing prompt, write about a time in your life when something out of the ordinary happened causing a change in plans.

BONUS STRATEGY: REACTIONS/REVEALS

Arguably this is a subcategory for the rest, but it has its place. Usually they come from something unexpected happening, and the way the characters react says it all. One of the best cold opens that Everybody Loves Raymond ever did featured the inciting mishap: a car plowing through the living room wall. For the next minute or two, nobody says a single word as the culprits get out of the car and characters process what’s just happened in each shot. It’s all slow-revealed reactions of the characters; horror, shock, surprise….all in maybe two minutes barely saying a word. And each one has a unique reaction to their character.

Reveals are great because they’re unexpected. They can truly add to the humor when done right.

Part of being funny is sometimes trying not to go over the top. Try one of these simple strategies. Or when all else fails, consider funny moments from your life, use them as inspiration, and see how it goes.

writing wednesday

Writing Wednesday: Keeping a Travel Journal (+ Cape Cod travel ideas!)

Hi! If you’re here from Pinterest looking for the Cape Cod ideas, they’re slightly further down on this entry.

Keeping a travel journal has been the highlight of my Cape Cod vacations since 2016 when my sister bought me a beachy-looking one for Christmas. Actually, it was her who kept one first, back when she was a little kid. She wrote down what we did each day in her My Little Pony journal.

But what is the best way to go about it?

I like to stick to a certain format personally that makes it easier. It allows me to remember my day in greater detail. Here’s a breakdown of the categories. (I stole a bunch of these from a local science teacher who blogged about his Appalachian Trail hike. Thanks!)

Categories

Date: Self explanatory.
Weather: Temperature, skies, etc.
Purchases: Any personal of treat items bought that day
Restaurants: Where we ate
Happenings at home: Through Facebook or word-of-mouth, I write things down here that are happening at home, with family, or with friends. This has been made easier over the past few years because we have had house painting done during the week we are away. But I also write down birthdays, events, etc.
Cape Magic: One stolen from said teacher above. Originally this was a category called “Trail Magic,” or a special surprise happening on the hike like a free ride from a friend or snacks left by locals. I decided to alter it a bit. To me “Cape Magic” means anything different that happened that is just a little special. Past Cape Magic instances have included dolphin sightings, unusually great waves, or having our meal paid for in a random act of kindness gesture. I can usually find something to write her–there has only been one day of journaling so far where nothing particularly special happened.
Notes: this is where I bullet my day. I write bullet point paragraphs about the events that happened from morning to night that day. This really depends on what I feel is worth writing about (which is pretty much every time we go on an adventure).

Originally I also included Happiness scale AM and PM in this list, but I eventually felt like those were more appropriate for a hike than for a beach vacation and did away with them last year. The great thing about journaling, though, is that you can do it however you’d like; this is just my method. If you choose to do it this way, it might be best to do it when things are winding down at night and you can remember your whole day.

Statistics

Here is another fun aspect of journaling: writing down little pieces of data that define your year. Every year since we started coming to Cape Cod, my youngest sister has had a TV show that she’s loved to watch during down time. I am sure to record it every year and this list has become a source of lore in my family. It’s amazing to see that her first favorite was Dora the Explorer and now they are The Office and Bob’s Burgers!

I am also now getting in the practice of who won our candlepin bowling and mini golf games each year. These little snippets are great ways to keep track of family memories.

Thanks for taking a peek into my travel journal. Because this was a short post, please take a look at…

My Top Twelve Cape Cod Experiences

And that said, in case you were wondering, here are my top ten experiences on Cape Cod that I’ve written about in my journal should you think about heading there yourself:

