Family Tree 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge

Family Tree 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge

It's November, which means it's time for our annual Family History Writing Challenge! Inspired by NaNoWriMo, we'll be sharing tips and tricks throughout the month to help genealogists write their family's story.

Many genealogists aspire to preserve their family stories in writing – but it can be difficult to know how to begin! That’s why we’ll be posting tips and tricks every day throughout November to help jumpstart your writing and put you on the path to telling your family’s story. Check back daily throughout the month, or follow us on Twitter.

Happy Writing!

Need some more inspiration? Check out our collection of Family History Writing Prompts. 

Day 1: Start with an outline!

For some of us, creating an outline can be even more challenging than the actual writing! Outlines keep your writing focused and concise, plus they can help you tackle stories with multiple individuals or a long span of time.

Day 2: Keep a timeline handy.

Your writing doesn’t have to be chronological, but having a timeline can help keep everything accurate and organized, especially if your ancestor(s) moved frequently! Consider keeping a timeline close by for quick reference.

Learn how to create timelines for your family history.

Day 3: Consider the format.

As genealogists know, family stories can take many forms! Consider what makes your story unique. What format or style would tell it best? From blogs to picture books, biographies and even videos, there are so many ways to tell your family’s story!

Learn how to make a family photo book in 3 days with our new workshop!

Day 4: Stay Focused!

Much like genealogy research, the writing process is fraught with rabbit holes! Be sure to have a specific goal in mind for your writing. Need to define your goal? Pretend you are pitching your ancestor’s story to a producer – in 25 words or less!

Day 5: Define your ritual.

Many famous writers in history had very specific routines. Creating a writing “ritual” can help you engage your brain and prepare to write. Do you like to write in the mornings or evenings? Is there specific room or place you like? Figure out what works for you and stick to it!

Day 6: Set daily goals.

In addition to having a specific end goal for your project, it’s also important to set smaller goals to keep your writing on track. Consider setting daily writing goals – maybe to write a certain number of words each day, or to write for a certain amount of time with no breaks.

Day 7: Banish the Buts.

Oftentimes, our brains will use the same old excuses to trick us into not writing. (Unfinished trees, lack of time, etc.) Have a strategy to overcome these “Buts” before they strike. Being prepared will help you beat your brain and keep writing!

Day 8: Don’t skip a day.

Remember, there is power in momentum! Make it a goal to work on your project daily, even if it’s just reviewing what you wrote the day before. As tempting as it is to skip a day, revisiting your work daily helps keep your project fresh in your mind and on track.

Day 9: Make it creative!

Don’t be afraid to add creative elements to your writing project! Try writing your family’s story like a novel or a series of letters. A more creative style, as well as visual elements like photos, maps and artwork can make your project more fun, not to mention more engaging for those who maybe aren’t as genealogically inclined!

Day 10: Remember to read.

It might be cliché, but one of the best things you can do for your writing is read! From books to blogs to magazines – reading other works can help inspire and guide you in your writing.

Check out our list of the top 10 genealogy books, as voted by our readers on Goodreads!

Day 11: Write what you like.

Some genealogists might feel like they need to write a biography or a formal account of their family’s history from beginning to end. Don’t be afraid to change it up! Write your family’s story in a way that is engaging and interesting to you. Odds are others will find it more interesting as well!

Day 12: Include interviews.

Your living relatives can be wonderful sources for your writing project. Oral histories are a great way to learn about your family’s past, plus your questions may even spark a memory about the very details you’ve been searching for. Take notes during your interviews but whatever you do, don’t forget to record them as well!

Check out these 25 tips for a successful family interview.

Day 13: Take 24 hours.

If you hit a wall, put your project away for 24 hours. Refrain from researching and try not to think about your project so that you can return to it with a fresh mind the next day. It’s a simple trick, but very effective!

Day 14: Use your memories.

You are just as much a part of your family history as your ancestors! Don’t be afraid to use your own memories and stories when writing your
family’s history. Sometimes revisiting old photos or objects can help jog your memory and shake lose great details for your project!

Learn more strategies to help you recall your past.

Day 15: Remember to laugh.

When the writing process gets frustrating, having a good laugh can help you shake off the pressure and keep writing. Maybe you could write about a funny memory from your family’s history, or maybe the origin of one of your family’s inside jokes!

Day 16: Resist the research.

This is a big one: resist the urge to research! It can be tempting to take a break from writing to do a little research, especially if you have incomplete family trees or there are gaps in your family’s story. Stay focused on your writing and remember, you can always fill in the gaps later.

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