  1. Play 18 holes at Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf. Both courses are fun and challenging!
  2. Stay a night or two at the Cape Codder Resort. It’s kid friendly, but it’s not just for kids as the many events held here will tell you. It also comes with a wave pool that’s been turned into a larger water park and a fabulous homestyle restaurant, the Hearth and Kettle- –a great first stop once you enter the Cape. (The woman often running the gift shop is a delight; my mom speaks to her nearly every year!) Oh, and there’s also a spa. See why I said one or two nights?
  3. Spend daytime at Skaket Beach. This family-friendly bayside beach lets you walk out for miles when the tide goes out, allowing for tons of space to walk around and play in the tide pools. Despite less surf, at high tide I’d actually argue that the waves are better farther out than the ones on the ocean side on a windy day. It’s great for boogie boarding and the water is easier to get used to. In my opinion, this is probably the most complete bayside beach experience on the Cape with ample space, a snack stand, and beach houses. Evening low tides have been pretty buggy in recent years, but avoid this problem by…
  4. spending nighttime at Nauset Beach. Recent shark appearances make it a bit hazardous for swimmers, but avoid this problem by visiting in the evening without your bathing suit. See how many seals you can find–some get very close to shore and love to show off for the people. Monday night is concert night, so be sure to enjoy some free music. Spend your time playing paddleball, dipping your feet in, or just watching the waves.
  5. Go shopping on Chatham’s Main Street. You’ll find many boutiques in which to browse, some of which are high end. Eat lunch at the Squire (a delicious place that’s the fastest around) and stop by Marion’s Pie Shop on your way home for the best on the Cape. I recommend the chicken pie, but you can’t go wrong.
  6. Get ice cream! It’s not a corner on the Cape unless there’s an ice cream stand on it. My favorites are the Ice Cream Cafe that sells vegan ice cream, and Emack and Bolio’s just down the street. I highly recommend going to sit on their porch to enjoy a cup of Serious Chocolate Addiction.
  7. Try candlepin bowling. It’s more popular that regular bowling in New England, but a lot harder. You have three tries to roll a much smaller ball down the lane and knock all the pins down. We visit the Orleans Bowling Center but I’m sure there are others.
  8. Check out a Cape Cod League baseball game. These free games showcase tomorrow’s baseball stars. It’s just as much about the atmosphere, catching foul balls, listening to kids sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in the 7th, and 50-50 raffles as it is about baseball.
  9. Indulge in the arts. Cape Cod is an artist’s paradise full of various galleries. Yak Arts is home to many quirky works and vintage items, or you could just stop in an artist’s gallery. Shops like Sydenstricker Glass also sell various artworks or glass designs. The Drummer Boy Park also hosts craft fairs regularly. Many gift shops sell artworks as well. Not a fine arts person? Cape Cod also has many playhouses where you can catch stage shows.
  10. Visit historical sites. Whether or not you believe in celebrating the Pilgrims, there is still a lot here. Try climbing to the Pilgrim Monument, or visit historic homes like the Hoxie house & nearby grist mill. (IMHO: Corn Hill and Pilgrim Springs may be historic, but they are not worth the visit or GPS hassle.) There are plaques everywhere for you to catch a glimpse of early Cape history as well.
  11. Visit a farmers’ market. The town of Orleans hosts them every Saturday, but permanent farm markets abound through the Cape as well. Nauset Farms has great meats and desserts.
  12. Run on Dunkin. Finally, on your way home, stop by a Dunkin Donuts. New England’s coffee shop of choice, I’m not sure if there’s more of these or of ice cream shops! Anyway, grabbing a donut on the way home has always been a tradition, so if you’ve never experienced Dunkin, now is the time.

Have you ever tried keeping a journal for certain times of your life?

writing wednesday

Why write a memoir? (Writing Wednesday)

What an odd blog post. You might be asking…

Why?

I like celebrity memoirs because they help us realize that everyone has a story. Heck, I’ve even read some on Wattpad. They are great capsules of times past, and you learn what people valued. In addition, you got to read someone’s story and learn from them. Even if you don’t get published? Your descendants may learn about you, and you’ll have a keepsake.

I’m working on my own life story. My goal is to have something to look back on in addition to my box of mementos, as well as to have something to share with my future generations.

Anyone can do it. Here’s how you get started.

Read.

Everyone and their brother has a memoir these days. Just about every well known celebrity has something to say. Pick some up and look at how they do it–their style, what they talk about, what they’re telling you.

Find a “so what?” and a spin/hook.

This is especially important if you do end up publishing, if you’re a non-famous person wanting to stand out. Why are you telling your story? What is the purpose? Why will you stand out from a sea of other memorists? Find a unique spin that you can put on your story. In mine, I’m expressing the importance of creativity and interspersing chapters with sections of stories that I either wrote during childhood or were written later but partially inspired by the event I just discussed. My life as a writer is going to play a good part here.

You can write about your life straight up without a theme to tie it together, but don’t count on getting it published. If you choose this method, your primary readers will be online and family and friends–which is fine in its own right. That’s what I’m doing! But unless you’re an adventurer, author, president, actress, historical figure, or you had something really wacky happen to you of interest, nobody’s really going to want to spend $20 at the bookstore to read about your entire life history (though I’m sure there are exceptions).

But you never know…if you really want to be published and go for something to sell, you might find inspiration in that beginning-to-end memoir. You might build on those stories later and compile them into a book about living in the California wilderness or what it’s like to surf for a living. Speaking of which…

What period or ideas do you want to cover?

Your memoir, especially if you’re trying to publish, needs a theme or purpose. Even if you’re not publishing, an angle adds a lot of interest. You could always go from beginning to end if you’re writing for fun. However, here are some subtopics I could also write about. These are all significant experiences or ideas that shaped my life (except for maybe the first, that might not sell all that well):

Tales from the Table: Tales from a Suburban Life
I Survived Boarding School: True Tales from the Dorms
The Quirky Quaker: Surviving Private School

Sailing My Friend Ship: Stories from the Socially Challenged of Meeting, Keeping, Ditching, and Making Friends

Focusing on a certain period or theme gives your memoir an edge/so what right off the bat. You now have a hook or topic to entice possible readers. Ultimately, I decided to go general with my life from start to the present–I’m not planning on publishing, so I’m free to cover my whole life without worrying about who would buy the random life story of a no name. That means I’ll probably be a little more general in my storytelling, though I will choose some specific moments to focus on too. I don’t just want to rattle off facts. But you never know- I could end up publishing something someday with stories that were based on my original memoir!

What will you write about?

Anything in your life is worth putting down on the page. To be as honest as possible, though, I don’t write down anything that I’m not sure I remember. I also try to avoid inventing long strings of dialogue–a lot of the dialogue in my memoir is brief sentences that I remember being said. I’m surprised how well memoirs work without a lot of it. Think about what readers will like hearing about or could learn from.

To get your brain moving, think of some of these moments to make into stories:
The scariest day of your life
Your hobby (I used to be into theatre and have a chapter called Diaries of a Former Theater Geek, chronicling my experiences in the theater and, with some foreshadowing, eventually leading up to my decision that it just wasn’t what I wanted to do)
A character study of the house you lived in
The toxic friend that locked your other friends in the school basement (true story)
An adventure you went on- on vacation, at school, or with family

A funny story you love to share
A time you truly got in trouble
A scandal you were involved in
A time you stood up for what’s right

Let’s say you wanted to center your memoir on the boarding school experience. Here are some specific topic ideas that might entertain or inspire readers, or end up with a lesson that readers can identify with:

The toxic friend
Grandparents Day when your math class made brownies and burnt them
Dealing with a bad roommate
Learning to get along with that teacher you started on the wrong foot with
Your friend coming out
Entering and leaving the popular crowd

Or, again, you could just go from beginning to end. Write about everything important from the initial campus visit to graduation. Maybe you’ll find chapter ideas as you go.

Make a list.

Consider those topics you want to write about and organize them. I divided mine into 4 sections based on what stage of life I’m in. I write an introductory chapter covering the basics, then I write chapters. Break out your diaries and scrapbooks to decide what are some truly worthy moments.

I recommend going for chronological. Reading memoirs that bounce around between time periods doesn’t really work for me and it can be hard to keep track of events. Of course, if you have some chapters that bounce between periods (i.e. my chapter on acting), not everything is going to be in exact chronological order. That’s okay. Use your best judgment in placing it. For example, in my theatre chapter, I talk a lot about a love interest of mine, who readers don’t know until the middle school portion. So, I placed that chapter in the middle school section even though I started doing theatre in grade school.

A sample abbreviated outline for my project:

PART ONE: GRADE/MIDDLE SCHOOL

Intro chapter: my house character study, intro to neighbors, friends, early life
Beginning kindergarten/introduction to Quaker school-what is Quaker school?
Meeting my best friend, writing stories, inventing playground games that inspired stories
Embarrassments in outdoor camping field trip
That time I joined a Spongebob forum- highs, lows, perks of online friends

PART TWO: HIGH SCHOOL

Intro chapter: middle school graduation, leaving, adjusting to new high school life
The four months I spent at boarding school #1, meeting a toxic friend
Getting sent to social skills camp (yay?) and trying to get into the school that it was at without my parents knowing
Boarding school #2, getting in with cool crowd and later deciding to leave it
The bad roommate

PART THREE: COLLEGE

Intro chapter: overview of college life
How crushes work in college- meeting Tim and the ongoing struggle for attention
Reclaiming my Christian faith but being discouraged by homophobia

PART FOUR: ADULTING (What’s next?)

First job lessons (and crushing in the workplace)

Of course, I’d also make some nods to relevant stories I’d written and include sections of them in between chapters.

Write.

My life story is possibly the easiest thing to write. I don’t have to think of a plot; everything is in my brain waiting for me to retrieve it. Whenever I feel like it, I can work on a chapter and enjoy delving into the memories as I do so. Obviously, you’ll revise, but don’t worry about that right now. Worry about getting everything done on paper and telling a story. Use the list to help you check off aspects you want to mention.

Be Creative! Many who write their life story are becoming more experimental with the style and format. You might write one chapter in present tense, if there is a need. You might intersperse chapters with lists of your favorite things. I wrote a chapter strictly from entries in my fourth grade writers’ notebook. If you’re not publishing, you really have room to go crazy. Write in verse. Write from the perspective of a friend.

Or maybe you’re not strictly writing a memoir. Jenna Fischer didn’t go the route of many of her Office cast members. Instead, she talked about the acting portion of her life and used her stories and experiences to write a guide for aspiring actors. Despite it allegedly having a specific audience, this concept was so interesting that many non-actors also pick it up. Make it into a guidebook or a different form of literature. Write about your grandparents and call it Lessons from Grandpa’s Chair, a list in book form of the things he taught you. Or write a book of poetry. The possibilities are endless.

Remember, take your time because there’s no hurry. Simply enjoy the writing process. It’s the best part.

Get your permissions.

Again, especially true if you’re publishing. You’ll want to make sure that your main players are okay with being mentioned, especially with personal details. And if you weren’t close to them or didn’t get along, it’s probably best to just change names. Control F is very handy for replacing names later on.

Put It Out There

Depending, this may take a while to get to. You may be working a good portion of your life on it. Or, you could release chapters on occasion. Either way, you’ll want to find a platform for your work. Wattpad is pretty good, but be prepared to put hours of effort into the community if you want views. If you’re fictionalizing it a bit, FictionPress may be a good place. Don’t spam FanFiction or other sites not meant for memoirs. You can also put it on a website, or offer it as a download.

USING GOOGLE DRIVE FOR DOWNLOADS

First, formatting.

  1. Copy and paste everything into a Google Doc after you’ve proofread.
  2. Make the first page a cover page.
  3. Adjust the margins so that the text doesn’t take up the whole page if you’d like.
  4. Make sure your full name is the header. Insert page numbers as well.

Next, save it.

5. Rename the document as an easy to read title.
6. Right click it and hit “share.” Hit Advanced on the bottom right of the pop up window. (You may also want to check the tab on the bottom that says “prevent readers from making changes.”)
7. There should be a permission stating “Anyone who has the link can view.” Click “Change” next to that.
8. Hit “On- public on the web” and select Save. Obviously, bear in mind that anyone can see this file. Hit Done.
9. Get the link to the file by right clicking again and hitting “Get shareable link.” Copy and paste.
10. Hopefully you have a website, blog, or other platform with a link where you can share your document. Write something like “Click here to read my life story.” Highlight that text and insert the link–the process will depend on what platform you’re using. Usually there’s a little button shaped like a chain you can click. Or, just send the link out via email if your readers are personal or copy and paste if you must.

Writing memoirs is a great way to let your creative juices flow. If you ever need an in-between project or just some inspiration, try it out! And leave a link in the comments if you desire.




reviews · writing wednesday

Writing Wednesday: The Happy Book by Rachel Kempster and Meg Leder

Welcome to a new “category” of posts! I like to write just as much as I do reading, and so I thought I’d take some time once in a while to talk about the process, and journaling, and all kinds of writerly things.

To start off, I have a unique journal for you.

Official Summary

It’s your happiness-in a book.
Packed with quirky and creative prompts, ideas, and activities, The Happy Book gives you an easy way to put a happy smile on your face.
Scribble thoughts, make lists, paste pictures, doodle, and dream about whatever makes you glad. (Think…hot chocolate with churros. ’80s hair bands. The first snowfall of the year!) You’ll create your own personal pick-me-up that you can flip through whenever you want.
It’s your happy book–discover and celebrate all the things (both big and small) that make you happy.

The Book

I like to journal…meaning, creating physical copies of memories. But long entries give me writers’ cramp. I could always just type on a computer, which I’ve also done, but that’s not nearly as special.

Enter The Happy Book. If you’re looking for an “adult activity book” that isn’t “adult coloring” (those detailed images stress me out more than anything!), you’ve found the place. When I first flipped through it on Christmas Day, I knew that hours of fun lay ahead. And it wouldn’t be a waste of time, because it would ultimately become a pick-me-up and even a memento.

Inside you’ll find:

*Lists of things to do, like office olympics at work, cakes to make, and how to use postcards to spread the happiness
*List pages, like ones for your favorite people, songs, or dance music or other things like good birthday memories
*Doodle pages, where you can invent an animal or just scribble colors
*Pages to save those all-important mementos like candy wrappers and nice emails
*Lists by contributors, in their own handwriting, of moments that make them happy

There’s a lot to do here. I did noticed that some pages repeated (there are several music lists and sticker pages, for example), so more attention might have been given to editing so those pages could have focused on different topics. Still, there’s plenty here. Despite being a little book, it’s packed with pages and ideas, so expect to spend lots of time on it.

Your friends can also take part in the action. While that aspect significantly decreases my chance of ever officially completing it (yes, there are pages at the end to celebrate your completion), you can invite friends to write nice things about you, or make lists together. Or you can simply draw portraits of the people who make life worthwhile.

Here is a personal list I’m working on now:

It’s a very versatile book that you can use in any way you’d like. Even tweens would probably be happy with The Happy Book, though I would caution that the playful tone of the book makes it more appropriate for women. (In a greater sense, of course that doesn’t matter, but in general…)

This was a great Christmas gift that beats boredom and makes memories. If you need something to do, I highly recommend The Happy Book.

Do you have this journal? If not, does it inspire you to pick it up?